Prelude to Your Leaving

by Meredith Nnoka

I’ve never made a thing more beautiful
than music, though sometimes I can
almost hear the trees unblooming. I have
a need for this to function as language
between us, because we are separating
and another way to make music
is by leaning into the water. I’ve learned
to believe that summer goes out like
an oil lamp and has a tenderness I can
measure and depend on: the exodus of birds,
for instance, or the two of us pulling
a boat to shore. One day I hope to have
something that will keep through winter,
but more than anything I want to be
in love with your leaving. I once heard
you speak of the night sky so now
I carry it everywhere as an overcoat.
Days I’ve been wearing loss like a thread
around my wrists and letting my hunger
run free. You and I are separating and
I want that to be something of yours I can
hold on to. From this side of the water,
I can almost only see smoke rising.

Meredith Nnoka graduated from Smith College with a degree in Africana Studies and English. Originally from Maryland, she is currently a graduate student in African-American literature at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her poems have appeared in The Massachusetts Review, HEArt Online, Mandala Journal, The Ghazal Page, and elsewhere. Her first chapbook, A Hunger Called Music: A Verse History of Black Music, is available from C&R Press.