The Black American Gets Her Travel Fellowship and Goes Abroad

I. an exercise:


the positionality of placeholders

                                                   there is something that wants to be said

                                                   there is something that wants to be said

                                                   there is something that wants to be said

there is something

that wants the dark birth

of words.

she is on a line

the passport holds her up

little blue woven book

little blue book

little blue



the empire machine is dreaming. the empire machine rolls over. the empire machine wakes up. the empire machine stretches. the empire machine does not have a lover. the empire machine makes coffee. the empire machine goes to work.



I promise you,

that girl she looked

just like my sister

cousin daughter

niece comadre

you know –

la morena

who lives next

to the colmado

that always smells

of raw meat and



III. what she says:


one day I dream myself

on the outside of a flying plane.

I grip a rope twisted through

a loop on the wing, and the

wind scoops everything

out of my mouth.


inside my bones an unborn

old woman is stretching and dancing.

my skin feels too tight.


I return

swallowing Spanish.

Border Control squints



finally says

welcome home.


I am overflowing

and the taxi driver sees.

ah, you miss your country?

his eyes are soft.

I cannot speak.

(and regarding a bra Made In ______)

I wonder what woman with

a transatlantic face like mine

has worked calluses into her

fingers for the comfort of

nude-colored breasts. nude

being khaki, as in fatigues

or nude being cream, as in

of the crop.


try wearing:

a river

barbed wire



dried blood

a harvest

lost languages

a seam

I mean a border

and how will you find

your way home?

and how will you find?

and how?

will you find?

and you how?

how will you?

how you?

how you.

home will find

you and how.

Irène Mathieu is a pediatrician, writer, and author of the poetry chapbook the galaxy of origins (dancing girl press). Her poetry, prose, and photography can be found in The Caribbean Writer, The Lindenwood Review, Muzzle Magazine, qarrtsiluni, Extract(s), Diverse Voices Quarterly, Los Angeles Review, Callaloo Journal, HEArt Journal, and elsewhere. She has been a Pushcart Prize nominee, a Callaloo fellow, a Fulbright scholar, and currently is an editor of the humanities section of the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Irène is the 2016 winner of the Bob Kaufman Poetry Prize; her first full-length collection entitled orogeny will be published by Trembling Pillow Press in 2016.