Ja'net Danielo | Poetry

I want to write something about birds—Goldfinches

or Blue Jays, flight patterns, how a love of acorns

helped propagate oak trees after the Ice Age. Or, maybe,

how Blue Jays aren’t really blue but brown, the blue—

a reflection of scattering light on the surface of

their feather barbs. And how no one knows why

some stay on the Atlantic coast, pierce snow

with their fierce blue, while others migrate south.


In chemistry, migration means movement, in physics,

diffusionpouring or spreading abroad. When my mother

flew back to East New York, the architecture

of her childhood was gone, molecules of brick

& stone shaken & stirred, dispersed into air as if

they had never been at all. And her sister—stranded

on the seas of dementia, caught in a riptide of ghosts &

accusations, her lifeboat cobbled from the paste

& paper of imagination.


When I read about blood flow, how it helps

migrating cancer cells flee the bloodstream, seed

tumors elsewhere in the body, I imagine my cousin, a white

chocolate ring, dyed-yellow diamond—the favor

she made for her engagement party & I think of

the space telescope images, Carina Nebula’s Cosmic

Cliffs, how every star born from its red gas-glow is dead.

And it’s been years since my cousin didn’t make it

to the altar, but I return again & again to the ring &

the chocolate, its sweetness, to the light that will

never reach us.


I wanted this to be about birds

or where we go to save ourselves, how I went from

smooth, undimpled breast to pinched skin & scar,

crude outline of myself, so fast I didn’t even feel

the change in seasons. But I can’t stop thinking about diffusion,

how on an MRI, tumors scatter—bright & sharp—

across the black calm. And if to move is to change

one’s position, can I say that, in the end, my cousin’s body

was not yellow & bloat but teeming with stars? That they multiplied

& multiplied, spread their light beyond the flesh & bone

galaxy of her. That every single one pulsed & burned with life.