Makshya Tolbert


Tonight i think about all the nights
           i’ve had a person i love pressed
beneath me: tender / giving planets
           where we have managed to fit into
each other: half-wooden parts, memories
           of home, fragile exoskeletons made
one. you ask me what it’s like to date
           a white woman during a race war and
i want to tell you this is the softest i
           have ever felt. i make us breakfast
and you make us a star system, orbital
           orange. this the shade of all my favorite
flowers. you occur to me in petals, seasons:
           my wild. my, to be loved in a circus

Catalog of a Quiet So Big and Belonging

that a tiger swallowtail twirls an oak
a five-lined skink shows itself to some sun
a blooming tree readies itself to bear
a storm clears way for a cloud of gnats
a tree takes its time to fall and
a weeping plum decides to go with it
a snake sheds itself in the wisteria
a rock lets a little of itself go
a deer stops running
a heron flies toward water after a storm
a nest graciously unmakes itself and
a new nest gets made
a place becomes home again
a pair of wings escape
a swarm of ants pretend to be wayward
a trio of turkey vultures blush red
a frog jumps for cover
a red-headed woodpecker goes heard not seen
a tree begins to bend westward
a leaf skips and then bounces
a web catches new sunlight
a fire goes out when it needs to
a moth joins me in the light
a brook calls to the frogs and then
a peeper joins us in night songs
a spider catches itself in midair
a sky of clouds needing a little more to hold onto
a butterfly catches me by surprise
a stinger takes some of me with it
a shadow casts itself into the sun
a hay bale stays a hale bay
a boundary unlearns itself
a river collects stories
a horse plays on its back
a wing returns to a body
a cardinal paints the evening red
a night cloaks a family of owls and
a summer lives on under the auspices

Makshya Tolbert (she/they) is a Black, queer poet held by Black memory and ecological possibility. Her writing has appeared in For The Culture, The New Farmers Almanac, and Gastronomica. She has poetry and essays forthcoming in Narrative Magazine, Emergence Magazine, The Night Heron Barks, Art Papers, Ran Off With the Star Bassoon, and William Mullan’s Odd Apples. Makshya is a first-year poet in the University of Virginia’s Creative Writing Program. In her free time, she is elsewhere—where Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. calls ‘that physical or metaphorical place that affords the space to breathe.’

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Fall 2021