How Do You Get to Harlem?

By TYREE DAYE

What did I know of skylines,
of a sea of brown faces not in a field,
but walking down Lenox Avenue?

Our cousins from New York talked about Harlem
the way our aunts, with their Sunday stockings
drying over the shower curtain like tobacco leaves,

talked about a heaven. I tried to imagine
a skyline where a patch of pines stood and swayed.

Every summer when they’d visit we’d make a moon around them
and listen to stories about city life,

my mother always in the background shaking her head—
she could hear us leaving already.

My favorite part was the train,

how it can take you
where you needed to be.

 

Tyree Daye is a poet from Youngsville, North Carolina. He is the author of two poetry collections: River Hymns, which won the 2017 APR/Honickman First Book Prize, and Cardinal, forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2020. Daye is a 2017 Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship Finalist and Cave Canem Fellow. Daye’s work has been published in Prairie Schooner,The New York Times, and Nashville Review. Daye won the 2019 Palm Beach Poetry Festival Langston Hughes Fellowship, is a 2019 Diana and Simon Raab Writer-in-Residence, and is a 2019 Kate Tufts Discovery Award Finalist.

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How Do You Get to Harlem?

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