Look at the children of the land leaving in droves, leaving their own land with bleeding wounds on their bodies and shock on their faces and blood in their hearts and hunger in their stomachs and grief in their footsteps. Leaving their mothers and fathers and children behind, leaving their umbilical cords underneath the soil, leaving the bones of their ancestors in the earth, leaving everything that makes them who and what they are, leaving because it is no longer possible to stay. They will never be the same again because you just cannot be the same once you leave behind who and what you are, you just cannot be the same.

—NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names

My fondest memories are sitting on my grandmother’s porch, next to her garden in the sun on a perfectly warm day, staring at the sky, feeling safe no matter how bad or sad things were for me-. Just sky-watching, knowing that this sky stretched on for miles and miles and that so many people existed under that blue sky. I believed during those times in the many possibilities of the world, and even if things were really bad, one of those possibilities of happiness would someday open for me. Mary, The Root, gave me that space to dream.

Miss Queenly, “Death of the Root: Mary, 86, beloved grandma

It’s as if death makes our hearts grow deeper.

—Ko Un, from “Crossing Rice Fields at Nightfall” (translated by Brother Anthony of Taizé, David R.McCann, and Kevin O’Rourke)

If your soul is called,
mine too answers,
shuddering to grasp
for the first time
this alliance of two souls.

— Kim Nam-jo, from “Love’s Cursive” (translated by David McCann and Hyunjae Yee Sallee)

For isn’t it odd that the only language I have in which to speak of this crime is the language of the criminal who committed the crime? And what can that really mean? For the language of the criminal can contain only the goodness of the criminal’s deed. The language of the criminal can explain and express the deed only from the criminal’s point of view. It cannot contain the horror of the deed, the injustice of the deed, the agony, the humiliation inflicted on me. 

Jamaica Kincaid, “A Small Place”

Nobody’s going to save you.
No one’s going to cut you down,
cut the thorns around you.
No one’s going to storm
the castle walls nor
kiss awake your birth,
climb down your hair,
nor mount you
on the white steed.

There is no one who
will feed the yearning.
Face it. You will have
to do, do it yourself.

—Gloria Anzaldúa, from “Letting Go”

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up 
here on this bridge between 
starshine and clay, 
my one hand holding tight 
my other hand; come celebrate 
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me 
and has failed.

—Lucille Clifton, “won’t you celebrate with me