The Brooklyn Rail

MAR 2014

All Issues
MAR 2014 Issue



Root woman root woman
simmer your leaves with haste
to pull back a spirit
to call it to listen for its name
called out in heat
those known and unknown
burn incense for the past
and add salt to taste
and prepare the mule for the long ride

root woman root woman
be a match under dead skin
force life back into the gray dead eyed stare
be the secret mothers share with daughters
when they become mothers
when they create kin






Tub water salt

Let’s be honest
a good soak does to the soul
what a stiff drink does for the nerves
what the right rub does for an ache
and what a good friend does for your sanity
it keeps your feet rooted in the soil beneath you
a solid link to earth nourished by the water and the heat
your skin slowly sucking in dirt
seasoning your blood enough to bark away the devil
legs stretch before you wrapped in blind heat
softening your resolve to punch the world in the throat
not today world, not today.







Suddenly she was the teacher her father disliked.
the ones too young for their britches
their homegrown clothes grew young and dressed down
his teachers were born in suits and grew elbow patches and glasses as they matured
they smiled with their eyes and laughed with their mouths closed
stone solid adults who made you call them sir even when they were mam’s.







Know this
once in the water
we stopped moving
we stopped struggling
and offered ourselves to our sea mother’s purposeful blue

wrapped up by her ribbons and springs
the waves juts out it’s lip
she tell the story of our birth
measured by our distance from the safety of the shore

we inherit the lulling motions
the give and take of water
and how it seems to want more
than we can give of ourselves
the brine calls
to our Taino selves
to our blood slave selves
to give our full open selves
to the clear aquamarine






Grapefruit / Chadek

My mother and I talked about how we both got sick on grapefruit once. 
We both described the wretched feeling
the dry hacking heaving
all the mucus and tears 
the fainting and fear of dying.
My mother said that day
she learned to respect the grapefruit. Mwen respekte’l
But I’m still afraid. 
From grapefruit soda to candy,
I tread lightly around grapefruit flavors
while just the smell brings the death sick memory back. 
My mother laughs. “I still eat it” she says, “except now, I know.”
Mwen konnen’l, Mwen respekte’l






Valerie Deus

VALERIE DEUS is poet living in Minneapolis. When she’s not curating films for the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival, she is dreaming about the ocean.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAR 2014

All Issues