Christine Antoine - Academy of American Poets Prize

Here is a soft touch, a tender toss into the truncating vernacular of an America unseen. So soft a touch in fact it may be said to never have happened (to history which cannot write what it refuses to see / what falters before and after the witness). But those who’ve felt it, the poet especially, know the ghostly familiar that reaches backward in time to remind us we are still here and for a reason—an answer to the prayer we hadn’t realized we were praying all along. And what the vernacular elides in and of a grammar of violence, we feel here whispered by the mother of your mother: they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.

 

It is the divine maternal defiance of terrestrial death that calls us here to keep going. Keep going. To hold fast and bathe (us) in the pleasures and pains of our own precious bodies while we’re alive, while we’re here. Here. Because “we ain’t die to keep on / dying and baby you ain’t / dead yet.”

 

That’s all we really need to know to do what needs doing, to live the way they’d have wanted us to live, to honor their lives and those to come. This poem is everything.