We Will Not March Back
by Joy Gaines-Friedler
after Amanda Gorman
I am the one who once thought that we
would track the sky together, the will
of long-necked herons seeking open water, not
this forced alone-ness—this march
through gunshot trying to find a way back.
Consider a staircase of missing risers, it’s easier to
descend. Hidden holes hide the risk of slipping into what
could plunge us into denuded space. At five I was
terrified by those dark gaps, but
still, I braved the basement to move
toward what could be discovered there, to
see my grandfather in the eyes of what
he painted, beautiful faces, all the shall
and shalt not formalities he knew to be
truth, simply by being a-
live, unlabeled, unafraid of country.
At fifteen we believed in the tilt-a-whirl, that
spinning was a metaphor for what is
and would be our future, sure to leave us bruised
but willing. Bruised but
We hungered for the benevolent,
hung Joplin and Dylan on our walls but
got guns instead. Women rose bold
with power, our bodies fierce—
but if not for that gun… your husband’s gun and
no restrictions… we’d whirl, we’d spin… free.
Joy Gaines-Friedler is the author of three books of poetry. Her most recent, Capture Theory (Kelsay Books, 2018), is both a Forward Review Indiefab and Edward Hoffer Award finalist. Her work has appeared in The New York Quarterly, San Pedro River Review, Rattle, and elsewhere. Her chapbook Stone on a Stone was the 2021 winner of The Friends of Poetry, Celery City Chapbook contest.