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From the Other Coast with Love

I want to be sustained by a world that we create


Under an autumn
chill around four, we were born,
doctors said it’s a —

poem! We will be a problem,
us, both nonwhite and women,1

spinning gold out of
words, tearing oneself in two,
pretend to daughter.

You were given family.
Girls like us, we get to choose.


Sifting through static
of life during the latest
apocalypse, my

earthquake kit mocks me. What use
are beans and flashlights? In case

of emergency, 
call my best friend. She’s lighthouse
and life raft, spinning

hope out of despair. Girls like
us, we’ll survive together. 


I can’t complain but
I’m going to. When the coast
clears, you’re invited 

to my vision, the home I’ve
been building. We always start 

from scratch, carry our 
own water. If I don’t build 
it, I can’t live there.

I want to be sustained by
a world that we create.


We      chop wood, carry
water.2      The translation in
my bloodstream is a

directive, but I return
to the root: action without

doer simply is
not done. The future belongs
to us, we’re making

it in our image, all those
that history left behind.


Coming from a line
of women who look like me
and men who left sun 

for snow, I am familiar
with want. I tanned in the heat

til my skin was warm
and black like the earth’s inside.3
Now I’m looking to 

light this expiring candle. 
Before it burns out, or in.


Grief into ash, dust
to dust. Is that how it goes?
I was never taught. 

But there’s mountain provinces
all round the world, all rock and

pine and fire. I’m at 
home anywhere above tree-
line, surrounded by 

the horizon. A temple
built for the world, and of it. 


On the other side,
I check the time. It’s mourning,
and I wish I could

reach across the grief to you.
Years ago, we were neighbors

crying on campus.
In our room starting trouble.
And what do I know 

of home? If I’m looking for 
safety I know it will be


everywhere, for all 
of us. You and I, the ones 
that we love, and the

ones that they love, all gathered 
under a very blue sky

near to flowering 
trees.4 Turning grief into green,
the earth loves us back. 

She’ll always give us joy and
roses, wherever we are. 


I didn’t know I
could keep anything alive
after the jade died

under my care, in my room.
In another country you

are tending to your 
garden. I am filling my
glass with water, too.

Everyday we do the work
and then reap what we have grown.


In every day 
is the possibility 
for a small, quiet

revolution. We save seeds 
to cultivate an Eden: 

No cops, no borders, 
no conquests. No distractions. 
The sun rises and

our future exhales, peaceful 
in the tender morning light.


1 Lucille Clifton, “won’t you celebrate with me,” in Book of Light, 1993.

2 Zen Buddhist proverb

3 Audre Lorde, “Coal,” in The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde, 1997.

4 June Jordan, ‘A Powerful Hatred,” in Affirmative Acts: Political Essays, 1998. 

Cecile and Zuri are two best friends and writers. They began working together in 2012 as feminist activists at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and have been in a LDBF (long distance best friendship) since 2015. 

Renga, meaning “linked poem,” is a collaborative form of poetry that originated in Japan. Each poet takes an image, theme, phrase, emotion, or another idea from the previous poem and carries it into their own. Traditionally, renga focuses on topics such as nature, love, or philosophy; Cecile and Zuri see greater artistic potential in treating a wider array of topics, including feminist solidarity. They have written renga together for their poetry project Half Empty Half Dangerous from 2018.