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Poem: ‘Track: “A Girl in Trouble (Is A Temporary Thing),” Romeo Void (1984)’

Credit…Illustration by R. O. BlechmanThe blue whale calibrates its migrations to find the krill that sustains it. You discover yourself in …

Credit…Illustration by R. O. Blechman

The blue whale calibrates its migrations to find the krill that sustains it. You discover yourself in what you choose to notice. Listen to Reyes’s last line: “They say the earth’s most unruly parts sing like you.” This poem is named after Romeo Void’s “A Girl in Trouble (Is a Temporary Thing),” and every word of Reyes’s makes sense when we admit that for a woman “there’s no time for her to be afraid,” not hardly, not carrying what they carry, what they know. Selected by Reginald Dwayne Betts

‘Track: “A Girl in Trouble (Is A Temporary Thing),” Romeo Void (1984)’

By Barbara Jane Reyes

Brown Girl Sings Whalesong
When they say you are as big as a lumpy, blubbery whale,
you may go ahead and bellow deep. Creak,
croon, and trill, moan low. Go ahead, open your mouth so wide, that
you can swallow the sea. Know that your blood pulls you through
what your oldest ancestors committed to heart. Remember
you have touched the ocean floor, and you have made your garden there.
Remember, your skin is thick. Remember, no one has tamed you.
Yes, you are immense, your lifespan and memory long,
your heart larger than a full-grown man. Your lungs carry air for us all.
Your ribcage could be a refuge. Your skull is a cavern of deep song.
Through murk and poison, you move true with the moon.
Your body lights a million lanterns. Your deep pitched song finds your sisters,
your mother. They say the earth’s most unruly parts sing like you.


Reginald Dwayne Betts is a poet and lawyer. He created the Million Book Project, an initiative to curate microlibraries and install them in prisons across the country. His latest collection of poetry, “Felon,” explores the post-incarceration experience. In 2019, he won a National Magazine Award in Essays and Criticism for his article in the magazine about his journey from teenage carjacker to aspiring lawyer. Barbara Jane Reyes is the author of “Letters to a Young Brown Girl” (BOA Editions, Ltd., 2020). She was born in Manila and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, and is the author of five previous collections of poetry.

Illustration by R.O. Blechman

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