Samantha Thornhill is a poet, educator, and author of three children’s books, including A Card For My Father (Penny Candy Books, 2018). Her work has been published in over two-dozen literary journals and anthologies, such as The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip Hop. A performer on stages across the United States and internationally, she holds an MFA from the University of Virginia, where she received a Henry Hoyns Fellowship. Samantha lives in New York City where she taught poetry to acting students at the Juilliard School for a decade. A co-founder of Poets in Unexpected Places, which was profiled in the New York Times for their surprising pop up poetry experiments all over New York City, Samantha also facilitates workshops for the Dialogue Arts Project, which ventures into professional settings and uses creative writing as a tool to navigate uncomfortable discussions around social identity. She is now a creative writing teacher at NYC Charter School of the Arts. Samantha is a native of the twin island nation of Trinidad & Tobago. To learn more about Samantha and her work, visit her website: www.samanthaspeaks.com.
My first day at the American school,
I imagined Ms. Benvenuti’s dark
Italian hair on my own head
then wished it down to my knees.
She introduced the class to me
and they went back to cutting.
I thought it strange, the white lady
floating from one head to the next—
parting curtains of hair and scratching
scalps with the tip of a Bic pen.
They didn’t seem to notice her,
either. The lady didn’t scrape me
with her blue wand. Ms. Benvenuti
seated me next to an Indian girl—
from Trinidad, too.
I said hi. Hello, she said and went back
to cutting. Her eyelashes so long,
I thought they would fly away.
Bring back the brown faces
missing from milk cartons.
Bring back our lost, our girls from Accra,
Laventille, Gugulethu & the Bronx;
dredge them up from swamps
on the hills of capitals. Bring back
search parties, flashlights small suns.
Amber alert the diaspora to the town hall.
Bring back our sons from their chalk
outlines, caskets swallowing our boys
like Jonahs. Bring our men back
from lynch ropes, lead pipes & Ivy League
cages. Bring back our mothers
from the caves in their hearts.
Bring back the souls of child
traffickers & top dollar rapists—
CEO’s, celebrities & holy men
who leave their masks chattering
on nightstands in rooms wallpapered
with girls no milk box could ever save.
Bring our babies back to their own beds
left made & unmade.
Bring them back with the whole village—
each face a bead braided into its memory—
Bring back: oh, Quita missing?
Girl, she been at Darius’
house since school let out.
I thought you knew. Chile.
Most Beautiful Accident: A Single Parent’s Ode
I imagine the day you will ask me:
why is our life that Bill Withers song,
just the two of us?
You’ll want to know why your father
isn’t here disrupting our doorways,
off teaching you dangers I wouldn’t dare.
How to tumble down hills with grace.
How to ride a bike with your hands
raised in prayer. Tossing you about
when I’m a stranger to fun, hoisting
you to ceilings with biceps twice as strong as mine
to make an airplane of you, superhero, rocket ship.
To my small hands, you’re an astronaut.
Intrepid sojourner. You are universe
of brain with buckets of words.
So when you finally ask me
why is my daddy a faraway star?I’ll say
beloved, you were his most beautiful accident.
Blinded him with your big bang,
divine astonishment. Demanding
little angel who arrived unannounced,
then remained. I know your father’s love
doesn’t feel like mine, but love
is like water, coming to us in multitudes.
It is rain beading across your hair,
snow melting on your lips. Avalanche.
Dew’s slow delicacy. Hurts like hail.
I don’t know if your father will ever come
around with his liquid eyes that I see in yours,
your exact dimples indenting his cheeks.
But should the day usher him here,
may the cup in your chest expand to accept
the potential oceans trickling from him.
His absence compels me to mother you
with the ardor of two—impossible joy!
When you fall asleep in the bassinet
you make of my arms, no room to lament:
I am your breath’s one witness.
Your ear suctions to my chest.
Can you hear the hammers? My worker
heart’s making a mansion of the world inside it—
your name kissed to its door.
Henry Hoyns Fellowship- University of Virginia