Elizabeth Acevedo


A Conversation with the Djembe

A man disrobes you on the train,

Touches you rhythmically.

Then asks for money.

But the only thing I have to offer

is this thirst, swollen in my throat;

I have been saving it for you.

They say you were the first tongue

we used to speak to God.

The love story between his foot falls

and our thundering need.

Our hands throbbing heartbeats

onto your skin,

we were born knowing you.

The mothers of the ocean

shared the secret song of their womb,

so that one day you might wail with,

wail for, other wooden rib cages

that held our moans like a fist.

This metal casket that propels us home

is no sacred place,

and no spirits are called forward.

Still, our bodies sway

and it has nothing to do

with the way the train moves.

But our awe is no payment

and the man snatches up his hat—

Yet, you allow us one last echo

and we hum a hundred prayers

into your hallowed mouth.

ELIZABETH ACEVEDO is the daughter of Dominican immigrants, proudly born and raised in the heart of New York City. Through poetry that is infused with hip-hop and bolero, she uses her words as a way to translate the world. Slamming since she was 14, Acevedo has featured at several prestigious venues such as the The Kennedy Center of the Performing Arts, The Kodak Theatre, and Madison Square Garden. She has graced the stage beside such renowned artist as Lupe Fiasco, M1 from Dead Prez, Stacyann Chin and Lemon from Def Poetry Jam on Broadway. She has been a featured poet for BET, Mun2, and BET J's, Lyric Café.

Elizabeth was also a featured poet in the publication Off the Subject: The Words of Lyrical Circle, featuring a foreword by the Grammy nominated Sekou Sundiata and an afterword by Nikki Giovanni. She was a CantoMundo Fellow.