Office of Inclusive Excellence

'What I Imagine'

February 21, 2023

By Daniel B. Summerhill

(This poem was first published in Anti-Heroin Chic in Dec 2021)

what i imagine my mother meant when she said you sound like one of those conspiracy theorists after i tell her nobody should be in be in prison

 “I am interested in what it feels like to imagine yourself as large and immovable as the sky”

                                                                                                         - Hanif Abduraquib


imagination is a possibility we don’t yet have

a language for. when you’ve been taken—

you focus on the pieces that haven’t. what’s in front

of you, she says. there’s less room for possible

here. what i tell my mother sunday at dinner:

the sky we look up to is larger than the world

it surrounds & we didn’t have a name for heaven

until we decided some people don’t deserve

to be there or kyle rittenhouse sitting in a bar

with neo-nazis makes him the devil or god

depending on your definition

of salvation or my mother and I watch outside

my living room window, I decide only a deity could

shake a tree that big, so I ask the wind to show me

its palms­ to check for scaring. I want to see

the battle wounds, the bruised joints, buckling skin

& deliverance resting on tender ankles.

we once watched the earth shift against itself

as if the cascades reconsidered their location

& i am reminded she has witnessed possible.


not working towards liberation is suicide, i say.

she leans in, hands outstretched— over me, 

like an evocation asking the day to end

before i do.


Daniel B. Summerhill is a poet and scholar originally from Oakland, California. His work has appeared in Columbia Journal, Obsidian, Academy of American Poets and elsewhere. He is the author of “Divine, Divine, Divine” (Nomadic Press 2021) which was a semi-finalist for the Wheeler and Saturnalia Poetry Prizes and Mausoleum of Flowers (CavanKerry Press 2022). Summerhill has earned fellowships from Baldwin for the Arts and The Watering Hole. He is assistant professor of Poetry/Social Action and Composition at CSU Monterey Bay and the inaugural Poet Laureate of Monterey County.