Baptist in the Summer
Almost the sun rising in your chest, almost
the moon too. Except you are also the sun
& the moon rising—reaching for what is
reaching. I wanted to feel it too. What caused
the moon women to stomp up rivers, to faint
into their daughters, return to a man they feared.
The pew a trenching, a surging purple field.
The scene too ecstatic to slow:
to their wishing; tambourines talking back to god
as cocoons wax & wane beneath the deacon’s tongue.
My mother’s wet & opened face. Where was she
in her looking at me, her palm now hovering above
mine? Her sight an engine. Her sight two hands daring
my blood. Do you feel that, the electricity? she panted.
Yes, I lied. Forgive me. Yes, my eyes flinched shut.
Written in preparation for winter
let me know if you need anything
my dearest friend
my sweet second heart
i do not know what i need
i made tea this morning
i posted a shirtless photo
i showered by candlelight
in the dark drew my name
ghostly on the mirror’s wet face
dried my hear as it faded away:
i want to be desired
but do not want to be touched
i want to roll my depression
like a marble between my fingers
or else skip it smooth like a rock
across the fresh & icing river
Prayer Severing the Cycle
My love is as ancient as my blood.
And of course my blood is still mine
because a woman, sweetened black
with good song, pulled me from the river
like an axe pulled back from the bark.
I learned love, first, as scar.
And of course my love is only mine
because I found the nerve to say it is.
Ha, My love is mine.
But was first my mother’s. Not the how
but the why. But was first her mother’s.
Not the how but the why.
Not the how; Not the how; Not the how;
Not the how; Not the how; Not the how.
I am bored with this beat. I seek
a different dance toward death.
Lord, listen up. Lean in:
I crave a love that happens as sweetly
as it was named. If love must be swung,
let it soften. Not split.
I feel closest tot he angels
when I am in the middle
of a thunderstorm,
soaked t othe skin,
shook up with sound,
waiting for my bones
to become branches
of white light.
Death ain’t nothing but a song
My mother moved out of her body
decided it was no longer worthy
it couldn’t contain her laughter. couldn’t
obey the house-rules of human. her spirit,
that young & fresh fever, to call
the night her dance club. wanted to try
on new clothes, stay out later. My mother
now wears the world. dresses herself with
the tall grass. blushes her cheeks with red
clay. she laughs & a forest fire awakes. she
laughs & every mountain bows to her sharp
thunder. she laughs & each cicada begins
to sing. last night Saint-Paul was cloaked in
steam. fog traveled from some distant heat.
no, I think you’ve got it all wrong. some
one must have asked my mother to dance
every black woman with grey hair is your dead mother you collapse in walmart knees buckled at the sight of an electric scooter you wrap yourself around yourself & wail into a naked mattress your lover’s hand is placed like heated stones along your heaving back you don’t want to be touched & want to be touched everywhere you show the dean the death certificate & are allowed to stay another semester drowning would be easiest you think as rain draws razor thin lines down your bedroom window you throw a mug across the kitchen you want to die but don’t want to leave a mess memory is a ruptured organ memory is a ghost begging for new flesh memory taps a gun to your inner skull & demands you bring back the dead every word your mother last spoke scuttle like mice in your deserted head grief is a paper cut at every bend in your body grief shaves each bone down to a shriveled white flag
what the dead know by heart
lately, when asked how are you, i
respond with a name no longer living
Rekia, Jamar, Sandra
i am alive by luck at this point. i wonder
often: if the gun that will unmake me
is yet made, what white birth
will bury me, how many bullets, like a
flock of blue jays, will come carry my black
to its final bed, which photo will be used
to water down my blood. today i did
not die and there is no god or law to
thank. the bullet missed my head
and landed in another. today, i passed
a mirror and did not see a body, instead
a suggestion, a debate, a blank
post-it note there looking back. i
haven't enough room to both rage and
weep. i go to cry and each tear turns
to steam. I say I matter and a ghost
white hand appears over my mouth
You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine...
You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.
However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.
It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.
And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.
It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.
I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.
I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I'm not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and--somehow--the wine.
don't tell your Uber driver that you're going to an orgy
besides her name is Diane and she only has this job
because her niece says she should be more social
do not nervously try to cover up your mistake
by saying you meant board meeting
besides it's 3 a.m. and the only things open this late
can also request another thing to open
do not try to cancel the ride it is not your account
those who sent for your body were kind enough
to pay the fifteen fifty it took for you to arrive
your nails are ready to jagat to chew on
you've produced enough sweat to fill the vehicle
and drown you both to consider headphones
you consider ripping out your own tongue
and fear of confessing more
and before you reach for the handle to tuck
and roll clean out of her 2004 Honda Civic
she says how many bodies will you try on tonight
and suddenly she is your mother or her ghost
and suddenly your blood stiffens retreats rewinds
and no one died and the casket is still just wood
unchopped reassembled the tree resurrected working
and grief is not yet a garden of thorns
blooming in your chest
and grief is not yet a question
you've answered with sex
the slow teasing out of sweat like loose thread
unraveling your sadness
and look you're just a boy
grieving until he too is a thing to grieve
until his pulse is as thin and damp
as an obituary panting beneath sweaty hands
and what is an orgy
if not the opposite of a funeral
if not an attempt to press your pulse against
as many strangers as possible
to compare how alive you still are
and isn't the car now your mother's hearse
parading her body to that freshly gutted plot of Earth
and suddenly you are the driver
and suddenly the sky breaks a sweat
its whole body blue and ballooning wet
but you're also the casket
but you're also the soggy grave
parting it's greedy lips
you ghost orphan you motherless phantom
considering the dyes following your maker
buried alive I know you desire decay
Dante desire now a way to die
without losing your body
so why not use it
why not let a stranger lick the grief
from your palms and this too is eulogy
and this too is prayer
and this too can wet the sea
to conjure thornless crops
can sing back alive whatever parts of you died
with her whatever left
and your mother's buried rate
and Diane slams the brakes
you have arrived
she says B save his apartment door
a pearly gate a cliff
overlooking a thrashing Lake
and your blood begins
and you lighthouse your tongue
and you shipwreck an entire room to driftwood
o this festival of lament
the sloppy surgery
this homemade baptism boy
you reek of grief
they smell your sadness
can taste the tears start streaming your cheek
you lonely riot you laughing graveyard
you hungry and haunted boy
I know I know you want so badly to feel alive
you want so badly to be born again
Poem Erasing Itself As It’s Written
the fears of my mother came knocking and when i
opened the door
they tried to explain themselves and i understood
everything they said’
I immediately thought to apologize for seeing you dead
without your permission. Without first knocking. Silly.
Maybe I thought the casket would be closed at least until
the church opened to the public. But there you were,
powdered. Pressed. Your face a suggestion of your face.
Firm & artificially lit. I was bitter with how restless you
looked, how desperate to blink. How no one knew
you’d hurry home & grab a softer shade of red or you’d wait
in the car & have me fetch vaseline. More comfortable shoes.
Make sure I’m buried with my teeth, you recoiled, after watching
your own mother’s mouth slide & sink. Her jaw propped,
a perfect inanimate square. Where ’ s my mom you huffed.
Exhausted. As if to blow out a match held to your lips
by a stranger. Where ’ s my — M aybe I thought — Mama ?
I’m not sure: As my feet moved beneath me.
moving further from mine
your body is a soft shade of red
a match held to the lips of Mama?
a perfect stranger exhaling
a perfect stranger make sure i ’ m buried
with my mom you blew the candles
i closed your casket was a prop sinking
where’s my home i thought & blinked
me knocking desperate as teeth
restless with apology no one knew
our comfortable bitter how you pressed
my jaw open my face was your face
recoiled at your mother’s feet
my mouth lit red with permission
to fetch you dead
fetch you dead my mouth was your mouth was your mom ’ s
soft teeth moving further from apology desperate strangers
exhale at a closed casket then recoil at their mother’s knocking
our mother’s knocking
is a soft exhalation