Photo credit: Joan Stickles

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Going under

Watch her drift beyond shore’s edge

Body half risen, half submerged

Observed by faithfuls on the bank

Robed white as if for rapture.

Watch preacher dunk her under

The cool, murky shallow & up

Into searing midday sunlight.

Watch sisters receive her with

A towel & embraces 

like a newborn damp & alive.

Watch her take to the road alone

At service end, returning

To her own sacred ground that 

Heals scars water alone cannot

Cleanse, that full immersion cannnot

                                                                  Undo.

First Reunion

Don’t assume responsibility for making

 the essentials like mac & cheese, 

stewed chiecken or collard greens, 

the old hands got them covered.

Expect the whole fam there, or,

at least, the ones who return emails,

phone calls & don’t have personal beefs.

Expect to find the men lounging on living 

room sofas, watching Saturday night ball 

on the flat screen, debating the MVP race; 

the women crowded around the kitchen 

table passing gossip with a bottle of wine; 

kids tearing from room to room ’till some 

sharp parental looks send them outdoors. 

Come expecting your grandma, aunt & uncles 

to give you a tight embraces that leave back & 

shoulders aching; the dense scent of meals slow 

cooking in the oven, on the stove or waiting pre-

made in tin plastic trays. Expect some names 

to shine more brightly than others in your mind 

& to discover a new life here to replace the one 

seas, continents & distance of time has left behind.

Check Point

It is the mosaic scene on the ceiling 

that helps you bare the line. & then you 

notice a single colored body building a 

nation amongst a hard-hat army of white. 

You recall receiving news of a relative that 

made it elsewhere, via waves, on a vessel too 

small to hold its burden. You imagine some 

ancestor must have made it here, via waves, 

to build a nation not their own. But you didn’t 

make it here with the trauma of a journey. Your 

journey was via wings, belongings strapped on a 

shoulder & rolled on four wheels. & after an officer 

inspects your passport & your body, his phone call 

escorts you to a separate room, while the mosaic 

scene observes the episode from the ceiling above.

Making it

Remember how your summit was preceded by a base:

low-rent high rise, heating in mood swings, lone window 

lost in grey, Neighbors trading stabbing words, shadows 

racing along peeling walls, mattress marked by bodies undefined, 

suitcase bursting with clothes, photos of kin & a lover left behind, 

two books of poems you didn’t read aloud until now, when progress

rests on concealing  your mother tongue, on assuming a foreign one.

The Who and the What

 

–For Jacques Derrida

Each morning we awake

to the death of our fantasies:

She with straight, silky hair

He with abs taut as

djembe drum skin

She with eyes a frosty marine,

He with upper-body

sculpted & defined

She less assertive, more docile;

He more intelligent, less obtuse

someone we can each wake up to

without loathing or regret,

without pity or guilt,

A body baring a dream,

not an authentic being.

 

 

Home

 

––A name spilling out

its nostalgic glut.

––A lamp alit by the window

Sill in night’s lonely recesses

––n, The place where one lives or was brought up, 

with reference ton the feelings of belonging, comfort, etc.,

––A locution of being, too fluid

For its structure, its meaning.


Groove Logic

Tonight we’ll make heaven when everything else is burning.

Tonight we’ll find Eden in a wasteland of rubble heaps,

Smoldering ruins, splintered asphalt & railway tracks.

Tonight our paradise is underground, packed wall-to-wall,

Air charged with sweat & bass-filled electric speakers.

Tonight we defy that sense of death & streets luring us into

Nihilistic ruin. We’ll retreat later on to the rooftop, watching

Sunrise & her promise of a life beyond this that is unnamed.

Endurance

I am a present tense

Even in a body

Not my own.

Paradigm of Rejection

You wore your identity as a

Coat one size too small–

Confining, irritating from the

Constricting fit of history.

Neither Africa nor Azania*

Could break your self-hate.

As if the ebony clay

You were molded in

Became a fruit too bitter

To be consumed.

 

*Azania = South Africa