She’s behaving midnight again.
Her bedroom blinds shut.
The installation of quilted drapes.
Scribbling J.T. repeatedly on notepads.
This is when I grease her scalp.
What a harvest—
Mounds of envelopes on the nightstand.
Before opioids were news.
This is her green house—
Rot plowed from the root,
what unravels here has sprouts.
Galatians verbatim on her tongue;
her children—Amen, Amen—
are starched in the eyes of God.
She wears her own hair & Fashion Fair.
Stutter ignores her penchant
For fried whiting & hushpuppies.
No one I know calls her baby.
But this isn’t a portrait
of the patient slow dancing,
ambulance parked in the driveway.
Here is a woman as monument;
the flash for this sitting was gratuitous.
Her legacy is how not to ask for much:
“Give a child what you can & fertilize it.”
My mother’s allure wasn’t from a magazine;
Jet came later.
ELEGY FOR SABENA
eyes, loud-soft with crying and with smiles.
Sixty-months of a dreamed glare,
away from Manhattan and Columbus,
avenues slick with year-round verse,
way up in back of the Poconos.
Much on which to muse,
much for the notebook,
always some other someone
wasn’t always easy.
January was picturesque:
squirrels threw bark into snow-covered brooks,
cooing daughter, clapping son,
Benjamin & Nina tickled toward warm-day stitches.
Away from Manhattan and Columbus,
amid kitchen-counter TV,
at the tail-end of “Happy Birthday,”
each absence swollen.
AT LE DIPLOMATE
1601 14th St. NW
Washington, DC 20009
for my sister Ruby Denise
Afro & two-strand twists
Post-Classy Curl & high-top fade
Patient & citrus
Front window banquette—
How we sister brother.
Simply because I wonder
I’m not tryna be ‘faux-deep’—
What might sheet music
For “It Be’s That Way Sometimes”
Mean to an ear-trained pianist?
Tonight We won’t crossword repasts.
Instead we menu pinot soup
Holler mignon & mousse.
Birthday & brain surgery & done gone.
Mama, shawl-like frayed & idiomatic,
—Live & let live—
Taught us how to scan the iris for bullshit.
Which man’s neck-thick is worthy of lather.
Taught us that good beef is love.