Things I Don’t Say to the White Audience at the Poetry Reading
I am not your wet nurse, your mammy
your nanny. I am not here to sing
you to sleep. You want a poem
that saunters toward you like your
childhood dog. Places its head
in your lap, waiting to be pet.
I never had a dog. And if I did
my poems would still bloat
with black girl grief
still read like an index of sorrow
still bathe you in the shadow
of a nightmare you never knew to fear.
There is no redeeming nature metaphor here.
No plot twist to leave you feeling lighter.
Just more names
you have already forgotten.
Just more bodies.
Mourning Rites (Or: How We Bury Our Sons)
Gather his sneakers from each corner of the house.
Bury them at the basketball court. Cut the net
from the rim and place it in your purse.
When the sound of Jays on concrete
makes a sob crawl up your throat, finger
the nylon like prayer beads. Recite his middle name
until it sounds like a chant. When his favorite cereal
goes on sale, buy a box for every song
you’ll never dance to at his wedding.
On Sundays, listen to voicemails he left you
like hymnals. Fold his unfinished homework
into a paper plane. Carry it in your wallet
until receipts rub math problems to dust.
Start collecting souvenir bibs for children
who will never call you grandma.
Do not expect anyone to understand
what it means to be a one-woman jazz funeral
to sway to a brass band no one else can hear.
They have never known what to make of our mourning.