my grandparents are gone.
never met them,
only laid eyes on an old distant picture or two
in a land i’ve never seen or smelled;
heard old happy voices
that hinted at the desire to hold me
via brief long distant calls;
witnessed tears form in my parents’ eyes upon memory.
i wish my grandparents could
tell me stories of their childhood
and teach me the language i never learned
but they are gone.
but if they were here,
i would ask my paternal grandmother
why her skin was dark like mine,
but her eyes were blue
and how she lived to be 102;
i would ask my maternal grandfather
how his faith in God got to be so strong
and why he loved nothing more
than reading the Book of Psalms;
i would ask my paternal grandfather
why he was so tough on my father
which in turn made him so tough on his sons
and why when kids saw him, they’d get up and run;
and i would ask my maternal grandmother
how she looked when she smiled
because i only saw her casket photos at her funeral
one year before i arrived.
all my grandparents have died—
gone to the next place after we leave earth.
i wonder in my death, will it be like a new birth
where all my grandparents will cradle me in their arms
and say the words they never had a chance to say
as we speak the same language
and finally get the opportunity
to love and know
what are my chirren’s names?
i done had so many,
seen lives blow through wind like ragweed, mm hmm.
my woman-parts at one time were like
a train station–
men whistlin’, comin’ and leavin’.
i never loved the ones who came,
but the ones who left?
they carry pieces of my heart with them in their pockets,
pull me out of their wallets like crisp dollar bills at the liquor sto’
and roll me and smoke me in their funny cigarettes.
baby, i am like ash,
black and grayish-white,
once on fire
but lookin closer to death than life.
there is something unsettling
about young life lost in its prime
like all sugar sinking to bottom of lemonade glass
or shredded gritty leaves escaping tea bags,
sneaking on tongue;
like a bitter horse pill too hard to swallow on first attempt,
resulting in lingering taste
water won’t wash away.
looking at an older face of the dead,
although deeply sad,
still sometimes provides the comfort of knowing
that they at least had the chance to live a full life:
to experience highs and lows,
to birth children and watch them grow,
to fail and still have years to bounce back,
have a chance to fail again,
suffer consequence, repent
and change for better.
but looking at a picture of a young face–
an image captured shortly before spirit slipped away
is like having a dream of losing all one’ s teeth
and waking up to discover
that they’re actually cracked and gone;
a reminder that one day we’ll all be gone,
that no one’s time on this earth is too long
and that for many,
it’s too short,
lost at an age
on my birthday,
i got a long voicemail from a friend.
midnight approached as i lay in my bed listening.
in the message, one thing she said was:
“I’m happy you’re alive…”
to my surprise came unexpected tears.
maybe it was how her voice cracked when she said it,
showing her sincerity
or just that
when someone who knows exactly how
you’ve been to death
acknowledges just how
simply by still being here,
life seems even more
i now sometimes wonder where
the old me went.
did she die a miserable death
to match her painful existence?
or does she live in my chest,
keeping my heart beating
through reminders of what she used to be?
or maybe she still lives in me,
a skinny, emaciated girl
underneath the skin of a woman
who smiles even when she’s sleeping now.
her tears keep me hydrated
and her scars only make me more beautiful.
her pain i wear like a necklace of rememberance,
perfect pearls all unique. wherever she went,
i’m happy she’s not as present
when i look in the mirror,
glad that when i dance now,
she’s not stepping on my feet.
she kisses my feet now,
washes them with tears
and absorbs the fluid in her afro hair.
she serves me
and is near,
perhaps closer than i think she is.
i think she is me–
where would i be without love?
perhaps shivering naked in a closet,
never having experienced touch;
or sleeping on park benches hoping to get mugged
because violence is at least physical contact
and physical contact sometimes simulates
or at least emulates
where would i be?
mouth devoid of four-letter words
and heart symbols to connect others to me,
interactions without laughter,
days without passion,
existence without meaning,
living without being,
a heart that’s not beating,
a soul that’s not healing,
a mind without imagination,
exchange without compassion,
summer without sun,
winter without Christmas,
holidays with no family,
a brain without sanity,
bare bones and flesh without a body,
eyes without tears,
no fun in conquering fear…
how could i possibly live there?!
i will build a house of love even if
all i can afford is a cardboard box without a roof
and newspaper to stuff the holes in my shoes.
i will clothe myself in patience,
waiting for love despite
my wrinkles and creases in the wrong places,
chase it til it strikes me like lightning
and just as i’m dying,
my eyes will be shining and i’ll know
it was worth trying
because life without love is death
so as i take my last breath,
i’ll just float away to live in another land that is safe
and enter the gate for those who chose to take the risk
that always comes with love
and be home.
my friend said
that if things don’t go right with this election,
he’ll be the one
to start the revolution.
he’s tired of runnin.
being born with non-caucasian skin
in this country
is like putting a number on your front and back
and running a triathlon for a gold medal
you’ll never get.
the cops shoot the gun
to tell us when to lift our feet and focus our attention.
some runners get shot while others get spat on
without the option of joining in the competition.
and some get murked while they
sit on the side tying their shoes and stretching to prepare.
they were doing so well,
but now they’re not here.
what would the revolution consist of?
i don’t know but if it happens,
at least i’ll be moving, running,
no longer stuck in a cardboard box
that will really be too hot
if things don’t go right.
tonight i will prepare myself for the possibility of
having to move my feet,
staying hopeful but contemplating carefully
the revolution that could be sparked
in a moment of defeat.