That time my grandmother dragged me
through the perfume aisles at Saks, she held me up
by my arm, hissing, "Stand up,"
through clenched teeth, her eyes
They told my cousin Rowena not to marry
Calvin―she was too young, just eighteen,
& he was too dark, too too dark, as if he
had been washed in what we wanted
I am at a retreat house,
and the nun who runs the house told me to look at my face in the mirror.
A black woman comes up to me at break in the writing
workshop and reads me her poem, but she says she
can't read it out loud because
there's a woman in a car on her way
Those huge platters on their heads on which everything
is placed accurately, each small red pepper,
prawn, each orange―each arranged in piles so tall they defy gravity―
What was there is no longer there:
Not the blood running its wires of flame through the whole length
Not the memories, the texts written in the language of the flat hills
No, not the memories, the porch swing and the father crying
Tonight, I look, thunderstruck
at the gold head of my grandchild.
Almost asleep, he buries his feet
The first was a bassinet. I don't remember what it was made of; I think it was one of those big white wicker baskets with wheels. When I couldn't sleep at night, my father would drag it into the kitchen.