ghetto son

[I was commssioned by a dear friend to write a poem with the same title as one I wrote when I was in middle school. I vaguely remembered the original, and could recall the first line. This last line of this re-envisioning is an interpolation of that first line.]

just hold him, mama.
life has loved him
like fist
cracking chest cavity.

life has splayed him
pentacle-wide
gaping sorrowmouth
all his flowers poured out.

try to hold him.
if his ribcage ain’t
razor blades yet.
if his teeth ain’t
turned bullets.

might be, though.
this world is quick
to prick that sugar maple skin
and bleed our boys for sap.
swift to swipe their laughter,
leave bombs behind.

just try.
and if your arms ache.
if he weeps you wet
as rupture amniotic.
if his arms are flesh
against your back.
then there is hope.

but if you taste gunpowder
on his promises.
his eyes arsenic and arson.
do not reach for the weapon
he’s become.

it’s all right
to save
yourself
for love.

let him go, mama.

till he finds
his way
to death
or some other
silence.
he’ll be out
in red night
spinnin’

anguish and famine at their own intervals: stage notes

here comes
famine, the warring
spirit,
knocks over your tea
scoffs at the baklava

not precisely unkind
yellow-belligerent
will dance you from this
room while
you hug her neck, suck
like a baby

famine
if nothing else
will hold you.

anguish the goldenrod
flourishes in a corner
coming          spectacularly          undone
he cannot write your letter
of recommendation
                                                     all things
                                                     so busy belonging
to someone else
too much
                                                     to bear

(anguish pulls his cape tighter)

then here comes you
a lovely-quick stardust pocket
a cinnamon and sandalwood
girl-universe seeping
the tiny confines of body

famine falls before you
anguish splits open to pour laughter
at your feet

the only thing
they cannot do for you
is disappear

cradle

there is a house
in my imagination
strong enough to cradle all
this light in my belly
close enough, soft enough
to rock me when i stumble
indoors exhausted
from flinging rays out of me
bathing in its glow
as much world
as i can reach
& when i think of
this shack
this palace
this lean-to
firm-standing & wide open
as me
i weep
or either don’t
as often in God’s work
i am too tired
for tears

mornings

(a poem about mothering. in honor of my late grandmother, patsy johnson, who made sure i didn’t walk through this life uncovered after my mother passed away.)

mornings,
sunlight is a cruel authority.
my bones whisper one word:
“buckle.”
then the ocean-tide
of your sleeping breath.
the heartbeat of you.
i defy my skeleton’s
seductive stasis.
i move.
it does not matter that this
isn’t joy.
this is the slick-stout medicine
of what is.

mornings,
knees groan, feet swell,
and the warm architecture
of your forehead
instructs me: move.
this is no whimsical aching
in the blood.
no sweet thing.
this is the unquivering jawline
of a million women,
comprising the hand of God.
this, hard and simple.
because you are here,
i move.