Kira Tucker

Prophecy

Your Most Wanted is like America’s:

a terrorist. You’ll soon need a man to kill

your terrible need. Someday, you’ll learn to kill—

to strike back when hurt sooner than kiss.

Next time hurt strikes, turn back sooner. Kiss

only if sure you’ll remember you’re Black

when it’s over. Remember when your black

eye, swollen and numb, could no longer cry?

Swollen and numb, mouths do not cry

while America pays for men who escape.

And as you pay for the man who escaped,

what you’ll want most is just like America.

Delta Wisdom

On our dock steps, my mom braids

my hair. Splitting my scalp in rows,

her fingers work hard at high tide

like oars fighting white-water currents.

Down where I sit, I watch the river fold

in on itself, again and again—waves

part and smoothe at the surface,

the way fresh-greased coils weave

tight into cornrows. Her wise hands

let no strand slip; I feel they could kill

a man if she willed them. The shears

she’d take to his neck are the same

blades that now clip frayed ends

as dull throbs flood my temples.

On Soul, Signs & Suicide Songs

In the Alabama countryside, I brake

just past a church sign: STOP DROP & ROLL

WON’T WORK IN HELL. If and when hell

happens, will I try death? Perhaps, hell is

when death ends and I still miss my mother

pouring soul in my three-year-old ears:

Ooh-ooh child, things are gonna get easier.

Like anyone, I seek direction from signs I see,

driving: half-dead men who roam days like

roadsides. A skeleton hung from a crepe myrtle,

plastic as the stickers claiming my life

matters. If and when hell happens, will I

trust signs then? Maybe the day I meet Satan

is when I kill myself with the truth that I have not

slept since I was three. My mother’s lullaby:

Ooh-ooh child, things’ll get brighter.

I learned 72 signs for the test to drive but no directions

for when I get lost. I first tried death at the same age I could

legally speed off any Alabama mountain. Wildfires ignite

valleys and remind me of hell. Now, I see my world aflame,

knowing my mother’s words were only sounds

to soothe my eyes to sleep.

Someday, we’ll walk in the rays of a beautiful sun.