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.
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.