What We Knew of Power
Grandmamma called planes—
her palms spoke like engines; fingers, wings. White dust parted air and followed hands like a voice
lingering still, always gripping for a field sign: the edge of a broken fingernail, cracked knuckle mound.
Woman played the signs of Mason men she knew she shouldn’t have known, remembering, Big Daddy
taught me, and Not a sign for little girls. Yes, Woman turned plain men and their topdressing into her own—plucking precise
the signs of something infinite, exact as handfuls of chicken down.
This was her potency, her feat of will: the ability to direct movement away from the white husk of heaven
and weigh it to a dive clap to ground.
But what did we know skirted and scampered around the summer yard in winter
stocking, puffing cigarette candies—rings of sugar smoke, that saccharine satisfaction?
What did we learn for that matter, those Julys away from home, clambering uphill, tumbling mannish after each other?
It used to be that this was no more than carved time for summer family, that there was nothing
to be learned hiding behind magnolias and blossoming to base. It used to be that hide-n-seek was all
we knew, lips to cheeks our only retribution. [End Page 699]
M. Alexis Braxton, a graduate of Howard University, received her M.A. degree in literature from American University in 2010.