- My Hand, and: Migration Story, and: Percival Road, and: Communion, and: West 148th St. Canvas, and: What to Say, But
after Afaa M. Weaver
If ever the fingers refuse to hold a pen as you might hold my hand in yours, take it and don’t let go. Trace the lines with your fingertips until I can feel again. Kiss our palms until your pulse is next to mine. If ever my fingers refuse and words from my lips are poems searching for the page, I want your ear to be the ledger each syllable seeks. This is the way to keep on despite failure. This is how the story still sings.
And when the muscles lose their flex and joints have closed up all their doors and my hand is a fist, hold me. Hold me even when I cannot make a palm, even when I want to hold you but all that I am is fighting against being open. Some giving must be turned over to you. I hand what’s left of me, as you take the crumbled flesh and love it still.
If all of this is just a dream, and there is no rebellious hand and there is a page before us—blank— I will write your name everywhere there is space. I will hold your hand as I would a pen and write you all over.
It slammed through the car window; your body zipped straight; a brick laid against a man & he fell as if raptured by the spirit to the courthouse pews. & all of us, puppet-made. Like you, Nigger migrated above the Mason-Dixon line to the city. Nigger confronted you on 49th Street, & zip-lined between taxis. Nigger knocked you & pulled your strings, your head snapped down to avert eyes, your quick steps past. Nigger found you. It taught you well— [End Page 255]
It’s midnight and we greet a man with a bloodied nose, clotting traffic’s flow down Percival Road where havoc has always had me here.
This man holds the shadow of something familiar, some black body in front of him though we can’t make it out. My friend has slowed the car down to a rattling idle to inquire.
But havoc has had me here before: totaled car spinning into the gutter, air bags bursting dust inside the capsule of shattered glass and shifted engine.
Frozen in the car now, fear silences our voice boxes, and more unfolds: his un-tucked suit shirt is soiled with more blood than a nose can spill.
What was unrecognizable has transformed into the straight spine of the shotgun cradled between his palms across his chest.
Someone in the car cracks open the silence. Shaken, we drive on; we keep going.
The night my mother tried to save me, she held my four-year-old legs down in the center of the room. I didn’t want
to do it. I didn’t want to eat the flesh of a man I didn’t know, ask Him into the small cavity of my heart.
Wasn’t this too, sinful—desiring the blood of a body, eating flesh, tasting the tinge of metal?
She had reduced Jesus to a small, dry biscuit and a thimble brimming with juice and ordered me
to place Him on my tongue. Reluctant, I chewed the brittle bones, His hemoglobin washed to the back of my throat
and the rest of him: dregs left to dry in the bottom of the cup.
West 148th St. Canvas
The flat four-foot squares line up from East to West. Cracked concrete sidewalk a table of urine stains. The sun’s [End Page 256]
bronzed neck is bent below the Hudson. Somewhere, creeping close to Broadway, children slap the fronts and backs
of their hands and count to three. Fumble. Stop. Start. A spliff is split between two boys— one guts, the other fills—the marijuana buds
crumble between their fingers. Saturday nights: the staccato of stacked domino bones on wooden tables outside. Bachata bravado
speaks from trunk sub...