College girl returns home with her education rubbed on and shining like Vaseline, stands in front of the church in a pantsuit shares her grades and experiences, as is tradition. She crisps her Rs, NTs, and INGs like ironing was a natural part of speech. When the Mothers greet her after service she pontificates on womanhood says she doesn’t have a boyfriend because she doesn’t need one. This to women who have been wives and mothers since their teens. They smile hug her say Keep on keeping on They remind her to be open to good things and good things will come. They don’t say what they want: God speaks your mother tonguejust like he speaks that other tongue. Don’t get too big for home. Who untaught you to call a pocketbook a purse? Instead they rub more Vaseline on give her a pair of stockings and watch her walk into the holiday cold They send one prayer behind:
Candace G. Wiley was born in South Carolina, graduated with her B.A. from Bowie State University, her M.A. from Clemson University, and her M.F.A. from the University of South Carolina. Wiley has recently finished a Fulbright fellowship in San Basilio de Palenque, Colombia, a town that was founded by escaped enslaved Africans, who still have their own language and customs that trace back to the Bantu and Kikongo in West Africa. She is now living and writing in Greenville, South Carolina, teaching at Clemson University, and is director of a nonprofit organization called The Watering Hole, which works to create a safe space for poets of color in the South. Her work has appeared in Best American Poetry 2015, Electronic Corpse, Prairie Schooner, pluck!, Jasper, and Home is Where, among others.