When birches save their skin for mourning.
I would stand outside whenever there was a storm, a metal basket in the embrace of my arms. Everyone knew I was waiting for the light. Three bolts were just enough, just enough to restore the flicker in his eyes. Stars were easier to catch, but they reminded him of wishing, which reminded him of hope. We are made from star stuff. Everyone knows that. Each morning when I came to bring him breakfast I would look over the hundreds of crickets in the room, songs emitting from their little throats. I shook my ass to it, like it was the juke music my sister and I used to listen to down by the l'il park. But I knew that he knew it was a dirge. My grandma would always yell don't knock over the ice cream whenever my mother went into the cabinet over the stove. I would say grandma, ain't da ice cream in da freeza? She would laugh hard at this, until she fell over into brown-tipped petals. I would have the urge to fill every vase in the house with water. And then he would say it's too late, when the stem splits and moves like legs, it's too late, child. My sister and I duct-taped all our Barbie's legs together, moisturized their hair in honey, and soaked them in bathtub overnight. Nothing grew at first, later the welts from my mother's fury bloomed on the back of our legs and thighs. Red larkspur—my mother held us by one hand up in the air, each swing turned us over like corollas in the wind. After school my sister and I would catch the silver back spiders in the berry bushes. Their legs striped with yellow and brown. The black boys at school called us yella and the white boys called us nigga, which usually consisted of many shades of brown—my grandma said we were the color of butter, right before it got too hot in a skillet. But when she was mad at my mother and me she called us cracka bitch. My sister and I caught the spiders hoping they would show us how to spin webs. But they would just curl up and die after a couple of days. Just like my granddaddy did. Hair so white it was silver. I said to my sister, Nesha, count the stripes on the spida' legs. Ok, she said, yellow, brown, yellow, brown, yellow, brown. I know now he had a striped soul. Yella nigga, yella nigga, yella nigga. Granddaddy, why some people call us nigga, and some people call us yella, and some people call us bof togetha? And why grandma call us cracka bitch? I asked. Maybe we's three kinds of people, baby, he said. No granddady, yo maf wrong. Dat makes us fo' kinds of people. Which is good. Cuz dat means we got eight legs, just like spidas do. You kno what dat mean, granddaddy? He looked at me waiting for my answer. We can catch all the bugs and butterflies for food. He turned his head away from me and whispered, baby, dose people out dere is like birds, hundreds of birds, lookin' down on me. [End Page 144]
Damara Martin is a second-year doctoral student at Florida Atlantic University in the comparative studies program. Her concentrations are anthropology and linguistics. She received a BA in English and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Miami. Her interests include lyric essay, semiotics, critical race theory, and African American folklore.