by Bridget Hawkins
somedays I wake to myself 
at the sore 
that is her
the grandmom I never knew
the thirty blocks 
between rent check and paycheck
the bottle of sherry 
in the back cabinet
the demands breathed 
down the front 
of a work shirt
they eyed 
the curves 
of her
when they 
sopped up the sweat 
of her brow
to sell 
another thirty thousand cans 
of campbell’s soup
the american dream,
whatever little
night-nothing that 
to a black girl.
I wake myself
and I’m worried
I could have
will have 
a face smoothed 
into my own,
by morning, I’ve 
know faces fewer 
than I’ve known 
prayer cards 
and caskets 
for the generations,
all the bad habits
she didn’t get 
to teach me:
menthol smokes
bad boyfriends
overworn shoes
chemical burns
needing to 
just hope
that wound will be better
in the morning
until it kills you
I lowered her
into the ground
somewhere in Camden
how to divert
the backhanded stares
at churchsteps
sitters’ overcrowded stoops
your sister’s house
wallpapered over
in the fact
she has a man
black women
aren’t supposed to be
to smell like
last night’s 
chicken and dumplings
milk, blood 
or anything
was not a stereotype
she read
horror novels and mysteries
did her son’s math homework
beat everyone 
at trivial pursuit
she stole 
her last name
because she felt
she was punching up
she never cheered
my father’s football games
but she always came 
didn’t have time
to be political
she was a politics 
running for the bus stop
carrying groceries
a mile
when the taxi 
didn’t show
flipping through channels
and whipping her boys
into wrangling a laundry machine
cutting grass
so no one could ever call them
sloppy niggers 
she says to me
when i speak, 
carrying her 
nose, fingers, lips, and breasts
carrying her
alcoholic memory
carrying and
carrying on,
that no
white tongue
will ever 
transmute her
into a regret