by Maya Elliott
imagine a sun running down a pillar of asphalt.
good sun, maybe even holy. holy? i forget
what that word means, i use it all the time.
sit there. imagine with me. imagine girl
imagining herself climb a pillar become
street. girl becomes el nino,
sweeps up white stucco tract houses
in flurry of red clay and robin sky. girl becomes
joy becomes body,
bank shots into basketball hoops & cradles
herself in tenement history. three pointer.
girl got game. girl know how to fucking play.
sun come down with an attitude
that sounds a lot like knucklebones,
girl take sun up by the hands & dance
la cucaracha like a moon.
girl got witchblood, got a skin that just
won’t fit, girl slips back time & again
& takes up in the heart of trees.
she black out in the green.
you could call her comfortable,
but she’ll settle for alive.
somewhere there’s a heaven full
of all the brown boys gone too soon.
boys with lavender stalks woven through
their afro crowns & dreads & braids &
the sun singin’ through their headphones &
gel pomade pressing down their curly naps
tighter than a momma’s arms.
they still dream about their mothers,
like all boys do, ‘cept there’s no
pain in black boy heaven, only
starlight & starshine & a god
that finally wants them.
in black boy heaven
black boys become wolves become
mountain ranges become beloved –
roving in packs, brown faces caught in
the full upswing of what it means
in black boy heaven the brothers
hold themselves together & do
not think of gunshots & cold concrete.
(they don’t. they don’t.)
somewhere in black boy heaven
everything’s alright. the food’s got soul,
the beats are fresh, & no one remembers
the meaning of law or order or curfew
or hand’s up or why me? or i can’t breathe –
the blue-bruise pulse of metal dissolves
in new water, a river
all their own.
in black boy heaven, phoenix boys rise, stare
up at sunspots & recall what it means
down on earth, black girl sings
sad songs that look an awful lot
like herself. black girl don’t know
who she singin’ to; maybe it’s
a hymnal to a god who’s forgotten her.
black girl coats herself in tar,
which is always blood,
which is always blood, &
spins naked across the tarmac.
paleskin neighbors draw the blinds.
she don’t mind, does she.
she just keep dancin’, all to herself.
if there ever was a thing called forgiveness,
it would look like this:
black girl with her head wrapped up
in hummingbird wings,
kneeled & supplicating before the river.
knees chicken-skin bumpy from
doing this so many times before.
knees bruised the color of her own damn
skin, she’s done this so many times before.
water was the first god – everything after
is lowly & base. water carry her out her
mother’s womb & water wear her down
& water bring her ‘round again in the form of
rain to play in babies’ slick kinks & kiss her
momma from the other side of the kitchen window.
water come from heaven, it’s the closest she’ll
get to seeing the faces of all the black boys
who became rain too soon.
one day black girl will find her own name
& fly up to meet them, one by one,
before walking to her own heaven.
it’s just down the block. apartment 423,
situated between the second & third rib,
left side. the other other side of the tracks.
she dance crazy & think of the boys & think
of herself & dance crazier underneath a
yellow sun-gone-moon. somedays she dance so
hard she leave her body behind again &
walk around like a ghost.
then she pick up her bones & take
the L-train home.
black girls make homes in themselves.
heaven is for tired dreamers. her,
she still got lots to do
down here on earth.