Aubade to Langston

Rachel Eliza Griffiths

When the light wakes & finds again
the music of brooms in Mexico,
when daylight pulls our hands from grief,
& hearts cleaned raw with sawdust
& saltwater flood their dazzling vessels,
when the catfish in the river
raise their eyelids towards your face,
when sweetgrass bends in waves
across battlefields where sweat
& sugar marry, when we hear our people
wearing tongues fine with plain
greeting: How You Doing, Good Morning
when I pour coffee & remember
my mother's love of buttered grits,
when the trains far away in memory
begin to turn their engines toward
a deep past of knowing,
when all I want to do is burn
my masks, when I see a woman
walking down the street holding her mind
like a leather belt, when I pluck a blues note
for my lazy shadow & cast its soul from my page,
when I see God's eyes looking up at black folks
flying between moonlight & museum,
when I see a good-looking people
who are my truest poetry,
when I pick up this pencil like a flute
& blow myself away from my death,
I listen to you again beneath the mercy
of a blue morning's grammar.

More by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Verguenza

Woman, I wish I didn't know your name.  
What could you be? Silence in my house 
& the front yard where the dogwood 
wouldn't make up its mind about flowers. 
Aren't you Nature? A stem cringing, half-
shadowed beneath a torque of rain. 
I too am leaving. I too am half-spun. 
The other day near the river
I bent down & Narcissus 
turned his immaculate mouth
away, refusing to caress
my howls. Silence in the trees
all around the shotgun house & that scent
of cedar whenever I dream.
I turn the light around on the ground, 
sweeping the red mud, holding 
the light like a rattler. Like a hood of 
poison, fitted over my face. Cobra 
woman, slicked with copperhead flutes. 
I too am fleeing. My face born
in a caul of music. Bravado.
The men come into the yard 
& pull all my clothes off, 
walk me into the house, 
into my own kitchen. 
Tell me not to say
say I'm wrong.

26

Your names toll in my dreams.
I pick up tinsel in the street. A nameless god
streaks my hand with blood. I look at the lighted trees
in windows & the spindles of pine tremble
in warm rooms. The flesh of home, silent.
How quiet the bells of heaven must be, cold
with stars who cannot rhyme their brilliance
to our weapons. What rouses our lives each moment?
Nothing but life dares dying. My memory, another obituary.
My memory is a cross. Face down. A whistle in high grass.
A shadow pouring down the sill of calamity.
Your names wake me in the nearly dark hour.
The candles in our windows flicker
where your faces peer in, ask us
questions light cannot answer.