I remember picking up a fistful of sand, smooth crystals, like hourglass sand and throwing it into the eyes of a boy. Johnny or Danny or Kevin—he was not important. I was five and I knew he would cry. I remember everything about it— the sandbox in the corner of the room at Cinderella Day Care; Ms. Lee, who ran over after the boy wailed for his mother, her stern look as the words No snack formed on her lips. My hands with their gritty, half-mooned fingernails I hid in the pockets of my blue and white dress. How she found them and uncurled small sandy fists. There must have been such rage in me, to give such pain to another person. This afternoon, I saw a man pull a gold chain off the neck of a woman as she crossed the street. She cried out with a sound that bleached me. I walked on, unable to help, knowing that fire in childhood clenched deep in my pockets all the way home.
Deep in my biceps I know it’s a complement, just as
I know this is an all-black-people-look-alike moment.
So I use the minimal amount of muscles to crack a smile.
All night he catches sight of me, or someone like me, standing
next to deconstructed cannoli and empty bottles of Prosecco.
And in that moment, I understand how little right any of us have
to be whoever we are—the constant tension
of making our way in this world on hope and change.
You’re working your muscles to the point of failure,
Michelle Obama once said about her workout regimen,
but she knows we wear our history in our darkness, in our patience.
A compliment is a complement—this I know, just as the clock
will always strike midnight and history repeats. This is how
I can wake up the next morning and love the world again.