Dirt Cakes

My Grandmother’s body lives
under an ash tree
on an old church ground,
her spirit can be seen making
a maple tree’s shadow jealous.
The church’s bricks absorb
the choir’s songs, they flake Holy Ghost,
If Trouble Don’t Come Today.
I visit, fall on my knees,
ask her how she doing?
How long is her hair now?
Does she still like it braided
in front? Still like having
her scalp scratched?
What y’all doing
in heaven today?
She’d tell my mama
don’t let a bird get the hair that falls
out your head, they’ll use it to build a nest
and you’ll never leave Rolesville. Dirt
is the only thing I know that can’t die,
it makes sense
we would bury here, makes sense
mama don’t want me playing in it.

From River Hymns (Copper Canyon Press, 2017) by Tyree Daye. Copyright © 2017 by Tyree Daye. Used with the permission of the author.