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.
I remember the boys & their open hands. High fives
of farewell. I remember that the birches waved too,
the white jagged limbs turning away from incessant wildfires.
The future wavered, unlike a question, unlike
a hand or headstone. The future moved & the fields already knew it.
I remember the war of the alphabet, its ears sliced from its face. I
know that language asks for blood.
The children of kudzu, lilac, the spit of unknown rivers. I remember the jury
& the judge of the people. The buckshot that blew
the morning’s torso into smoke.
That last morning I begged the grandmothers to leave their rage next to red candles
& worn photographs of their children & their blue-eyed grandson
with his bleeding heart. The savior bled flowers.
I scattered the stones the trees bore. Gray vultures came for my children.
They knew the old country better than me. They broke through
skyscrapers & devoured both villain & hero.
& boys were pouring, wanted & unwanted & missing yet from the long mouth
where their voices were forced to say they were nothing. But they were men, invisible
& native & guilty beyond their glottal doubt.
I remember calling out to the savage field where more boys knelt & swung
through the air. I remember how their eyes rolled back
in blood, milk, & gasoline. Their white teeth
chewing cotton into shrouds, scars & sheets.
They gave me their last words. They gave me smiles for their fathers.
They slept in my arms, dead & bruised. Long as brambles.
The bullets in their heads & groins
quieting like a day. The meat of nothing.
I held their million heads in my lap when the bodies were taken away.
I don’t know if what’s left will dance or burn.
I wash their eyelids with mint.
But let God beg pardon to them & their mothers
& I don’t know if the body is a pendulum of where love cannot go
when the tongue is swollen with the milk of black boys.
I pulled their lives from the trees & lawns & schools.
The unlit houses & the river. Their forewings wet
& screaming. I won’t leave them,
huddled like bulls inside the stall of a word. I am the shriek,
the suture, the petal
shook loose from their silence.