Give Yourself Some Flowers

And in the beginning,
God gave your body
a checklist:

Keep your heart
on beat
and your lungs
dancing with oxygen,
not passive to air.

Make sure
the path of your blood
slows down
for checkpoints
and avoids
in the road.

Train your nerves
to keep a balanced pace
and stay within
the lines
of steady flow.

Push forward
without putting
too much
on movement.

to return to water
when your spirit
and its frame
are in drought.

Treat your body
like a well-rounded planet
built for all seasons,

or pretend you are
an adaptable star:

Float in the black
and stay there
if you need to,

save some light
for yourself.

In other words,
rest like the sun does:

Schedule some time
to stay out of sight
when too many people
praise warm energy.

Keep in mind
all of these things

when depression
tells you
nothing is working.

Keep in mind
all of these things

when it tells you
there is no
invisible force
connecting us,

when your veins
are stopped by blood clots,

when your bones are dry,
and the water
is too quick to boil.

Keep in mind
all of these things
when it tells you
that the soul is like the body:

Made to be broken,
open to deterioration
and doubt. Yes,

keep in mind
all of these things
and remember:

Even when it
seems like
the clock isn’t ticking,

you were made perfectly
for this moment
in time.

A Doctor Tells Us It’s Not a Life or Death Situation

Before my daughter’s lungs
found a consistent rhythm,
they were off beat. Coming in

on the one, one, three, two. Unsteady
and unsettled. Too fast, and not
finishing the notes. The nurses

are worried. Concerned
with her cadence. My mother was
once scared for mine because

she found Live Through This
on my nightstand. It was a threat.
A kind of music she didn’t

understand. A specialist comes
and gives us the notes my daughter
should be playing. He sounds like

sheet music of worry. I tell myself she
is already a fan of Ornette Coleman.
Or Autechre. Imagine that: A baby

who’ll skip lullabies for bebop and
experimental electronic music. Instead,
they hook her up like a drum machine,

wires everywhere. Measuring her
beats. One, one, three, two eventually becomes
one, two, three, four. I don’t remember

what it was like when my lungs
arrived under water, already expert
swimmers. More fish than flesh. I just

know what it feels like to be a new
parent. In and out of emotional control,
drowning in panic before everything

finds its steady pulse.

The America I Know Could Use a Good Cry

I met America at a neighborhood bar.

He offered me a shot of rum and I reminded him
that Captain Morgan was a slave owner,
so the bartender awkwardly slipped another
liquid lie down my throat. I ordered another drink
and was channeled by dark spirits. The courage of
black ghosts who haunt American dreams.

I told him I loved him and I wanted him to sleep well.
“But I know I’ve been in your nightmares,”
I said. “I want to be your friend, but only if it’s a deep
relationship. Only if you show me that you are not scared
of your baggage. Bring your whole history to the table.”

America cracked open another beer as a tear
ran down his face. He said,

“I was born in a house not my own, and my fathers demanded
that their portraits hang on every wall. White paint covers each
brown brick and our backyard is a museum of unmarked graves.”

“Despite this, a garden grows,” I said. “And every home
can be torn down and rebuilt again.”

“But I’ve been told I shouldn’t completely let you in,” he said.
“Some people in my family stand in the doorway,
blocking the entrance.”

He left before I could tell him that my people have a history
of finding ways inside broken spaces and making them whole again.