1. I wear my grandmother’s bones like a housedress through the city. Some nights the block tells me all its problems. I’ll meet you at the top of the biggest rock in Rolesville or on train headed to a reading in Queens, just tell me where. I promise to gather your bones only for good. I was not swallowed by the darkness between two buildings. I don’t want to die in the south like so many of mine. I want to be carried back. 2. I dreamed we were digging in a field in Rolesville looking for an earth we knew the name of. You stepped into the hole, looked behind you and gestured me in. I saw every lover who held you while your children slept in rooms of small heaters, you wrap the blankets so tight, afraid of any cold that might get in. 3. I said my goodbyes, my dead will not come. I will not see a cardinal in the city so I drew one on my chest. A coop inside a coop inside of me. Leaving is necessary some say. There is a whole ocean between you and a home you can’t fix your tongue to speak. Others do not want me no further than a length of a small yard, they ask where are you going Tyree? Your mama here, you’ve got stars in your eyes. A ship in your movement.
I Wanted to Place an Ocean
I tell my uncle’s ghost
don’t waste your time haunting white folks who owe you money,
I try to give him my body, but he won’t take it,
and pulls his wagon on.
I began in fields near pines where we laughed and fried fish.
If someone were to sing,
it would grow through each ghost
and be heard as geese crossing overhead.
The dead know
the work they have done,
and if they are not careful their hands
will stay in the shape of that work.
My hands haven’t touched cotton or tobacco,
I haven’t pulled small green worms
or carried them inside with me hidden in the body’s doublings.
I only was a child in harvested fields,
when my people let the cotton sleep there were no vacations,
the fields of Rolesville belong to my kinfolk, dead and alive
and I don’t know if my great-grandparents ever saw the ocean
or fell asleep on the beach.