I set you free that night, father. When you came back in that yellow Volkswagen, in that dream. I made a boat of honor for you. Woven of poems and words and not words. I set it on the ocean. Father Obuna said to me, a gift is freely given and a gift is freely returned. It has taken me thirty years to understand this. Yemenya has your heart now. May she be merciful. May she love you. The wound bleeds no more. Which is to say, what I have desired is like salt left out all night and gone. This is not a lamentation, damn it. This is a love song. This is a love song. Like reggae—it all falls on the off beat. If there is a way, it is here. They say you cannot say this in a poem. That you cannot say, love, and mean anything. That you cannot say, soul, and approach heaven. But the sun is no fool, I tell you. It will rise for nothing else.
What words can you wrap around
a dying brother, still dying, even now.
A man who has not eaten for a month
sips at water and says, even thirst is a gift.
He asks what other gifts God has given him.
I’m your gift, his daughter says from a corner.
And he smiles and rasps—
you can only unwrap a child once.
The rest is prayer and even more prayer.
You sing softly to him in a language
only the two of you speak and he
snores softly into your palm, breath and blood.