Southern California 2020

Praise the dark that covers us with ashes, 
this morning’s tears, reminding us why we cherish
the not-burning baby cry of awake, not heartbreak. 

Mom, I need a hug, please, 
I just can’t seem to do anything right. 
Raphael, the angel name, should we have birthed
a warrior instead, one who could fight the demons? 

I can’t say for sure I’m an addict but I’m doing too much.
He gets up, then decides he’d rather smoke, 
not feeling OK right now. 
I am twisted up, feel the same way. Not OK. 

No, son, what you are feeling are singed embers
after six months of shutdown. Broken glass. 
Murder after murder of men and women the color of your skin.
At traffic stops, in the dark, in bed, while jogging. Anywhere. 

Praise the path that brought you here today, a boomerang.
Mom, I can’t make it, I’m at the car repair, I need
to keep looking for someone who can fix this. 
The drop like we hear in music, I hear it in his soul. 

My face is wet as he leaves in a gust: 
I have to meet my friends at the demonstration, I’ll feel better.
More purpose. Do you kill a child by holding or letting go?
Ashes, ashes as he runs out the door. 

Doesn’t he know this is an emergency? 
Like the blare of fire warning, 
Pack your bags comes from the evacuation order.  

Today his voice searing into my chest. 
Praise his tears for crying with me. 
Praise the seat that holds me fast. 

Copyright © 2021 by Carla Sameth. This poem appeared in Call Me {Progress} Literary Journal (University of  Alabama, 2021). Used with permission of the author.