Naming the Baby

I couldn’t bring myself
to read through Breonna’s social 
media but some say she believed 2020
would be her year. She even
imagined a baby growing steady
in her belly. I imagine her choosing
the baby’s name with care. Taking
all the months she had to name it
something like Pearl or V or Cheryl
There are a million baby names 
to choose from the good book
but what do you name
the baby that never would be
in the year that should’ve been
yours? Do you name her
Revolution? Do you name her
A World Screaming? Do you
name her Fire? Let her burn
             the house down—

:: Searching for My Own Body ::

Which is to say that like a good theoretical objectified body, my identity was created not by me but by the various desires and beliefs of those around me. 
– Daniel Borzutzky
 
My body is a small cave door                     
it’s a slick whale 	a jubilant
sea of tall grass that sways
& makes its way across countries          
& lovers             I love	        love-making
I don’t remember a time when             
I wasn’t interested in touch
I have these breasts
& some 	         would want to come     
on hands 		      & knees to worship them               
call me flower   	      or         	       desert
Maybe I was only supposed to be
stone or a baby eel                    
long & layered		          a nun?
I don’t remember ever saying  
              yes 		      just	 no
I am searching   for my own body    
not the one I was told is so                    
I want to be always  open                
	     like a canyon
Maybe I was only supposed to be           
tree or temple              
In some circles I am
just an open gate          
a sinful  bauble  

Once someone said you are 	       this      
& I  never questioned it

I am searching		           my own body   
for        	        God      

or someone like her—

A Perfect Game

To this day I still remember sitting
on my abuelo’s lap watching                 the Yankees hit,
                 then run, a soft wind rounding the bases
every foot tap to the white pad gentle as a       kiss.

How I loved those afternoons languidly
                 eating jamón sandwiches & drinking root beer.

Later, when I knew something about                 the blue collar
man—my father who worked with his hands & tumbled
                 into the house exhausted like heat in a rainstorm—
                                    I became a Mets fan.

Something about                 their unclean                 faces
                                       their mustaches               seemed rough
to the touch. They had names like       Wally & Dyskstra.
I was certain I would                 marry a man just like them

                 that is until                      Sammy Sosa came along

with his smile a reptile that only knew about lying in the sun.
His arms were cannons and his skin burnt cinnamon
                 that glistened in my dreams.

Everyone said he was not       beautiful.

Out on the streets where the men set up shop playing dominoes
I’d hear them say between the yelling of       capicu
                                   “como juega, pero feo como el diablo.”

I knew nothing of my history
                 of the infighting on an island on which one side swore
it was only one thing: pallid, pristine.                        & I didn’t know
                 that Sammy carried this history like a                    tattoo.

That he wished everyday to be                 white.

It is a perfect game this race war, it is everywhere,       living
                                  in the American bayou as much as
                 the Dominican dirt roads.
It makes a man do something to his skin that seems unholy.
It makes that same man change               eye color like a soft
                 summer dress slipped on slowly.
It makes a grandmother ask her granddaughter

                                  if she’s suffering
                 from something feverish
because that could be the only excuse why
                                  her hair has not been straightened
like a ballerina’s back                 dyed the color of wild
                 daffodils growing in an outfield.

Sammy hit 66 home runs one year
                                  & that was still            not                  enough
                 to make him feel handsome

or worthy of that blackness that I believe a gift
even today while black churches burn & black bodies
disappear from one day to the next the same as old
pennies.

I think of him often       barely remember what he looked like

                 but I can recall his       hunched shoulders in the
dugout                 his perfect swing
                 & how maybe he spit out       something black
from his mouth                 after
every                 single                                  strike—

Maps

for Marcelo

Some maps have blue borders
like the blue of your name
or the tributary lacing of
veins running through your
father’s hands. & how the last
time I saw you, you held
me for so long I saw whole
lifetimes flooding by me
small tentacles reaching
for both our faces. I wish
maps would be without
borders & that we belonged
to no one & to everyone
at once, what a world that
would be. Or not a world
maybe we would call it
something more intrinsic
like forgiving or something
simplistic like river or dirt.
& if I were to see you
tomorrow & everyone you
came from had disappeared
I would weep with you & drown
out any black lines that this
earth allowed us to give it—
because what is a map but
a useless prison? We are all
so lost & no naming of blank
spaces can save us. & what
is a map but the delusion of
safety? The line drawn is always
in the sand & folds on itself
before we’re done making it.
& that line, there, south of
el rio, how it dares to cover
up the bodies, as though we
would forget who died there
& for what? As if we could
forget that if you spin a globe
& stop it with your finger
you’ll land it on top of someone
living, someone who was not
expecting to be crushed by thirst—

Related Poems

26

Your names toll in my dreams.
I pick up tinsel in the street. A nameless god
streaks my hand with blood. I look at the lighted trees
in windows & the spindles of pine tremble
in warm rooms. The flesh of home, silent.
How quiet the bells of heaven must be, cold
with stars who cannot rhyme their brilliance
to our weapons. What rouses our lives each moment?
Nothing but life dares dying. My memory, another obituary.
My memory is a cross. Face down. A whistle in high grass.
A shadow pouring down the sill of calamity.
Your names wake me in the nearly dark hour.
The candles in our windows flicker
where your faces peer in, ask us
questions light cannot answer.

Imagine

after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you 
             —W. S. Merwin

A blanket of fresh snow
makes any neighborhood idyllic.
Dearborn Heights indistinguishable from Baldwin Hills,
South Central even—
until a thawing happens and residents emerge
into the light.  But it almost never snows in L.A.,
and snows often in this part of Michigan—
a declining wonderland, a place not to stand out
or be stranded like Renisha was.

Imagine a blonde daughter with a busted car
in a suburb where a brown homeowner
(not taking any chances)  
blasts through a locked door first, 
checks things out after—
around the clock coverage and the country beside itself
instead of the way it is now, 
so quiet like a snowy night 
and only the grief of a brown family (again)
around the Christmas tree, recalling 
memories of Renisha playing
on the front porch, or catching flakes
as they fall and disappear 
on her tongue.

They are left to imagine 
what her life might have been.
We are left to imagine the day
it won't require imagination 
to care about all of the others.

what the dead know by heart

lately, when asked how are you, i
respond with a name no longer living

Rekia, Jamar, Sandra

i am alive by luck at this point. i wonder
often: if the gun that will unmake me
is yet made, what white birth

will bury me, how many bullets, like a
flock of blue jays, will come carry my black
to its final bed, which photo will be used

to water down my blood. today i did
not die and there is no god or law to
thank. the bullet missed my head

and landed in another. today, i passed
a mirror and did not see a body, instead
a suggestion, a debate, a blank

post-it note there looking back. i
haven't enough room to both rage and
weep. i go to cry and each tear turns

to steam. I say I matter and a ghost
white hand appears over my mouth