Not Yet

When my father breathed
unevenly, I, a child
breathed unevenly, I prayed
in Saint Maron
Maronite Catholic Church
for the world to change.
When I saw my father’s tears
I did not pray;
I hated our market
where the bullet
missed his heart,
I hoped the mists exhaled
by the Vale of Esk
in a country of lakes
four thousand miles away
would be mine.
That was before
Lopez whispered through his rotten teeth
behind a maze of welding guns,
“You’re colored, like me,”
before I knew
so much anger,
so much need
to avenge the holy cross
and the holy card
with its prayers for the dead,
so many words
I have no choice to say.
Years without enough to make me
stop talking—
I want it all.
I don’t want
the angel inside me, sword in hand,
to be silent.
Not yet.


“Not Yet” from A CERTAIN CLARITY: SELECTED POEMS by Lawrence Joseph. Copyright © 2020 by Lawrence Joseph. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. All Rights Reserved.