When you ask where I want it, the knife you’ve made of your tongue—so swollen
& hard it fills the empty spaces left by bicuspids, lost to excess of sweet, to child
Or adult play—I say nothing, only nudge your lips from the tip of my nose past
My own, to the dark forest of my chin, where I dare you to find, blanketed in lavender,
Peppermint, & oud, the dimple a rock cleft decades ago. You who are not the one
Who’s named me Ma, you who are young enough to have made a cougar of my mother
& old enough to have sired me as you crammed for the Alabama bar. That fat tongue
You wave traces my beard’s amber & frankincense trail from neck to clavicle, & when
You’ve left your mark there, where we’ve agreed you may first suck the cursèd river
Coursing to stain my flesh’s surface redder, where only I’ll see it long after you’ve departed,
You let the perfumed purse you’ve gathered inside your mouth drip onto my meager chest’s
Tiny right eye, dilating now, begging like a young bud waiting to bloom for mourning dew.
You blow as it swells, then latch & shower it in wet expectation. Make of me, sweet lord,
The mother of some new nectar we misbegotten ones can nurse inside & pass from breast
To breast. Make of this hallowed hearth in my chest a pulsing womb, an isthmus to anywhere 
But here—where bare backs kiss this floor’s knotted tiles & your cedar bed towers—so far from Burden Hill.

Copyright © 2018 by L. Lamar Wilson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 11, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I was loved into knowing my black life matters by old women whose fathers, husbands, and lovers were long dead by the time they resurrected them in pews, porches, and kitchens. These women survived acts of white nationalist terrorism, without their taint, and brought these men, who did not survive, to life in such evocative detail that I, too, fell in love with them. I grew up in a home with childhood sweethearts who have been avoiding public displays of affection for more than sixty years of courtship and marriage—and made four babies whole, complex forces of nature. I live in a body I felt for years no one wanted to touch until I realized they did, really badly, but didn’t want to stay after the touching ended. Staying matters to me, so touch happens less and less. Like those old black women—almost all ‘dead,’ or, more aptly, free of their embodied limitations now—I hold fast to memories of joy, of stolen pleasure, of unlimited possibility to survive. I won’t let hatred taint my verse. This poem joins an amalgam of memories I’m gathering, theirs and mine, to underscore our resolve never to beg others, especially white folk, to acknowledge what we already have: the liminal, syncretic freedom to make of any loved one’s essence an immortal, indestructible being.”
—L. Lamar Wilson