Other Women’s Children

                              (for my sisters)

I still don’t know how he knew
I was running. My mouth was open,
or those boys were barking that loud;
not that I hadn’t been chased
by dogs. There’s a moment when
you can’t tell from which angle
it’s coming, and the air is a red drum,
and the trees lean away from you,
and the ground is wet.     Lonnie drove
truck nights, and grew strawberries
in our backyard, which were small,
but sweet. You could taste his hands
in the dirt, which the mouth learns
to read as green and sweet. My mother
made him liver and onions; we ate fish
Fridays and I wasn’t allowed milk. He’s why
I like my eggs runny. I still don’t understand
anything about engines. I can’t remember
why those boys were after me. Maybe
it makes sense why a Rottweiler
would break a fence.      Lonnie stood
with his shotgun out front. Sometimes
he wouldn’t come home, or he’d walk
into the house with his shirt bloody.
When we left, my mother didn’t want
money. Not that we would have gone,
but that other woman didn’t even invite us
to the funeral. Man, I bet Yvette’s children
have children. Lord knows what’s happened
to Chrissy now that she’s too old to dance.

More by Amaud Jamaul Johnson

What Spells Trouble

you have since swallowed
so much blood, the sailboats
rap violently about the docks,
and how heavy the gulls’ wings
have grown, how sour, sourly
beloved, and what shall we then
call it, this consternation, a blue
funk, some pestilence, which hangs
or blooms or paints itself silently
within the many courtyards
of the body, or across that high
court of the skull, what looms
like another steamrolled peony,
or some pink paper moon.

Related Poems

male bonding

for Adrian, J., Christopher, Matthew, Greg, Roger, Major & Randall

i want my sons to know
men who smile

i want my sons to know men
who own their imperfections

i want my sons to know
men who listen

i want my sons to know
men who hear hearts, see words

i want my sons to know men
who honor women

i want my sons to know
men who appreciate the arts

i want my sons to know
men who adore their mamas

i want my sons to know men
who aren’t afraid of tears

i want my sons to know
men who respect their fathers

i want my sons to know men
who use fists in self-defense only

i want my sons to know
men who value and dignify men

men who work hard, can’t
spell quit, understand no

i want my sons to know
men who apologize

i want my sons to know men
who have relations with The Divine

men who question everything
men who know humility

i want my sons to know
men who read books

i want my sons to know men
who laugh at themselves

i want my sons to know
men who see possibility

sisters

me and you be sisters.
we be the same.

me and you
coming from the same place.

me and you
be greasing our legs
touching up our edges.

me and you
be scared of rats
be stepping on roaches.

me and you
come running high down purdy street one time
and mama laugh and shake her head at
me and you.

me and you
got babies
got thirty-five
got black
let our hair go back
be loving ourselves
be loving ourselves
be sisters.

only where you sing,
I poet.

What I Mean When I Say Harmony (I)

Dear Boy: Be the muscle,
make music to the bone—risk

that mercurial measure
of contact. There are those

who touch a body and leave it
graceful:      be that kind

of wonder in the dark.      And if I ever
catch you confusing

a pulse for a path      or a bridge
to beat loneliness, your blood

will be the object of discussion—:
I will ask to see it back,

if only to know the shared sinew,
if only to relight your blessing,

if only to rekindle the song
carried in your hands.