Prayer Severing the Cycle

- 1996-
for Tomica

My love is as ancient as my blood.
And of course my blood is still mine
because a woman, sweetened black
with good song, pulled me from the river
like an axe pulled back from the bark.
I learned love, first, as scar.
And of course my love is only mine
because I found the nerve to say it is.
Ha, My love is mine.
But was first my mother’s. Not the how
but the why. But was first her mother’s.
Not the how but the why.
Not the how; Not the how; Not the how;
Not the how; Not the how; Not the how.
I am bored with this beat. I seek
a different dance toward death.
Lord, listen up. Lean in:
I crave a love that happens as sweetly
as it was named. If love must be swung,
let it soften. Not split.

More by Donte Collins

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

Related Poems

Child's Pose

imagine your heart is just a ball you learned to dribble up
and down the length of your driveway back home. slow down

control it. plant your feet in the soft blue of your mat and release
it is hard but slowly you are unlearning the shallow pant

of your childhood. extend your body—do not reach
for someone but something fixed and fleshless and certain—

fold flatten then lift your head like a cobra sure of the sun
waiting and ready to caress the chill

from its scales. inhale—try not to remember how desperate
you’ve been for touch—yes ignore it—that hitch of your heart

you got from mornings you woke to find momma hysterical
or gone. try to give up the certainty she’d never return

recall only the return and not its coldness. imagine her arms
wide to receive you imagine you are not a thing that needs

escaping. it is hard and though at times you are sure
you will always be the abandoned girl trying to abandon herself

push up arch deep into your back exhale and remember—
when it is too late to pray the end of the flood

we pray instead to survive it.