God goes out for whiskey Friday night,
Staggers back Monday morning
Empty-handed, no explanation.

After three nights of not sleeping,
Three nights of listening for
His footsteps, His mules sliding

Deftly under my bed, I stand
At the stove, giving him my back,
Wearing the same tight, tacky dress, same slip,

Same seamed stockings I’d put on before He left.
He leans on the kitchen table, waiting
For me to make him His coffee.  

I watch the water boil,  
Refuse to turn around,
Wonder how to leave Him. 

Woman, He slurs, when have I ever done
What you wanted me to do?

More by Robin Coste Lewis

Summer

Last summer, two discrete young snakes left their skin on my small porch, two mornings in a row. Being post-modern now, I pretended as if I did not see them, nor understand what I knew to be circling inside me.  Instead, every hour I told my son to stop with his incessant back-chat. I peeled a banana.  And cursed God—His arrogance, His gall—to still expect our devotion after creating love.  And mosquitoes.  I showed my son the papery dead skins so he could know, too, what it feels like when something shows up at your door—twice—telling you what you already know.

Verga

"...women don't want the men to go into the
bush because the women will only be raped but
the men will be killed...I have seen a woman
who was caught in the bush by several men.
They tied her legs to two trees while she was
standing. They raped her many times and before
leaving her they put stones in her vagina..."

—Abshiro Aden Mohammed, Kenya, 2000
Dagahaley Somali Refugee Camp
from A Camel for the Son,
by Fazal Sheik

 

Before leaving her they put stones in her vagina
The men will only be raped but the stones will be killed
The bush caught many men to go into the stones
The stones will be killed by several trees before leaving
The bush tied the men to the trees in their vaginas
Before bush go to trees they kill many stones
Many men will be caught by the trees in the bush
Several trees will be raped by the bush and killed
Only the caught men will be stoned and bushed by the trees
Several men were caught by the trees before leaving
The men will be killed but the stones will only be treed
The stones put many trees into the men's killed vaginas
By the bush, the trees were raped only several times
Before leaving, the vaginas were seen standing in the stones

Self-Portrait as the Bootblack in Daguerre’s Boulevard du Temple

(An erasure of Grant Allen’s Recalled to Life)

I don’t believe
I thought

or gave names
in any known language.

I spoke
of myself always

in the third person.
What led up to it,

I hadn’t the faintest idea. 
I only knew the Event

itself took place. Constant
discrepancies. To throw them

off, I laughed,
talked—all games

and amusements—to escape
from the burden of my own

internal history. 
But I was there

trying for once
to see you,

longed so
to see you.

I might meet you
in the street:

a bicycle leaning
up against the wall

by the window. Rendered
laws of my country

played before my face. 
Historical, two-souled,

forgotten, unknown
freaks of memory.
 
The matter of debts,
the violent death

of a near relation,
and all landing

at the faintest conception.
Dark. Blue. And then.

All I can remember
is when I saw you. 

It was you
or anyone else. 

The shot
seemed to end

all. It belongs
to the New World:

the Present
all entangled, unable

to move. Everything
turned round

and looked
at you.
 

Related Poems

Miracle in the Collection Plate

Rev. Christopher Rush, 1850

Brothers and sisters, we know why we’re here
this evening. The sad news has traveled fast
of Brother James’s capture. For three years
he lived amongst us, tasting happiness.

His wife and child are here with us tonight.
God bless you, Sister. Without a goodbye,
James was handcuffed, and shoved on a steamboat
to Baltimore, to be sold—legally!

Neighbors, we know that upright, decent man:
James Hamlet: a loving husband, father, friend.
Many of us would gladly risk the fine
or prison sentence, if we could help him.

My friends, all is not lost! It’s not too late!
We are told that Brother James may be redeemed!
His buyer will sell him! But we cannot wait:
we need eight hundred dollars to free him.

Eight hundred. I know every penny counts,
living from widow’s mite to widow’s mite.
But with God’s help, we can raise that enormous amount!
Let’s make a miracle in the collection plate!

 

In 1850 the U.S. Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Law, which made any federal marshal or other official who did not arrest an alleged runaway slave liable to a fine of $1,000. Law enforcement officials everywhere now had a duty to arrest anyone suspected of being a runaway slave on no more evidence than a claimant’s sworn testimony of ownership. The suspected slave could not ask for a jury trial or testify on his or her own behalf. In addition, any person aiding a runaway slave by providing food or shelter was subject to six months’ imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. Officers who captured a fugitive slave were entitled to a bonus. Slave owners only needed to supply an affidavit to a federal marshal to capture an escaped slave. This law led to many free blacks being conscripted into slavery, as they had no rights in court and could not defend themselves against accusations. James Hamlet was the first fugitive arrested under the new law. His African American and Abolitionist friends raised the money necessary to purchase his freedom.