Summer and the City

Summer nights cool came down
blotting heat like a kiss for colored children.
Heat surged
as we danced jagged up and down the street,
played hide and seek.
Last night, night before
Twenty-four robbers
at my door.
I got up
let em in
Hit em in the head
with a rollin pin.

All hid? Among the leaves
of church hedges
we smelled
something slow and splendid
in our sweat.

Our fathers we knew worked good
jobs that required muscle.
Our mothers in day work
used elbow grease and unwritten receipts
for smothered chicken and gravy,
caused white women to envy and delight.

Outside mothers waited for aid checks
and a long gone man; large women
on folding chairs
ate chunks of Argo starch.

Lean days, sugar sandwiches,
ketchup, or mayonnaise.
Missing meat a vague notion.
Love, manna.

Twilight, blessed the block,
poured from a dark man’s mouth
like a spout of Joe Louis milk,
our champion toast

heralding the greatest’s arrival
however long the getting there.

Slow rocking grandmothers
spit out words into small cans
held in their hands.

Their eyes trained on us
from Deep South porches
we never left behind.

Never left us.

Even after Exodus.

Mouths wide open, we drank
the evening’s pleasures.
Men, women who loved us more
than we could have known.
We were their quick, flashing hope-
The memory of us
Their milk.     Their honey.

Copyright © 2013 by Angela Jackson. This poem originally appeared in Triquarterly, January 2013. Used with permission of the author.