When I find myself grieving
my inability to move
unencumbered, I remember.

He’s beautiful. You said six months?
He’s getting so big, it’s amazing.
Did I ever tell you 
that we were
expecting together?

My mouth. I was not expecting
anything. I didn’t know.
Her tears dripped like soft,
silent rain, as if not to disturb
the sunshine of the cafe.
No one stirred. No one noticed
the child who wasn’t there,
who wasn’t waving at strangers
over my shoulder.

She sipped her sweetened brew
and smiled through tears
as if she knew that the world
has no patience for labor
without gain, no patience
for stories steeped in pain.

Going South

The whiplash of hearing black
arraigned in absentia
by a white jury of my peers.
Euphemisms about isms
and smiles that say just give her time.

Black folks out here are not the same
as those you’ve come to know.
We’ve never treated them the same
so they’re still Jimming the Crow.
You’ll forgive us that we’ve no faith
in them, though faith is all we have,
because in time you will forget
that black havenots can have.

What scares me now is that the whip
no longer strikes. My ears may ache,
but that is just the Kool-Aid, spiked.

Painting by Moonlight

Isn’t it amazing that lovers
have drunk moonlight forever
and yet the well keeps giving,
pouring pailfuls of light
through drawn curtains
on the unsuspecting,
painting chiaroscuros
on canvases of cotton and linen,
making marble models
of plebes. We have robbed
the gods; now we are Neptune,
commanding water,
and yet how different
the gifted zamzam
from the hands of Diana.

On the Record

I like reading and radio
because a voice without a body
is more akin to a soul.

I am distracted by eyes.
I like to be surprised
by a stereotype
that doesn’t sit right.
I am surprised
by myself sometimes
for I am more than meets
my eye.

Our voices are vinyl records
spinning on the recorder
of time, spinning
like a potter’s wheel.
The clay shaped by hand,
felt by hands. And so,
by each other, we are touched.

The Jinn

For Anwar & Hala

We met the doctor but never met him
tall, upright. We found him
twisted by time, his mind a labyrinth,
his wizened smile, a child’s.

We found them serving him;
she rolling grape leaves
into fingers thin as cigarettes –
a toothless man’s addiction –
and he following his father,
blindfolded, through
a thickly wooded memory.

They stood for him, like the jinn
of Solomon, when he could not stand.
Their devotion to the statue
marked the stature of the man.

Pity the President

His flaws have no camouflage;
he wears them on his sleeve
with pride, and pride is first
among them.

A buffoon, he lampoons all
but his reflection, speaks
without reflection, every word
an anvil, crushing.

Slow down, old man,
I want to tell him.
As full of yourself as you are,
you are empty, and those
riding your coattails,
are in fact riding you.