What I am certain of. It is hot. today’s my birthday. I am six. Rain and more rain. I can hear what the stain glass hides. Sounds like T. Ray peeing off the back porch when the night is dark and Fofo has all the sheets balled ‘tween her knees. I have to pee. Mama said to wait. I got better sense than to ask again. Reverend Fox is shouting to the congregation. Only big-tittied, rawboned women Catch the Holy Ghost. I will have to wait. I got the right build but My chest is flat. Two hoecakes. Mama never falls out. Her eyes just cry quiet tears. One at a time. I have to pee. Reverend Fox is calling for me to come. I move to go. Mama’s hands stay my way. Her eyes say no. She’s shaking her head not yet. We had to wait four hours, but yesterday Miss Reena marcelled mama some pretty curls. The kind I can get “soon as you get a job.” There’s a stray piece sticking out at her temple. It could use one good bump with more heat. Reverend Fox says, “God is calling. Who will listen?” I look around. Mama pops my legs, faces me front. My panties feel damp. I hope it’s sweat. I try harder to hold still, to listen. He booms, “Give the glory to God.” Six elders in dark serge suits and white gloves take their place in the aisles. Two and two and two. Right, middle, left. They pass the plates. Glory is money. God is in a little room, back of the church, behind a closed door. I want to be a deacon, so I can see God, too.
I Wanted to Take You Home
To show you wisteria knotted like snakes, dirtclods you could eat, burnt air heavy enough to prop up porches, exactly what a crowbar could do to a windshield.
To show you how to listen, a way to recognize the absence of sound when the dead travel among pussy willows like slow-moving katydids, why the wind is no colder than my drawl.
No, more than that, I wanted you to stick your arm out the window use spit to test the sky for rain so you could learn the way and know
whether or not to worry about fixing your face and fussing with your hair. I wanted the midday sun to steal back that pale band of skin
about your wrist. The one you cling to like it’s your life, so you could have some idea of the attention required to wash and season, the time necessary to coax
flavor from a kettle of greens. All this I wanted to let you see, so you could have a notion of my place among something more clan than tribe, so you could understand the quiet
rage of my teeth and nails on your neck, mimicking the scrape and spark of a blade against stone as I pinned you against the car door, cussed your name, that night that stretched away
like a tarmac of crude stares. Hot, mournful, unalterable. Right before I said It’s best you leave. Now, go. And your voice came back
full of silence and trees and clear, clear water baby, I’m not a tease. I wanted to walk with you down gravel roads, past the military base, up the swell to the neon cross, show you
that very sparrow you’ve heard me rasp about. No hustling, no chicanery. I wanted you to know the slow corruptions I would have to face. Every hell
I would have to divorce and embrace just to be with you. I don’t know how we failed each other with this sharecropper’s lack of imagination.