Poetry

renaître

down in a quilt ive never seen before
im cuddled and kindled and unabashedly adored
theyre towering above me, im sleeping
with them and they are nursing me
angela davis is my real mother audre lorde is my real mother
ive gone to a place where there are no fathers
gloria is saying to me Ría, míja you are going to be born now
my fingers tremble from too much caffeine and suppression
the old skin cracks they are telling me to push

there is a boy who waits for me on the other side of hysteria
he has a ball of light in his hand and he never asks me too many questions
when im angry he just listens to me even when im too angry
like the typhoons my adolescent soul longed to spin with
destroy shake the trees and force the sky to be red
he passes his ball to me but my hand vibrates i cannot hold it
the tide rises up he sees i am afraid
i am afraid of the dawn
im being sucked into the other world!

he says things to me in his utterly patient voice
all kinds of things i wont let anyone else say
his words are a spell i must sit and listen
really listen like you are listening for proof that
someone anyone truly loves you

he says i can go to the other world and he will always wait for me
he says dawn and daylight are splendorous brilliance

my skin cracks again and the foremothers loom over me
but they are inside of me too, and im in them somehow
lost yet clutching the map
i try to explain that i simply cannot be born now
this is not the time or place
they laugh at me because im a virgin
a little girl who has never had a child
or nursed anything
they laugh because i am balking
from womanhood
even as i grasp it close to me
even as im enormously pregnant
with self and spirit
and destiny and ability
and promise and the promised

everything is warm rose like the typhoon sky
simone sits next to me passes me a hoop
we are going to do this silly stupid thing she says
and i just say d’accord meekly because
im weary from struggling
she tries to thread her needle
with a thread that keeps changing colors
as she does she says, taking her voice down,
you know we are from the same blood too
and I nod because my mother was a quadroon
c’est un secret

simone has trouble threading the needle so i do it for her
you were trained in these follies she says watching me sternly
and i nod again after my unsteady fingers finish the task
you cannot mend a psychic wound with logic
the pattern on the hoop is my monograph, the be-swirled letter R
hers is S so my tender raw center aches for him beyond madness
we stitch, she gives me my hardest lesson

sometimes someone will tell you a story and you know it comes
from real experience and as they teach you the story they are healing
themselves and healing the past, everyone’s past so you listen
you listen harder than you’ve ever listened

she told me it would be ok if i went back to the world
where he waits unburdened by fear of the future
it would be fine for me to love a boy, not half-way but
completely and let him love me back that would be fine
indeed very fine

she didn’t look at me when she said this she was wobble stitching her S
but i stole a glance of her strong cheekbone and the corner of her mouth
the thin lips my mother said were French lips in such a way i ought to be ashamed

when i put my arms around her she seems surprised even though she kisses my hair and presses me into her shoulder i smell her perfume and the dust of old textbooks lingering air changes im right back

next to him curled against his shoulder
into his fair neck snoozing
gripping his shirt hem in my fist
feeling quite safe and fine and well
and whole indeed very whole and
not afraid of what comes next.

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