The madness of each ordinary day versus
the language of someone raised by history
versus someone raised by a virgin.
I’m mostly interested in the devil’s story,
because I know there’s some devil in me.
I still live like someone somewhere
will clean the vents of my home anatomy,
but I am the only one who lives here.
According to Memphis Slim what looks like singing
has its roots in slaves’ casting shade
on oppressors, a cotton field stooped weeping
jeremiads of sweat. Marlon Brando’s snake-
skin jacket in The Fugitive Kind cursed Marlon
Brando’s leather jacket in The Wild One
so that Brando himself became a black person
on opposite sides of a mirror calling each other Demon.
I am a man named your father’s name
or I am the heroin flower vendor
vending stolen flowers in the park. I am
Ambrose Black-Blake, The Butcher,
or Ebenezer Nebuchadnezzar, the Lying King.
Or a man who thinks winning is
the whole point of everything
while losing highlights loss.
I am known, when entangled in
great and minor trouble, to berate
my own damn self. You find every kind
of human being human in every way every day.
If you are the only person to observe
a particular trait in yourself, how trustworthy
is the observation? People who have
been loved poorly may or may not be cursed
to love poorly. You know how you don’t know
how to describe your own face
without looking in the mirror? You know
how you never can tell a curse from a bad day?
That intermittent chirping coming
from somewhere in the house is a smoke
alarm’s dying battery not a canary. Growing
is never not a part of being grown. Most
big decisions are made without me and you
everyday too. I’m just so accustomed
to adjusting to everything. How often must I tell you
I was born to a 16-year-old black girl who had
three siblings with different fathers
in the projects of South Carolina in
1971, after a neighbor raped her?
If there is no solution
a problem is not a real problem by
definition. When my mother’s grandmother
she lived on the dark potions of a beautician
with a mouth full of hairpins,
and an enchanted freehand
above the minds of ladies looking
to feel more lovely beneath their lovers’ hands.
Like her ambidextrous
skinny silver scissors refining
the edges of her extra-large extra
magic touch, my hands are made for beautiful things.