Fine Spirits & Wine

This is not my story.

It belongs to the man in front of me in line at the spirit shop, stealing liquor.

 

Old hands with a handle of rum shimmied into a cloth tote touting

Small Business Saturday.

Sir — firstly, it’s Sunday, and you’re not helping business.

 

But as they yelled you out the door, casket of amber glass torn from your grasp,

I understood how you came to be —

stealing

liquor

at 1pm

in Center City

Philadelphia.

 

I’ve been scared myself,

but the stress of time and anxiety of facing God every single day

has hit you so much harder than I. And eye to eye,

I see how the diamond-shaped bottle top looked attractive on the shelf.

 

In removing it to drink you could have used it to cork your achy joints,

plug your malignant growth, stopper your untreated pain.

 

I understand.

 

You could have massaged the liquid down your throat

to fill the empty feeling.

 

You deserve better than your circumstances, Sir.

And while I stood silent as you left,

now I’ll pray for you.

Turned

Before my hips shift and shoulder cuts through the humid air I take one more look at him; swollen eyes falling on rolls of oiled, doughy flesh.

Creases of arm and taught warm belly lay grotesque in the sun, fattened by warmth and by womb.

No bigger than a breadbox, no figment of a dream, he lays swirled in leaves and needles and light beams.

Angelic.

Fragile, and hardy, and tarnished; made in the Image, indeed.

My eyes widen,

A shadow rises like water in the wind and the ghost of a bird settles into a landing on his shoulder.

The tiny dark head fuzz with kisses next to the old, stiff bird is too much for me. The trees stand stoic and my knees sway.

The ghost of the bird stays silent, ready.

My baby lays still with disease-ridden skin and feverish eyes. He will not last the night.

But nor would I if I held him tight. Villages are razed by one, birthright damned, and to the soil returned.

It was a horrific fight. My knees give way to the right, and in the desperate gait of women trained never to run I weave through the trees.

The forest spits me out, and shame consumes me.

The boys are still waiting. They bring me back to the square and lift my palms in the air.

I am hailed a savior, a matron, a bringer of peace. I sank to the ground and still they hold me, like meat.

I Womanhood

The scene.

 

Two women stand on the sidewalk sharing a chocolate cream puff,

Spines bent to me, ravenously protecting their feast.

 

Yellow oozes from their teeth,

Pastry rips softer than cotton, and

Sighs like the breaths of lovers escape their swallows.

A sign touting

Creative Office Environments for Inspired Minds

Hangs behind their heads.

 

I am sitting in a trendy hotdog eatery, people watching.

I do not plan on eating dinner

Or if I eat, I do not plan on eating mine.

 

How brave they are, I think, the women.

All women, really, but these in particular

With their tightly held treat.

 

If confidence is a rolling sea,

Womanhood is defined by pallor and green cheeks.

Your worst days spent slumped

Against the pillory of a toilet seat empty but heaving,

Your best days spent standing in a white dress

On the bow of a sailing ship, gorgeous and starving.

 

The story.

 

Feasting on street corners defies these teachings and

Pallor turns to Pallas. Femininity suddenly means hungry

And women lift the torch to carry inspired minds.

 

Paris

The city of love has more mathematicians than any other city in the world,

and I’ve fallen out of the mould we’re cultured in:

fed a strict diet of rigor and theory and whispers of beauty,

I was caught starving, and out cast.

 

So, jerked awake by the cold tears of an evening in April,

I now roam the streets bloated with hunger,

looking for the light in a city

overwhelmed by smell.

 

If QED is poetry then it’s contradictions I hold holy.

So let there be,

let there be,

a set of poets in Paris more open

than a face, unaware, steeped in peace.

A Song Of My People, Should They Accept Me

Mirror, mirror, shiver me timers,

three shots of rum and it’s not any clearer

to the people I’ll run in to later tonight,

to the pictures I’ll be taking under darkened lights,

that I was not built for beauty.

 

I was built for walking.

 

I come from a people who haven’t forgotten the roots left behind

when they were pulled like weeds, culled like beasts,

and corralled onto the path to their future.

 

I was built in their honor,

built in the image of the tears they trailed in their wake,

the tears that blossomed into the white rose: Neakita.

 

I was built to let them stand again, out of red earth from Oklahoma,

the people who crawled from a hole in the ground and into the flaming sun,

and flourished under it.

They do not deserve these scars.

 

Twenty-two hundred miles of death-dotted trails,

carrying only blankets reeking of disease, $50 to spend, and a loaded gun,

it’s no wonder there’s a grave every step of the way.

There still is today.

 

So, Lax Bro, I wasn’t built to be pretty.

And Lacrosse? More like Stick Ball, war’s little brother,

not played but fought across the plains.

Do not test me.

And don’t you dare desecrate the sport my people created

with your poor excuse for a personality.

I’ll cut any blanket you give to me in two.

 

I was built in their honor,

not to be pretty:

The gap between my teeth closed with seven years of dental work,

almond sliver eyes, cheekbones high and strong,

overlapping digits on my fingers and toes:

A, Chahta sia.

Yes, I am Choctaw.

I am of Chickasaw too, and

I was built to uncover this part of my culture.

 

So let me remember.

Lean on me while we walk together.

Katimma ho hotupa?

Tell me: where does it hurt?