« family reunion, fourth of july, kalamazoo, 1999 | Main

Velma Jean

i remember nights when
you pushed my skin
into a blue corner
fanning the Michigan moon
into a white fire

my youth in your fingers
like candle wax

the clock forging ahead
there wasn’t much time

you worked quietly
diligently against the famous
bruises you grew deft at hiding
from your own sisters, unaware
that they were hiding theirs
from you
gifts of hard love, no
gifts from hell

but still, i grew to something

it was that flame you pushed
into me, smoothed it down
seeded it in my navel for later

knowing that i was young
you were older. wiser.
married a third time
seven children from virginhood
one father from innocence
one mother from forgiveness

i remember nights
when you rubbed my back, singing
swing low
sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home
sweet low, sweet chariot

you spilled vicks over my
chest, my mosquito bumps
dime-thin back
humming long into
the dusk
forcing the bronchitis
that almost killed me twice
into a soft wheeze

i lived
bred off plantation prayer

later, forgetful
i never knew your stiff back
held me
at the kitchen sink
your fingers soapy with dishwater and tears

all the knowing of a woman
in that water as you sniffed, moved

i thought you were making it all
look harder then it really was

men, love, holding things
raising us
i said nothing

but i was a child
it was alright
i grew into something

theses memories come
i am folding them away
for my daughter
into her like all good
mother spiders do
while they wash dishes
spin white flames
watch, hum

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