Someone has sharpened
the calls of crows across
the sky like knives.
The sound nearly cuts me
Yesterday an empty nest fluttered
from the arms of the oaks above and
fell directly into my path. Not belonging
to it, I leave the coiled bed of twigs
on the grass where it fell
and splintered, a home
made and unmade before me.
I had ridden my bike past the dead crow
three times before deciding
it needed to be buried.
Its sleek feathers glinted in the moonlight,
and with its beady eyes fixed dead
upon me, I lowered its stiff body
into the earth.
a suntired sky, prone to
daily darkness, the
silver moon inside it
rising heavy and full to
light onto a black sea
a swarm of locusts
hellbent on devouring
SATSUMA IN DECEMBER
An early orange sun
ripens over New Orleans like
satsuma. It is winter. I am
leaving this place. Was it
the place that failed me, or was it
me who failed the place?
Was it a failure at all? Or simply
a loss; a black eye, a skinned knee.
I like satsuma, pistachios, crawfish,
because I like to work for my sustenance.
I like to pick a good thing into pieces—
peel away its layers until
my fingertips are raw. All my life,
I have been practicing this patience
before the devouring. All my life,
saying grace as my mouth is watering.
ELEGY FOR THE GIRL TURNED WOMAN
Who played with the boys
on the playground—skinned knees, mulch,
Sweat salted on the teeth. Who climbed tree limbs
with grass-stained knees, who let them chase after her,
Push her down into the ground. Mud
on freckled cheeks. As a child, and now a woman,
I take turns with the men
doing bad things to my body. My limbs
Are composed in someone else’s image, my
lips reddened by the blood of someone else’s anger.
He says that I look pretty.
He says that I taste like metal. Spits
Me out, crimson on the ground.
We do not cry when these things are done to us.
If we did, there would be rivers and rivers
with currents too strong to cross.
If we did, they would point to us and say,
Men have died there. They all drown.
A DREAM ON THE NIGHT OF MY MOTHER’S 51st BIRTHDAY
Though I have little patience for their noise, and
though I have always feared them,
I am riding a motorcycle.
The motorcycle is not mine.
I am dangerous and free.
The mountains open their mouths to long roads
and the bike carries me through them.
I stop at a clearing near South Mountain and pick
a bushel of lily of the valley for my mother.
Their little white heads bow in my fist.
Or maybe they are nodding.
Their petals look like teeth.
Back roads take me home.
I almost hit a deer, but the sound of me
startles it, and
it slips off into the black of night.
The flowers are a wilted mess
by the time I arrive—their fragile stems
tangled into one another like wet lace.