For Stephanie Michelle Waters Golden
Head up. Shoulders strong. Pallbearer
at your brother’s funeral strong. You forgot to die
today strong. Grandmama’s skeleton key strong. You my hip
& my neck strong. Don’t forget that you my boy
when everyone else is watching. You can’t scrub the son out
of my child! You already lived 20 years without a halo.
You must absorb all the boy you can until they turn you in-
to a prayer. How are you going to try to kill my child?
You remember suicide is never the answer. I brought you
in this world & I wish a bitch would try and kill what is mine—
even if it is you. Don’t forget my fist is heavier
than any bullet. Peroxide cannot clean a body like communion.
My hands have never stopped repenting for you. Didn’t I say
keep yo’ head up boy? If ya’ mind is stuck in the cotton clouds,
how are you going to hear the barrel ringing your name?
I still talk to God about you, still hold your baby picture
on my chest at night. Don’t stop holding my picture
close even if both hands are shackled behind the back I gave you.
I understand: you think you a grown woman now. But I didn’t
raise Her to talk back to your elders. You still child.
You still mine, boy! Don’t put your head down unless God got you
Do you got him, Girl? Here’s my shoulder child.
I got you forever, Girl. You are me. There is no condition
in this world that can stop your Momma.
So you cookin’ for me now? O, how the chicks have come
back to build me a nest. When’s the last time you reached
out to Grannie? She made chicken dumplings last night.
Asked What home is for you. Not where. Her hen-head pecks
where I can’t. I whispered Finding, against her cheek. She left
the birdpaper pans to help you land here. Nickel & dollar
alchemized this iron into eight full mouths. This house penny-
picked from Daddy’s feathers. You eat because Momma broke
her last egg for supper. I know where every familial cent is
‘cus its chirped through the bark of our tree. The woods might
not sing where you are anymore. But I spot your yolk a moon
away. That’s what being Momma is. You’re sky sick, ain’t you?
Have you tried yelling at God’s sun today? You can bury there
too. Ain’t you winded by the weight of always flying away?