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?

To Black Girls Everywhere

“There are letters to us about finding things and people, about how to lose other things and other people. There are books to us, prayers to us, for us.”