Poetry

One of Our Walks

We were on one of our walks, Alex

you and me.

 

I was 19 and you were 7

and neither of us quite belonged.

You were my foster brother and the full adoption

wouldn’t happen until September.

 

I was schoolless

for the first time in thirteen years,

biding my time till August

when I could be a freshman again,

and grades would start telling me

how life was going.

 

Both of us in the place

between belonging and not.

Just moving in opposite directions.

 

But we were on our walk

and you asked me

with your now-trademark directness

why I had to leave.

 

And before I could answer,

you offered

an explanation of your own:

“Because only Charlie Brown don’t grow old?”

Poetry

Mingled Down

My grandfather (a forester)

Once bet my grandma (a birdwatcher)

That “mourning dove” wasn’t spelled MORNING like dawn,

But MOURNING like someone had died.

She ended up owing him a workday in the woods.

But when these two lovers gamble,

The house rarely collects.

 

This story makes me smile,

Every time I hear a dove moan.

 

And there is a comfort in it:

That I’m not the first to sunrise or to grief.

They are, as most things, older than myself.

 

So when death’s scent

Wafts up musty from youth’s fabric,

–and I’m wearing

a dead friend’s dead friend’s

coat

to the school dance–

I will hum the dove’s song,

Make it my own as I sway.

As grass bows to the wind,

I will submit to grief only to rise again.

 

The sun will warm me,

as sorrow and love

flow mingled down.

Poetry

To Langston

To Langston:

 

I have darker brothers.

 

They eat in the kitchen,

But only because it’s also the dining room.

 

I eat there too,

White mom,

White dad,

Two white sisters,

And two beautiful black brothers.

 

If you were in our kitchen,

Langston,

You might passively peek

Out the window,

Past the birdfeeder,

And catch the edges of a Confederate flag

Hanging over the neighbor’s’ porch.

 

Flapping proud.

 

Recently we had to talk with my brothers

About how no one,

No one,

Is allowed to call them the

three-words-that-mean-one-word

 

THE-N-WORD

(not “neighbor”)

 

Langston,

I’ve written you to strike a deal:

 

If I take a class on your poetry,

If I learn all I can

And cram for this test called “diversity” that I thought I could

Pass without trouble but actually contains a lot of surprise sections

And an essay on the back….

 

Will you teach my brothers how to be black men?

 

I tell them they’re beautiful,

Langston,

But it’s easy for me to say,

So it’s hard for them to hear.

 

My words may warm them,

But they will not save them.

Replace blankets, maybe,

But not stop bullets.

 

Please speak to them.

For I would pale to Hughes.