Were it not for his silver hair,
the well-thought-out words/
“kill more of em”
the question of who made em growing deeper
in a mind tethered to machinery, a mind invested
in white as human, more than em could ever be.
Were it not
for the heaviness of this coronavirus pandemic now,
I would not write this. In the morning I would smile
again, put up love again,
The morning light split Baltimore harbor,
in the window where the sun saw me,
spun itself one one-hundredth
of a degree in space
only it and I knew.
As on the way to work,
at the 7-Eleven, I smiled again, suspicious
of suspicion, a brunette cashier as old as old
can be when hate ages, stares at me as I pay
for my coffee
for my pastry
for my news in the Sun
for my pack of Tools
for my cinnamon bun
on the way to work
where Attica melted,
as a head of silver hair
wished we all would die.
by Afaa M. Weaver
Michigan Quarterly Review
Persecution Issue Winter 2020
for Gene F. Thomas
It’s as if you are given the sky to carry,
lift it on your shoulders and take it to lunch,
sit in McDonald’s with it weighing you down,
this business of being black, of staying black
until the darkness of some eternity kisses you.
Birth gives you something other folk thank
God for not having, or else they pray for it,
to have its gift of a body inclined to touch,
inclined to sing. Yet they will not give back
to God the paleness of being able to touch
absolute power. They envy only for so long,
as being black is being bound to danger.
Among us there are masters like Monk,
who understood the left hand stride
on a brick. In his rapturous dance beside
the piano, he was connected to knowing
the scratch and slide of the shoes leaving
the ground, the shoes of the lynched men.
He carried the truth of who we are,
as the mystic he was, reveling in its magic,
respectful of its anger, mute and unafraid
of the hate and envy that surround us.
One day we learn there is no sky above
this trapped air around the earth.
The sky is but a puff of smoke from
this giant head smoking a Lucky Strike,
pretending not to know the truths.
We learn sometimes in this life,
sometimes in what comes after, where
there is really nothing but everything
we never knew. We learn in silence
the dance Monk knew. We find
secrets for pulling the million arrows
from our souls each time we move
to sleep, to forget that we are both
jewel and jetsam, wanted and unforgiven.
from The Plum Flower Dance
U Pitt Press 2007
Each morning I sit in silence, time slides, changes
in my heart, a moss covered cavern where its fire
wakes me to a camaraderie of light, my wife waking
upstairs to walk to her window to pray, to gaze
outward at the pasture where Wappinger people eyed
white men making laws to own people and the land.
Art rules this old house, its rough rafters set in earth
as the colony became a state, and Poughkeepsie forgot
its own wonder, a gathering of reeds on banks of a river
Hudson believed would take him to China, his breath
unnoticed these days by the hummingbirds that visit
our door, sounds of their wings like my fingers tapping
my mother’s empty Tupperware bowl, with cake batter
a thin film she let me lick only when I was good, the taste
something I let leave as I sit, waiting to be aware, woke
as some say. I imagine the sun, its fire, its electricity,
waiting for us when we have lived all we can live, hoped
all we can hope, some of us snatched away by the virus,
corona wrath of a world disturbed. Surprised as we
are by nature’s decisions, we refuse to surrender,
to let go of what kills us when we try to control all
of what we cannot see. Our house is now inside me.
It is me, I am it, my bowels and spine its forgotten
birth, my thinning skeleton now its heavy rafters,
my emptiness its emptiness, my fullness its fullness,
or ideas of the breath, our two minds held still by
the fastening of it all, hook and joint, sinew and bone.
—-Afaa M. Weaver
in The Nation February 2021
also in the forthcoming book “A Fire in the Hills”
due from Red Hen Press in April 2023