Let me tell you about my mother.
She was beauty with eyes with teeth with skin with hands to chop the meat, hands to count the bills, hands to drive the car, hands to hold the child, with legs with toenails painted red, filed to a point with breasts with dark brown golden highlighted dye covering her hair whiter than a streak of light bouncing off the surface of her country’s sea at noon with a laugh pitched like ti zwazo screaming their wings into flight from the base of her throat with a mouth that bled prophecies, a mouth that warned terror, a mouth that cursed the Knicks at the start of every basketball season with lips wet from care, lips dry from disappointment, lips red on a freshly powdered face because it’s important to look good always with style that kept her too young for any age with taste with discernment with an instinct that knew when the fixings for lasagna were on sale at the market with feet hitting the pavement of Flatbush hard with the patience of too many mothers with the rage of too many women with the wonder of too many children with the generosity of too many friends with three daughters who don’t know what to do with all the people she’s left behind, daughters who are not yet saints, daughters who will never be saints since she raised them to be fish, swimming together most holy because even before they were born they slept closest to God, in current with the blood and consequence of this everlasting math.
As my mother died I watched her body become her brother’s corpse, small and white-headed crumpled under sheets. Later, I noticed my aunt’s ailing body become my mother’s dying body, bald except for a few white hairs, skin disappeared under sheets. It has taken two transtibial amputations and a global pandemic to complete the transformation. I did not get to see another aunt turn into her sisters. Sins of empire kept us apart, sheltered in place. We watched her saint settle in from behind the gate, behind masks,
under the putrefying foot of a nation dying too fast enough and not fast enough.
Limbs reeking of iron, slipping, gummy, pink. Organs who fight themselves, fight you. Organs who wreak havoc, don’t listen. A liver was my mother’s only adversary, turning on her as if persuaded by one of the jabs she constantly fought in her dreams. My first mother’s love helped turn her lungs into foes. It’s taken two daughters’ lifetimes so far to reach something like forgiveness. I fathom six sisters permeating each other: bodies fight, bodies fail, bodies come to rest. My cousin, always my sister, has grown into my sister. My sisters become me. Our bodies, not ready to rest, listen. Together, we turn to our mothers: stay on the phone too long, laugh as much as we can, make deals where we must. I fall asleep on the couch watching basketball, tonguing the Blackness between my teeth, home of the woman who birthed me. I make me my mothers. I make
who do not rest in
Sisters are only sisters in absence of a mother. Otherwise, they are just daughters. All girls in my family terminate daughters to become women. We’ve been forced. When the mother is gone and the sisters are grown, they become women whose bodies will soon reveal death to them. When the mother is gone and the sisters are young, they stay girls forever looking for death’s revelation. Sisters are mothers to each other sometimes, watching their bodies become teaching ex-lovers. Sisters become their mothers knowing their bodies turn to then into ancestors.
The mother, in her absence, becomes pieces, each embedded in her daughters’ bodies. Of utmost concern is which pieces fall where: heart in whose brain? Liver in whose hand?
Cities no longer stop when somebody dies. They used to be more accommodating:
procession driving down Ocean
turning onto Beverley.
I guess cities don’t stop when you walk into love, either.
I stopped being a woman to be/hold my love. My love stopped being a man to become guard of my mother’s garden. Sabbath soothes doubt when I hold my face to those dark green leaves growing bigger than the halo piercing my scalp. The garden’s guard is now my sister’s brother. There is another guard of the garden who is also my brother. We each take our place in the pews. My sisters and I have let another creature into the house so that church may finally burn to the ground. Come in, come in: cat, donkey, lamb, raven, rooster, dove, snake, cow, whale. Come in crawling across the final embers of church, limbs turning to ash, glowing as they disappear for all time.
I am no Saint.
I am no Saint.
Let countries crumble.
I am no Saint.
I said no more countries. The city is dead.
May broken parts reunite,
May shapes relate