are all black in the picture I am drawing.
I get sick of coloring them in.
My family. Girls I grew up with. A boy or two who would not look at me.
I do not fill you in with pencil or pen. You are
an outline. I
I listen to your belly.
it's a lake lapping against its bank. Sometimes a small angry dog.
Or a woman screaming and billowing sounds as if she's
I keep drawing, ink and silvery pencil smudges
on my palms,
a callous on the heel of my left hand. I cannot draw right hands.
I give myself childhood bullies.
I make myself a little odd-looking. A big space between
my hair and eyebrows.
Everyone in my family is a version of my father except my mother.
I give myself her cheeks
when I'm good, a peach-pit chin when angry.
you get a beard. There are times I don't remember the color of your eyes
so I draw trees around you, so green, little
Tomorrow gray and a little evil. The forecast in those eyes cloudy: a fight.
Money. Who cleans the bathroom most often.
Things people on TV say to each other.
There are nights when I count the tiny holes from which chest hairs will
and say, listening to your slow heartbeat,
do you ever think this isn't real?
Maybe I'm just drawing on cheap paper, living in my pictures.
I love you when
you say, maybe. I'm glad you drew me.
When my grandmother was mad she'd say nothing,
her fists curled, a cool element.
the fire, she'd drink it like it was too-hot tea.
She'd clasp her hands in her lap, hold them to her belly.
Cold mango calmed her, neighborhood gossip.
She'd pray for the
When my mother was mad she'd scream
like a wailing kettle,
climbing the stairs, floating down to the basement,
standing in front of open windows.
WOOOOOW! one time so loud and long
she ripped the stitches from her C-section.
Wow! from the kitchen
where she'd break the dishes.
When I'm mad I say nothing. I pace in the bedroom and think.
Soak my feet and think. Lie in the bed and
I stand over the teapot, wait until clove perfumes
Before the kettle shakes, before it wails Wow!
I get out the honey. "Honey!" like the ladies on TV.
The kettle is off the too-red element.
The tea is not too hot. Not too hot.
Sugar dampens a boiling pot.
Honey, I say, drink some tea with me.
Honey, I say, let's talk.
How to Make a Shadow
Give her the spirit of a dog,
a black dog with a sword in her paws.
Tether her. Put Position
the bottom of a well filled with rats;
rats with shining backs, their eyes shillings
in the pocket of a man who
sweats at the ass crack for Position.
Say to her, bark and she moans. Sudden chorus.
grass sits up to listen and asks:
Who is the weed that will not sever?
Why won't the earth take water? Say, bark
and she bites the space between ankle and sole. Say, no,
to her. Be quiet. Like, may the seed stop up
Or, hold the sword between your teeth. Cut your tongue.
Say, I nigger your heart, I eat your
sleep. I give you the dream
where you kneel and can't straighten.
Get down from here, into the well.
the rat or let him ride like a disaster on your shoulders. Say, no.
Say, don't open your mouth again.
Or try to open it
with a bridle there. I ride you when you're so small, small beast.
It will ring as
omen: smiling dead squirrel at the curb, shining scythe under a bus bench,
dead birds in a nest, dark feather under
Black tongue, black roof of mouth, black paw pads, black nails, black snout, black spit.
and she comes like a jinn,
silk shadow at your bedside:
I nigger your dreams,
bitter seed in the well of your
throat. I will not scatter
from your heart. I grow a tree there.
I rest in its shadow.