You always yell my name in the early morning
just in time for me to still smell the leftover breakfast
- eggs scrambled hard, bacon, biscuits, and coffee,
the color of my skin, topped with whipped cream
- that stood between us and our argument from last night.
You are silent but your eyes tell me you forgive me
for talkin’ back cause even after the fights, I know
you will be the one to find me in my bed, naked
listening to Erykah, with a tub of ice cream
crying over the boy that will break my heart
after three years. Your hands will calm the
goosebumps on my skin and you won’t say a word.
You will just look at me, with the same eyes you gave me,
as if to say, "baby, you're better without him."
After 19 years and 9 months, I still look at you
and I find spring time in your eyes and heaven in your
smile. You've taught me how to smile in the rain. Warned me
not to pick up roses. Reminded me that with strength and beauty
comes pain. You’ve always been my strength. The back of your
hand has been my paddle. Your palm - my snot rag, bristle brush,
and crutch - held me close when I wanted to fall,
told me right when I was thinking wrong. Your back bone
has been my bible. And mama sometimes I forget to praise
you cause you've never asked for any credit. Put the food on my plate and
gave me my name. Put lemon and honey in my tea. Whooped me for talkin’ smack.
Mama, you've always told me about God's mercy and all of what it can do,
but you've never told me that God looked just like you.
She would go to fix her long licorice-colored hair and put mine into two afro puffs - just how I liked it. She parted my hair down the middle, I saw our reflection in the oval shaped mirror that stood on the ground and stared back at us. She looked just like Grandma - with the same hair my great grandma hid under church hats and stocking caps. She never looked up - never said she was in pain, just smiled and gripped my hair, slicked it up with grease and oil that was thicker than molasses but shined like priceless diamonds. Spent the rest of her days cuddling brown babies that knew nothing of their fathers - rocking them steady like the plant holders that hung outside her kitchen window. Her small brown breakfast table sat by a window seat. After 8:00 AM, the sun would pour in to greet us like it was our first time meeting. Soon 8:00 AM breakfast turned sour and life began taking its course. Her home was no longer my haven and my visits became few. I can still imagine her saying “hey boo!” as I would walk into her office. She would kiss me on my cheek with the faint red lipstick she always wore, hug me around my waist, and ask me about school – as she always did. No matter what I told her, she would gaze into my eyes and say, “you’re such a smart girl” and smirk as if to say “I miss you. Stay longer.” She needed me like I needed her but time slipped away and forgot to remind me of the joy we once shared and the love I was missing. As I grew taller, she grew older and her smile became weakened by hospital beds and pretty nurses that would smile and tell us “everything is okay.” The white hospital sheets became home for tears and a body that would soon disappear into a place she will be clothed in a white robe. The streets will be of pure gold and the walls will be adorned with every every jewel imaginable. After she left, we walked into her small condo that smelled of potpourri and clean linen - and she still had my baby bottles in her cupboard. My aunt Tine never had children, but I was her baby.