On the Cover of the Sun
—December 2007, Issue 384
Her eyes, shut in shadows; her face, lit
with a warm glow of heaven, prayers in her hair,
soft white petals around her head cradled
in coffin-black. She seemed at peace.
Six-year old little girls should always
have a boisterous peace. For a moment,
I closed my eyes to hear, to feel
the texture of silence on her lovely black face.
Four little girls in a Birmingham church.
Their smiles slashed with bloodstained glass.
Even Christ’s face was blown out in the blast,
the only pane remaining was the image
of The Shepherd leading His children away
to a safe place with the late morning sun
in their eyes, glinting on the broken glass.
I have walked on the shards
of my own bigotry. Scraped them off the black sole
of my shoe. Burned them to microscopic pieces
of ash. Buried them deep in the ground.
Grew daffodils and daisies to cleanse the air.
Yet the flowers were strangled.
The photograph spilled all its shades, white
light couched in black. I read the note inside
the magazine cover expecting an obituary,
a reason for the death, my heart ready
to shudder, to shatter. Then it stopped,
searching for breath when I finished reading.
The little girl was not dead,
but merely dancing for her grandmother
with her eyes shut.
Still, I wept.
And All that Jazz
After Langston Hughes
from a street corner van—
a food truck concession
on a hot Chicago day.
Another one venting
white smoke and sizzle,
serving up a bunch
and battered-up whiting
with a red pepper punch to the palate,
and malt vinegar doused on salted fries
shaken free from hot peanut oil.
Summer folk all lined-up
in the lazy-hazy city air.
No politics. Just grace
before the meal.
My Baby and I
on a blanket lakeside
—picnic with a breeze—
just chillin’ with country fried chicken
and grandma’s three-bean salad
and sweet potato pie
Wash it all down
with a glass of ice tea
and some sweet lemonade
and all that jazz
syncopating the summer day.