New language on my tongue, forbidden nipple.
High grass cut at the neck bleeds orange dust.
Ma brings the plastic basin for Sekuru to clean his fingers
and the bin is passed around the table one, two, three times.
It will make me unpopular back home to say I dream of babies.
That the urge rose up in me to be a woman in the way
women have hung laundry for centuries on the rope out back.
The concise edges on the folded towels, whiter than teeth.
I dream of them while scooping the meat between two fingers.
Babies swimming in the toilet, crawling from under the bed.
Tumbling through the night like radiant stars when Tete says
she wants eight from right there where the meat gathers and sticks.
Beneath my clothing I wonder if they can see how bright I glow
Under the moon's spotlight, how I learned the hard way
there is no escaping skin, how I have also learned this, too—
See the way the sun trembles a frightening pink over the city?
Someone has plucked that from my holy, I am sure of it.
That is the work of my womb’s light hovering—before liberation
when the farmers were tilling, when meat fell fresh from bone—
and now, too, here—over the burnt lamps blackest cape
and the adolescent face of pot-holed corroded roads.
I have come here a stranger with arms drowning in flowers
pockets weighted with sand, digging to find the tunnel
back home, but no, I have laid in this bed a daughter and
if you think I am one of them, you are not mistaken,
but I am also you, it is just how this works: that under
our tongues we hold bullets & blood beaten honey, that
under our bodies are our bodies that bear the bravest fruit.
For the incarcerated women in California
being sterilized to cut welfare costs
In the newspaper photograph the women’s
starfished fingers mask their faces from camera
shrinking into cotton candy colored jumpsuits
as if trying to crawl back into a shell and float away.
I turn away, too, from their private swatches
of exposed skin, guilty for my eyes on their elbows
I pluck them from my head to cool water, but still
cannot quell this desire floating upward in the glass
it rises in me stronger without sight, a desperation
to feel their cheeks against mine, I want to squeeze
their hands as they wait for their turn on the cold table,
to bring a blanket or ball dress and take the medical gown
onto my body, breasts so close to theirs under thin paper
yes, bring me to breath, it is how I have always been
in the river I must put down my hand to the wet reeds
unmoving, I wade still for tiny fish to bite at my toes.
I want to feel rough skin ripened by tomato and sun, I want
to loosen a child's tooth to palm, smell the whiskey stink
of a beggar's stumbling song, or the drag queen's tickling wig
let the fire victim rub his knotted stub against my waist,
drop the skinned mango to my ready lap, blood-warmed
kittens squinting towards mother's first milk, I cannot watch
a fire burn down without adding my own spit to its demise
dismantle the lens' safe shield coming up between us and
unleash my hands from their brutal muzzle,
I want to put the wound to my pulsing lips.
Bring the mammal so close I cannot find the end of myself.
Bring the women so near I lose use for my own name.