• a.k. payne

black/brown/yellow women chase the sun

“My mother raises rare blooms/ and waters them with tea/ her birth waters sang like rivers/ my mother is now me.”-Lorna Goodison, “I am becoming my mother”


you have a dream of the sun exploding on a dusk dripping horizon, you and your ma careening down a hill towards a beach of gold. her arm swings out to guard you from the blow. brace yourself. for a long time you both have been running away from your own reflections. you, never going home cause this woman is all the things you want to be and all the things you are afraid of becoming. her in her minivan always going going down some street or highway looking for some peace. every kid from east hills to frankstown knows your mother cause she is the best teacher there is; she knows every kid by name and how to make them know they are seen and how to build worlds out of sweet honey in the rock, drums and keyboards in schools[toprisons] where little black kids are supposed to be contained before they are taught. your father waxes poetic about meant to be and about how she might as well and about how he wants his family back and they wasting time, getting old and tries to erase all the years he crowded out her voice. they were sixteen when they fell in love at a skating rink and never looked back; forty when the world begin to crumble in ghosts of mothers and liquor bottles. she nods and says mhm and makes excuses for things she’s got to do as if living and being in this world ain’t already a job and half. you are terrified of the wake. it’s been five years since her second husband died next to her in his sleep; he’d left Nigeria and his parents enough years ago to build a home in this nation and was scraping by so much that he couldn’t afford to go back before the rainy season to see them buried in their graves: heart attack at 46. your mother still wakes up at 3 am and replays that hour till the sun rises. you have seen her love while running these last five years, settle cause the earth is not built to hold us. you are afraid of never falling in love and of losing your love to borders or blood and of all the walls you’ve built protecting you too too well. you go home for another funeral and ya’ll hold each other past midnight laughing and crying. you realize you are less afraid of becoming her and more afraid of yourself, of holding your love up to the light like you hold your words.  you are afraid of the sun exploding on a dusk dripping horizon. you are afraid of her not being there to guard you from the blow.


Ma & Me