This is a poem for those who
left and those that are left.
This is a hanging poem,
Love is a hanging poem.
We are migrating seabirds,
Them ocean wanderers, them
Transatlantic whalers and wailers.
We are a nation of pilgrims long
Tired of living under a boiling tea
Of Yellow Sky, long tired of
Knowing of no relieving rains.
We come from peach black soil where
Tamareira hangs in golden and lime bunches
& men put their jaws like plows to the ground
& women carry the market on their heads
& suffering is home with the papaya.
We live wherever suffering is home.
We have poverty enough, but not
Enough to stir a leaf, let alone a
Pot to feed a family tree. Yet,
How many times have I eaten canja?
How is mourning my favorite dish?
My little island Penelope
You waited faithfully
Twenty years for me to
Wander back. I mistook your
Waves for the fraying weave.
We are a house of silence so
Afraid of ghosts we dare not speak.
We know the dead love living.
Listen, are our bones wailing?
Do the dead call to you?
For I am haunted by ghosts. They sit in my belly
Guts, swollen. These colonial spirits have dug
Their way into me. My depression, that termite
Sadness, burrows in my vein and crumbles the
Fiber of my wood. I am eaten by the heart.
But we don't we don't we don’t talk
Of the dead or the dying
And I am dying of ghosts.
I dare not show my anguish. I carry it.
Strap it on my body like corduroy suspenders.
It is my shame; I carry it well. Who then pulled
The spine from my body? I wish my backbone was
Strong. I wish my breath stunk of the Atlantic.
I was quiet before because I did not have
The heart to be bold; for I thought things
That are unspeakable remain so.
But I must speak of the dead and lost!
Pepé and Betinho left us, but I could never leave.
America, I could never leave you. Mother you do
Not need to hoard your insecurities. Nothing can
Live from holding onto dead things. How long
Has our house on Canary Hill been quiet with
Ghosts? They live in every absence.
Herminio, was the need you found in
Zambujeiro satisfying? How do you find Fogo,
Dono? On your plot of land you are now king, but
Dirt is your only autumn. You left in Dorchester a
Wife and six kids; all of them better than
You. And yet as poor of a man as you are,
Everyone seemed to domino after you.
Carlos, who tried to choke my aunty dead
Because my mother swears a bruxa cursed
Him, followed you. It has been more than
Fifteen years without word or sight from him.
Where is he now? Why did he not wear the
Conta di ojo? He is a constant afterimage. The
Unasked question. The hurt that cannot be named.
Felipe, locked up before I could keep
His image in my head lives under sentence
Of death like killed like murdered under perfect
Pretty periods like appeal denied appeal denied.
What is home for you now when you have been
In prison longer than you have been free?
What false name is the real you now?
Defé, when you were jailed and deported to
Mosteiros, I hardly missed you. I was left
Without a godfather, but even worse you were cast
Away without a family. Now I think of you often.
Now I think of how I wish you could be home.
But I do not pity you. You will always be the man
Who broke his promises. Home is with your children
Now. You can be a better father because Cuca’s
Blood, Vovo’s blood, runs in your veins too.
Elizabeth, why did they open your casket? How could
That shadow be you? How great the transformation a
Pistol to the head can do. I am sorry that you are gone.
I am sorry I do not have better words for you Tia.
I am sorry this eulogy comes eight years too late.
Tio Mané, you do not know how well you
Left your daughters’ hands empty. You don’t
Know how many lives your bullet touched. You
Took yourself from us when one death was
Too many. Be glad though you leave a legacy.
Francine once said I am most like you uncle, the
Murderer. We both know something of depression.
But I want to know the father and the brother.
The unsick man lost in the depths of death.
I'm scared now to see my primas. How
Are you Nair, Melissa, Jessica, Sarah?
I dare not contact you because I'm afraid
That we remind you of Mané. But they don't
Know they are all my dad has left of their mother
& father. Are we strangers now? Our are lives still
Relative to one another? Are my feelings strange
To you? I stalk your Facebook pages to keep in
Touch & want to like like like every damn picture
You post because it makes me feel like our lives
Are still connected, like connect-a-dot hearts,
Like connect-a-dot family.
I am reaching for blood that does not call me
Blood anymore. I am calling out to those who
Know dying is a separation & I am dying of
& I am sorry if I do not paper my wall with images
Of your smiles and walnut grimaces. We do not hang
Pictures of the dead or missing. I have instead burnt all
Your incandescent beauty into my eyes—the world
Is peopled with you. We forget nothing! We sup
On our memories, we the living and the dead.
You are all gone. I am left. I will not pray for you,
But I will carry you in my guts. I will carry you all.
But why father are your smiles
So far and few in between? I know
Your dad never claimed you, but you
Are a bastard that never acts bastardly.
I love your anger Cuca, your smoldering
Sorrow that you cannot place. I still remember
The first time you beat me and I could laugh &
Laugh because it did not hurt anymore. Because
I learned you touching me was better than the
Silence. But then I learned to love silence.
So yes, I want to be like my father.
I made a whole in my heart and filled
It with dead things; the grandmother I
Never knew, the land I never touched, &
The bitches brew of a sea I never saw.
When my grandmother hung herself, that noose a
Jawbone caress, she hung my father’s happiness,
Left it to die, an echo choking in his throat.
It was on this day his guerrilla grin left his face.
We could never fill his heart with mangoes or the sea--
There was never enough to bring his happiness back.
Cuca, do you see Dadihna in your daughters, my sisters?
Is that why there remains a distance between us?
Is that why even your smiles taste of pain?
I once dreamt of you changing a light bulb. You die
In that nightmare, your head smashed against a ceramic toilet.
Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! My father lost his standing.
Your eyes so dead. I woke up squeamish. Knowing of that dream
Death I saw you already in a manner dead, your knee often
Giving way to gravity. But I will carry you. I
Will carry my weakness, your weak knees.
But if you think my love cannot
Succeed you how did you raise me?
If my heart is not good enough, I will let it
Die. My love can also grow from dead
Things. I grow from dead things.
Still, I don't know how to put my heart into things,
Into people. Excuse me then if I’m unlearned Bria.
I don’t know if I can give you my heart, but you
Can have my hunger and ghosts and poems.
You can carry my scars. I’ll even
Share my unripe mangoes with you.
I'm afraid to love, to open up my ribcage
& let my heart show because it leaves
You with broken and bad knees, clinging
To dead memories, hanging in bedrooms,
Shot in Floridian bathrooms, and wandering
The streets without you. So yes, I'm scared.
But hanging is scary.
But then I learned this is not love.
You asked to see my soul and I gave you petty things?
It is the hallmark of the cripple to give only petty things.
So damn these scars and hunger and ghosts and poems.
Now I give you blood. Now I give you the flesh of
Tulips. Now I give you loving words that well up in
Me as if poets are rehearsing in my stomach.
With this everything had been said,
With this everything has been unhung.