LEGACY TO OUR DAUGHTERS


I. Consuela:

As I sit
Quietly, invisibly
Watching the end unfold
In a bedroom that ain't even mine
Watching my sister and her man
Like them real-life dramatic recreations
As people do
When your supposed to be private
Business been put out
So all the public can see.
It comes to me
That as much as I would like
To offer a bit of privacy
I caint afford to turn my head,
For what if he does
Like he's been known to do,
Slapping and such other
Nonsense
Real men don't do.

The creakwhinemoan
Of the front porch steps
Gave less than a moment's notice
And here Freeman is, come home
From Saturday night 
Earlier than expected
-Noon Sunday
Being the norm- 
(There'll be no time for those
Garments drying on the line.)
And here Freeman is, finding us
Me and her
"Packin her shit"
As he's been threatening to do
For as long as I can remember
Long as they've been married
Long as I've hated him
Ain't a damn thang changed.


Now
It all comes down to this:
A sack of plastic grocery wrappers.
My sister stashes them
Above the baseboards
Fitted into the curve of pipes
Underneath her sink.
She hides tons of them things
Her own cheap secrets.
It's as though she knew
All along, deep down inside
Where he could not hit
Knew she was leaving.
Part of me would like to cuss
The loudness of this
Nig-a-rig luggage
But the girl ain't got
A suitcase. Luckily
Mama taught us early on
No matter her givings and
Misgivings, doings and misdoings
How-when necessary-to make do.

Now
In this tight, suffocating room
He's wasting the heavy air,
Saying Aurelia. The word
Whirling backflung as he
Trills the R like Mexicans do.
He fancies the notion of our blood 
Being different
Because Paw Paw was Latino.
Lord knows, I never cared
Enough to tell him
The man was only our papa's step,
That a late second marriage is how
Full Nigras come by
The last name Obscura.
Add this to some occasion, once
A long time ago, my sister
Happened to remark to her man-
A man she's tied to by no
More than sex, a corrugated tin roof
A cookstove and a notarized piece of paper
-How she liked the way
He said her name.

Aurelia. You leaving me,
Her man says plainly.
Her cheeks blanch
As much as copper is able.

Two cold sticks, charred and split
My sister's eyes jab at mine
Like I'd play fool and not realize
His statement's meant to be a question
Concerning one evening's
Comings and goings
Not forever.


II. Aurelia:

Right away I says
Yes, before Lil Sistah
-Sitting on my four-poster bed,
Rustling what meager trinkets
I'm able to call my own
Like they hern-answers for me.
She calls herself
Trying to be
Quiet and invisible
But ain't managing either well.

The way my name straddles
Both sides of his mouth
Makes me want to tell
My man:
I'll never leave. You knows that
I love you-but
Marrying
You was a bad thing,
But yes is all that comes.

You fixing to kiss me
Goodbye.

Cockcrow burns away
The morning haze. Quite violet
His drunken breath sets afire
Any shadows that might remain.
It fills my nose, stamps
A trail into my head, to deliver the dead
Body of words to my ears.

Yes is all I'm able to say while
My insides churn. Bloodless, I watch
The bare bulb shambling overhead
And taste
His darting tongue
And sleep and hooch and
Another woman's salt
Again.

My dinner in the toast-r-oven.

Once more
-Helling my nerves-
Here is this quiet thunder
Thinned into a statement
That's supposed to be a question,
But at this particular juncture
Squabbling over courtesies
Seems moot.

A yes escapes somehow
Miraculously empty of the heat
Lazing about this room.
Though my heart says
Go. Cross the tracks
-Like that pale full moonrise,
I scrabbled after you-
Part your way through
The creepers bedded down
By blackjack and briars
Have dinner with that woman
In the neat house of bricks
Over on Texas Street
-Her one-year boy
With your face, your coloring
Though we courted for two and been married three
-Or the Chickenhead
Over in Section 8
Who enjoys drinking
My grocery money
Every week with you
Me eating pot liquor and beans
Except for what my family brings.

Well. How long
You plan to stand there
Looking pure d. crazy.

I watch Lil Sistah's eyes
Blubbery with hot tears.
I can see her thinking
Pass-a-lick. Take-a-lick.
Like back when we were youngins
A heartbeat and a halfsecond before
She whomped a mannish boy
Who touched my tits on a dare
To show he would be
What he already thought he was.

What you looking at. 
He scowls at Lil Sistah.
I leave out of that room
-An exit from, an entrance to-
Forever.


III. Consuela:

I suck my teeth and throw
What's left
-A cardboard packet of hair pins,
A headscarf and hairbrush
Rolled inside a cotton shift,
One of St. Teresa's missals,
A brass cigarette case-
Inside a bag crinkling
Louder and faster than my brow.

My jaw buckles
Setting my teeth on edge.

Yet, all the while
I'm still
Hoping and praying
-The very same
Hoping and praying
That ain't got Aurelia nothing
But beat some more-
That her man won't figure
The pieces, put together
She's leaving.

He flings his loosejointed self
In the direction of the bed,
Brushes past, then glides
A coarse hand across the spread.
He's touching my hair. To be sure
What I feel is an irrational calm.
You always been a cockamamie bitch.
This must be some new form of compliment.

That's why 
You can't keep a man
That's why
Nobody stays with your ass.
You should've paid
More attention
To your mama'n'papa,
This he says
Like all the trifling niggas
I've fucked, fucked-over, been fucked-over by.
You should've learned like your sister,
His words are intent on climbing somewhere
I'd rather not go.

But I just caint help myself…
The hell you say.
I snatch his hand
The way one would
A pest from midair.
If ima bitch
Your stankass mama's a bitch,

I see the words
Hotfoot their way across the room
Hopping red
Like spit on a griddle
Screaming
An unspoken
Not this time
Like three little dots
Asking
What happened? what next? what now?

He bolts up, demands that I
Leave his mama out of this.
Because I've hustled my tail
A far piece to the door, he falls back
Snarls, She ain't got dick
In common with 
Such a sorry cunt.

His words buzz around
My ears. My eyes 
Cut at that bastard
The way I long to.
Aurelia and I?
Learn better?
From our mama?

The very same woman
Who slept with a razor
Blade beneath the pillow 
Just in case
Papa come home
Too drunk to know
She wasn't no haint or loa
Darkening his door
For beating them redlight girls
He paid for pussy.

Should've learnt better
From a woman
Who needed to believe
Crabs caught twice in one month
Was exactly as Papa said
Must be the nasty toilet seats
At that slut Blondella's house.
This so-called slut, 
-Me and my sister's Maran-
Being the one friend
Mama managed to keep.

Or perhaps
The slap Mama took
On my ninth birthday
For trying to hold back
A nice portion of pokechop.
The one present
She could afford.

Mama taught my sister and I
All right
Taught us to question
Our worthiness
Not a man's.
That's what she taught
At every evening's meal
Nightly, serving herself
Last, the picked-over piece.

Now
Aurelia's four months gone.
Doc Tate says that it be a girl baby,
Told me on the sly,
Your sister's going
To have to eat right
Or she's going
To lose this one.
She already done lost two.

Aurelia's man's right. 
We've got to learn
Got to give
Aurelia and me
The coming girl
And the coming girl's girls
Lessons in how to say no
Without having to die
Way Mama did,
Stabbed in her sleep
His dirty works
Filled with battery acid 
The first time
She told Papa No
You ain't gonna beat me
No more.

Yo mama has everything
To do with it,
I says to Aurelia's man.


No, that's wrong He beats her Not right atall because he cannot beat HER Ah damn it to hell, kind flutter of hands like grace on his back What I means is- as he dies each blissful death Hasn't he ever loved An atavistic force, a woman? I think An interloper standing between him and immortality. An ancestral memory. Omnipresent. Anger at HER Not the way he feels about to whom he will always owe a debt of being his ma or the civilities he parses out like oily pats of butter to her friends. And not no bump-and-grind, split it-quit it, make-her-holler kind, or even whatever it is he thinks he feels toward my sister. In the distance, a creakwhinemoan followed by a sparse breeze, honeysuckle and loam Suit yourself, my mind seems to say, well aware of the answer.

If yo mama had taught cha better
You wouldn't be callin me

Bitch.