Written in Albuquerque (Terrace SE), October 2005. Published in my books If I Could Be the Stone and Wings of the Gray Moon, and in the local zine Central Avenue.
I have watched Africa creep closer,
then back away again.
(Or one of many Africas.
There are more small ones than I know about, probably.)
Mother’s bones are there somewhere
of course, her ingenious straight bones.
And something that unleashes red-eyed men is there,
their swords fast and heavy through meat like the meat of flowers.
And the things that group in the high grass are there.
I am already getting my carcass picked beneath a tree shaped like burnt lightning.
And there are swords that buzz like flies
and work in babies’ blood.
I am not bothered by the years on years I sidled against its West shores in my fat ship.
I am not bothered, I am lifted, by its great scream of prevailing.
I think instead—though the light is insecure—it is really
a tattoo on the back of my hand, the shape of Africa, that creeps close and backs away, that I don’t remember getting.
I am afraid my own hand is slapping out screams
that will need to be followed.
(Or one of my many hands.
They multiplied in my absence, while I waited for Africa.)