he tells me
they died in cameroon—
that i smell like the first
woman he brought inside
himself, the hum of mangroves
a wild field in her hair.
roaches come again
but i’m in coils of sea
with papa and the spearfish
he caught: the stained photo of them
buried beneath nothing i call my own.
lightning or footsteps bring worms
to sidewalks. girls with cracked teeth
throw glass, hug streets the color of drains.
stay still, he says.
we make our fingers wet as bulbs
above our heads, mistake them
for something we’d beg
to call light.
After the Fire
Plants Mama should have swallowed as seeds
swelled from mud like crippled
legs. She’d sit on the porch, a green jar of pickles
bouncing on her knees, tires
Granddaddy said a horse’s hooves run deeper
than the first shovel slice of a grave.
Listen how tires rise over stones.
Touch your chin to glass
and you’ll know what bottom is.
RAVEN JACKSON is a second-year MFA candidate in poetry at The New School and a Cave Canem fellow. A native of Tennessee, she is currently the Online Editorial Fellow at Poets & Writers.