[b]Dance, Amari[/b]
[i](for Amari Diaw)[/i]

Do not untie your hair, Amari. Do not,
for perfect plies and pirouettes, turn
from native locks or wish for whiteness.
Kick up your thick-boned legs in cultured
protestation. Avoid unbraided simulation.
Take first position, stand on pointed principles.
Deconstruct the dance politic.

Amari Diaw is a four-year-old, African-American resident of New Bedford, MA, who faced being banned from her dance school recital in the summer of 2003 because she wore braids which could not be “slicked back and pulled into a bun.”

Missing Limbs

Mostly she misses
his left leg
shorter than the right
the bend in his right knee
when his left leg fell into step
the thirty-degree angle
the wrinkle in the leg of his pants
the perfect point of the crease
as he stepped into his
right-legged stride
the rise and fall
the space between
the space
the leg
the war
the life
the loss

Between School and Home

School is behind me, home before, and between,
this blue-black face with red-pink lips
and weekend breath catcalls from across the street.

His hat-wearing swagger balances on the breeze,
outstretched arms, bent knees. Bloody eye whites
drink me in as if I were the brown-bagged bottle
he wears in his pocket with lint and loose change.

He does not need to say what he wants. I am nine
and already a woman (that’s what my mama told me
the day I woke up —cut’, screaming for an ambulance).

I am all bright-eyed, new-woman fear;
and the Samaritan arrives only after my socks
have fallen under the explosion of my bladder.

I walk quickly the rest of the way. Home,
I hole up in my room, say nothing to no one.
But nights I dream, scream, wake, remember.

[b]Ain’t No Mountains in the Ghetto[/b]

I ain’t got no garden. All I got
is this stretch of dirt in my shortcut,
a few weeds peekin up in cross-eyed patches
lookin like they wanna be
cabbage or greens.

Ain’t no mountains in the ghetto.
I do have a purple dress, though, that I look majestic in
if I do say so myself.

Rollin plains and fields? Forget it.
Only things rollin round here is them pieces of candy wrappin
and cigarette butts movin along on a whim of the wind
on they way to the gutter.

But beauty ain’t lost on ghetto folk.
We got us a foreign language we speak in English.
We got hair–natural, fried and curly.
We got soul food, and double-dutch.
And purple,
we got purple.

[b]Portrait of the Porch in Summer[/b]

There are faded lines where he erased, then stretched,
the too-short porch, made the windows larger,
straightened the steps to the multi-paned door
on the two-dimensional replication of the latchkey
house where he returned sometime after three,

weekdays. The curtains are closed and still
behind shut windows. No breeze to blow
ghost sheers aside to sneak ripple glances
of the empty jar of promises he opened
each day to deposit jail-cell covenants
fragile as Dead Sea scrolls.

He draws a precise facsimile,
crayon memories of ten-year-old summers
sitting on the steps of the porch
chin shoved into the seat of his palm,
awaiting his father’s release.

[b]Gray Matter[/b]

Her hairline sits back from her face
Like moonlit fields of wheat far from a dusty road.
Wispy strands of gray.

Her brain is mixed, pulled,
twisted circus taffy. Her thoughts
transgress to how her husband

left without a word. She gave
her best to diapers and dinners.
There are only empty plates

and pans. In a bowl she mixes
colors—covers the gray.

[b]Remnants of the Other Evening[/b]

A nearly empty bottle of red wine
(you were worried sediment had settled at the bottom),
three or four dog-eared books of poems
scattered across the cocktail table,
butts of cigarettes from designer tin cases
smashed into tiny v’s and a roach in the ashtray.

You read [i]The Applecake[/I] as comfortable in your nudity
as in your ability to speak English.
I wore my nakedness beneath a veil of self-consciousness.

Earlier, you wrote of complications, later confessing
that you are prone to “falling in love.”
I would prefer to be a warm slice of Applecake–
on Sundays, when you have settled into the arc
of my ribcage, when the world has drifted out of thought
and serious complications wait just outside these walls.

[b]Observations on an Autumn Drive[/b]

Quaint cottages and people and commerce.
Trees, naked, ashen. Their branches remind me of withered fingers.
People hurry, walk with hands jammed into their pockets
leaning against the gusts.

Indian Leap, where feuding Natives took flight
like crows over bladed black rocks,
over the chasm of a rushing fall–
and died.

Tiny towns and semi-cities. Boarded up buildings.
Parishioners emerge from churches. Siblings skip
alongside the road, rosy-cheeked from Autumn’s sting.
They smile and call to one another, laugh.

Grand architecture in unappreciated places.
Dilapidated Victorians, restored Georgians,
white houses with black shutters and red doors.
Miles and miles of farmfields, razed. The acrid odor
of burning leaves.

Windmills and waterwheels. Cows with questioning eyes.
Inclines where the road seems to drop away.
A ray of light from a crack in a cloud.

© Rhonda Ward 2004

[b]Author’s Notes:[/b]

Rhonda Ward lives in New London, CT, in a tiny cottage facing the Thames River (pronounce the ‘th’ like an American and use a hard ‘a’). She writes about the everyday things that go by without a thought most times: simplistic life events told through the use of fine details. Rhonda’s dream is to help bring poetry back to the masses through the support and showcasing of local writers. Her work has been published in the award-winning [i]Beginnings Magazine.[/i]

Listed at Duotrope
Listed with Poets & Writers
CLMP Member
List with Art Deadline
Follow us on MagCloud