49 Bus Line
A young woman in her early 30’s walked to the bus stop a block away from her house and waited there with a chilled bottle of Mexican soda pop in her hand. The bus finally arrived. But when it did, it came to a squeaking halt about a dozen feet past where she was standing. It was unbeknownst to her where it would stop, but the other patrons seemed to have known exactly where — to the inch. As she hustled to the quickly formed line, she recalled many of the same faces that first appeared to be passersby’s, now stepping on the bus waving money and transit cards and grocery bags in their hands. It was as if they were all a part of some conspiracy of people who knew the bus’ exact stop location points (that was of course way off from the marked spot on the street).
The, now annoyed young woman, walked on the bus with a half-full lukewarm soda bottle in her hand. She spotted an elder sitting with an empty seat next to her and quickly sat down, gently settling her soft ass into it before the bus took off. Noticing the heavy aqua blue leather jacket of the old woman next to her, she debated in her head why anyone would wear such a thing on such a balmy day: maybe she was cold, crazy, smart to bring an extra layer for the fickle microclimates of San Francisco. Either way, it wasn’t any of her business.
But then her eyes landed on the old woman’s hair that was salt and pepper and thinning a bit on the crown of her head. There was loveliness to each strand that swooped and smoothed its way into an aesthetically pleasing French bun. She wondered when and if she [the young annoyed woman with soda pop in her hand] would begin to lose her hair. For her mother had a great head of hair and her grandmother alike. And in the midst of her thoughts, the old woman cocked her head and stared at the young lady in a somewhat scorning gaze — somehow completely aware of what the young woman was quietly thinking to herself.
She turned her attention to the junky purse and wrestled out a book of short stories she was finally becoming attached to. But soon after she finished the second paragraph, the bus stopped at fourteenth street. A lady walked on the bus, and the young women took her eyes from the pages of the book and they followed the buxom curly-haired woman with a toddler slung on her side like a little monkey. They of course sat down right next to her.
The baby boy was probably a little over a year—18 months. (Have you ever noticed that mothers of young children always refer to the age of their children in months? I mean, who wants to do the math when you know they’re two-years-old. I think it’s another element of being in the mom clan. Another way to cliquishly separate themselves from the women without children—without child). He was a cute little nugget, nonetheless, but he had an awful cough. Especially for being such a tiny chunk of human.
“I’m probably going to get sick from sitting next to this kid.” the young woman thought.
The child was fiery. He persistently kicked his feet and squirmed around saying words that even he knew weren’t actual words. His mother spoke back to him in her native language asking, “What are you saying, baby boy?” And the toddler laughed while he continued to squirm, cough, and kick with his bite-size red converse high-tops. The mother apologized to the young lady; she had somehow gotten into the crossfire’s of his kicks. But the young woman didn’t mind. If fact, it was kind of nice to have some contact with a baby. It had been a while since she’d been around those cute little things. So she reached out to touch his silky and chubby legs— as a way of communicating to the mother that the child did not offend her.
Her smile slowly, naturally dropped from her face while she retired to the rejected book on her lap. Avoiding awkward conversation. And as she brought her attention to that same paragraph of trivial and emotional nonsense, the elder woman with the aqua blue leather jacket got off at the next stop. An end of an era.
The First Time A Man Hit Me
I spoke out of turn.
Was wearing heels,
A mid-length mod dress,
Unladylike I suppose.
His ego was damaged,
I did not humor his catcall.
Disrespect was in the air,
I, the charmed one who’d pay for it.
Disrespect was all that was left between
Two African-American strangers.
One young, one rung out.
I was the one to pay,
For every time someone had disrespected him.
For every time his mother forgot to put food on the table.
But we were strangers.
I waiting for a cab,
He invaded to say, “hello”.
Wondered why I didn’t “hello” him back.
Spat out, “You must only fuck white men — you little bitch”.
He was used to everyone ignoring him.
I gave him the attention he
Expected and deserved.
He was not prepared
For what would
Come out of
“You’re the bitch”.
“What did you call me?”
“Say that again?!”
Then he punched me in the face.
The first time I was hit by a man.
“That’s what you get”.
Was what I heard another man say in a distance.
Those muscles once held him. Now they tense and ball up into,
Solid masses of anger.
Pounding the love and admiration out of him.
Passing on grunts of anger into the earth
Blood drips into the soil
She awakens him,
Nearly tripping over his mass while in route to the 4:30 train.
Dried blood clings to his shirt, now mixed with the cold sweat.
It was an unlikely love affair
But a love affair nonetheless.
Tiptoeing around the wounded hearts
Slapping bodies aggressively
Making love obsessively
But they don’t want each other anymore,
Something like that.
Is There Any Love in This World
Repetitive and rhetorical.
I’ve fallen in love with many men—women—children. I fall in love everyday. But it wasn’t until I fell in love with myself that I realized how much I love you. It seemed so sudden and very unlikely. It wasn’t because of your beauty. Had nothing to do with your parents, or lack thereof, or the way you were raised; the way your brown eyes look in the morning. The way your body takes shape to mine.
This feeling will go away. I’m sure of it. It did with all the others. Each and every one of them loved me. Passionate at first. And then you lose balance. But I heard that losing balance for love, is a part of balancing your life.
Thief in the Night
Right down to the bones. That’s where the chill came from—when he looked at me.
I was frightened and the hairs on the back of my neck stood stiff like the ice-cycles hanging from the roof that drew emaciated shadows on my wall.
He grabbed my arm, I could tell it was going to bruise “…Thought I said I love you already,” he said in a hurry. But that was the first time I’d ever heard him say those three words. Either way I kept my mouth shut to stop my teeth from chattering. His eyes were fiery amber—burning negatives of his face in the right side of my brain. But the prints that developed formed blurry images, looking nothing like what I had remembered. Because by then I’d forgotten all about him.
He came for one thing and wouldn’t leave without it. I could taste the salt from my frightened tears dribbling into my mouth as I blurted out “Yeah I know you do, me too.”
A dirty deal was done.
But before gathering my thoughts in hopes to digest the transaction, he flew out of my bed leaving the window wide open, drawing a sweet scent of what once was sunshine from the gauzy linens that now fluttered violently with a cold breeze. I saw his silhouette vanish.
I was pleased to see him go.
Kwansaba: The Healed Grandchildren of the Slaughtered in East St. Louis
“Healed, they’re healed!”, I hear them say.
But whom are they they speak of?
Is it because they affirm my action?
I exude great staunch in my community.
I’d be damned if someone take credit.
For my prowess force is mine alone.
No matter who allows or admits me.
I’ve done it at night.
Dear Ms. Mustache,
The honey-dipped rays of the sun flickered against my window pane. I watched its light beam drift from a stack of books, to the armrest of my love-seat where my head hung heavy. It was bright, blinding and warming my face at the same time. Suddenly the phone rang. As I looked at the screen to view the caller, there she was in my reflection–Ms. Mustache! The sun picked up all the highlights of her soft thin hairs that danced lightly above my upper lip. I shuttered at its sight.
Ms. Mustache’s been in my life for many moons; often forgotten but never forgiven for her occupancy.
For some time now, I’ve been wearing a considerable amount of lipstick–it’s fun. Each time I pull out a tube to trace the shape of my lips, I feel like I’m taking part of a sophisticated female tradition. Trouble is, it only makes her more noticable, (Ms. Mustache). It was my first visit with an esthetician. She was a persuasive Brazilian woman who waxed her entire face. After much dialogue, I gave in and embarked on my first and only lip-waxing experience.
It painfully taught me that a bumpy, pimply reaction on my upper lip was much less attractive than the latter, Ms. Mustache. I miss her terribly. I never thought I would say this, but I can’t wait for her to come back.
“I said cranberry, Roland!
It is the color of my blood,
the color of my love!”
The joints in his shoulder popped
dead weight hung heavy
he was the only witness at my funeral.