The Sound of Butterflies

The Sound of Butterflies

            I have visions of a hammer swinging

             into my face sideways through a car window

            and though strapped in a seatbelt, there I go


 there goes the first and last time Grandma said she loved me

            a deep rasp on the phone

there go the blueberries I pushed up my brother’s nose

            as if he knew at three how to blow them out

there goes my Jenga playdate with the shrink

            in the glossy building like an elevator into heaven

there go baby teeth, the tooth fairy never came back once

            after that first time


            and now teeth tumble down my chest, clog my throat


there goes creeping late to watch the grown-folks dance

            beers sparkling through their hands

there goes Mama, clang of sorcery in the kitchen

            barbecue chicken and fried okra

there goes thunder at my cousins’ like a beast breaking out of a cellar

there go birds on power lines, birds who spoke my language

there go canned goods I helped store at the shelter

            standing on a vanilla-colored stool to reach the counter


            and there goes my nose, another whack, until it craters


there goes the bedsheet Mama used for a curtain to block the early sun

            when we were sleeping on thin foam

there goes food the church congregation blessed us with

there go my belting melodies in the fan soon after a tail-whipping

there go those deep dial tones before our prank calls at the pay phone

there goes the snowball fight with my aunt when she broke her glasses

            in the tail of winter when school cancelled

there goes my canoe that drifted in the lake too far

            beyond where students were allowed to paddle, where the thrill was


            another strike, my cheek bones become gravel


there goes my aunt again crooning out crying sounds while washing dishes

            calling it soulful

there goes the hilly walk through the zoo where Mama had to sit on the bench

            near the flamingoes

there goes my first S-Curl texturizer dripping down the kitchen sink from my roots

there go the chocolate chip cookies I baked with a whole cup of salt

there goes my stroke of the black and white keys after Fur Elise


and blood flows into a thousand tributaries across my face


there go the barbers paying me Christmas Eve for being the best shop sweeper in Norcross

there goes Six Flags, where I rode the Free Fall with Mama

            the closest we ever sat since I was three

there goes A Song in the Front Yard, the Gwendolyn Brooks poem I ripped

            out of a library book

there goes my business teacher saying show your intelligence

            as if we had abandoned brilliance to fit in

there goes the pink baby shoe I found for a customer’s daughter

there goes my homie gulping down Panda Express, mumbling

            you can’t live for free


            this swing, now the head of the hammer hooks into my socket


there go the narrow dress shoes pimp-walked

            over my high school graduation stage

there goes my first game of spades college homies taught me

there goes the rope that tied me up in the fireplace on stage

            and paper-made ashes, playing a burglar

there goes my name in bold for Employee of the Month on McDonalds’ marquee

there go my footprints on Jimmy Carter’s peanut farm

there go the seagulls soaring near while I parasail

there go the stallions brown and black for miles and miles along Interstate-45

there go my voyages of return, home again like a tourist


            there goes my hand I pray that is not on the handle of that hammer

            and this swing, my screeching softens into the sounds of butterflies


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