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Three Poems


Heart

This your heart I do spoon—
a dull-edged, rusted almost circle of silver—
from within your rib cage

and suck the marrow out hard
raw, my teeth and lips dripped red
by this four chambered organ still pumping 

inside the press of my fingers
bite by bite leeching its hard won 
labors to fuel my parasite life until 

nothing left but your rhythm still live
still moving inside me, I understand 
how long after mine own bones become 

ashes, become dust. Will rise 
the sounding of this
most ancient, terrible thing.

 

 

 

 

Letter to My Son IV: Hips

That day, when you pushed through them and out
slid up to rest your tiny hands on my chest
look up at me

latch your lips to my breast and receive more 
than your life from my body.

how I held your soft warm realness and wished you safe 
again inside instead of this place and you the target 
for white folks’ stand your ground black boy hunting.

In my not knowing how fear rises in matched level 
with love, deepening. I dreamed only the unbearable joy 
of you, tiny arms pressed around—

But then there must be this also: the empty confusion when apart 
from you; mind fretted and body sick, tiptoeing nights 

of making sure you still draw breath, wanting to protect 
you from what you do not know, what will hurt 

you even while sleeping, even while knowing were I able 
to do this each second of each day of all your life. 
It still would not be enough.

 

 

 

 

Skin V: Four Years In Evanston, IL

I.

I was watched
like a dog with two heads, strange 
unseen thing bought to amuse.

Their hands made into bird claws
clutching at my hair
It’s like a Brillo pad.
Why is it so curly?

How much louder
would they have been had I not flailed
among them like a raisin drowned
in a bowl of milk

I did not yet know all they saw was my skin.

II.

They tell me there are no great Black ones
but I bring them my Baldwin heart anyway.

No one will buy nigger stories, he says.
Write something else.

In his classroom I taste only silence, 
the gray food of their ghosts.

All that long winter they are come
layering ethered white bodies over mine

Until they tell me I am different, not
like the others. I am one of them.

III.

The white hood of his costume covers
all but his eyes, his white robe
the rest of his body. 

He is no longer my friend
late night conversations and
coffee-fueled homework sessions.

Now he is a fist clenched to punch
out the stars and swallow
the blackness
whole.

IV.

Four years ago
I’d have called myself
a woman beautiful
and strong. Now
I am an empty sack, a black
bird avalanched
with snow.

You can’t come over anymore
My mother doesn’t like it.

The flies eating at my frozen flesh.

I’m not allowed around 
people like you.

Buzzing bellies full, they keep biting.
They are never satisfied.

 

 

Author's Note: These poems will appear in my forthcoming poetry collection, The Body Family, which explores my family’s escape from Idi Amin’s Ugandan genocide and the aftermath of healing in America.

 

 

Hope Wabuke is a California-based writer and mom. Her poetry has been featured in The North American Review, Kalyani Magazine, Fjords Literary Journal and Ruminate Magazine, and others. Follow her on Twitter @HopeWabuke.