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