A festival of stars and the dark ornamental moon.
I hid myself in the pocket of a window and
watched the eye of the storm. All the emptiness
of wind peeling houses back one by one. The fate
of a city and me, a girl in its ghetto. I watched the world
fly away until morning. Sat and listened to news anchors
translate my horror into endless word plays.
There news, the end of poetry:
Debris plugging into cracked pavement like electrical outlets.
Vandals pushing down the remaining walls of a fallen city.
Shards of thunder.
Fire-hydrant baths and free clothes kept the body sane,
but my mind was light years away.
I wanted to close the window to Earth
and live on a celestial desert.
Virtual Reality Can Put You Here: The Gallery of Maps in the
It’s the first Sunday in Advent
and the last one of the month
when the public gets in free.
Where would you like to Google to next?
In Real Life You are Here: Newark Public Library.
In the AskArt database you type
“Vatican Museum” and Danti comes up.
You mumble something about Virgil,
Confusing the painter with the poet, Dante.
Obvious mistake, but you resist
fault in the presence of a girl
who looks to be your age.
Instead you fault the inner-city art teacher
who taught collages instead of high art.
You ask the girl, Have you heard of Romare Bearden?
She tells you that she likes his collages most of all.
“Save As” if You Are Here: Facing The Irony of the Negro Policeman on canvas.
Where would you like to browse next?
In Lemon City, a girl praises the ice cream man
in Creole. Her voice is caught up in his bells
that turn “Für Elise” into a 99 cent jingle.
He drives away, ready to stop and milk
the cash-cow children on the next block.
On her doorstep, the girl devours Mickey’s
licorice ear. The hard candy chips her tooth
and she cries about the dog she saw run over last summer.
The dog, her mom said, was a boy
before God punished him for laziness around the house.
The year the girl started to get an allowance,
she bought a yellow hat and wore it with a polka-dot dress.
Kids at school called her “crayon box” and drew rainbows on her desk.
Into a second bite she recalls the ice cream man’s
dirty hands, grungy with germs as invisible as her
But teasing and stereotypes are a sodomized truth.
Why lie about skin the color of winterberry leaves in autumn
or a pinky permanently magenta from a blood clot at birth?
She was born the darkest, brightest wax in the box,
swaddled in an incubator city—Lemon—surrogate for Haiti.
If she could remember being born
she would not remember being human.
Her intense taste of Mickey’s vanilla face
said that much. It said that dogs wear
yellow hats and eat their bones at home.
A woman my heart often mistakes
for my sister tells me how illness
snaked into her young body,
continuously hibernating. It sheds
a lifetime of good cells.
Outside of my own body I stand
with my mouth unbuttoned,
loose and ready to fall at her side.
What is memory,
an archive of then and forever?
I would place her laugh
next to her best advice:
If he loved you and only you
he wouldn’t call you from his garage.
The bathroom is a holding cell and I cry
under the sound of flushing dreams until
the handle clanks against the concave porcelain.
She always escapes these vulnerable
moments, wincing at hugs and kisses
I make her endure.
I try to calculate her last breathe,
forgetting my own mortality.
Forgive me lord,
but how long will our futures take?
Will phone calls updating her condition
burn my ears like when we hot-curled
our hair in a rush on Friday nights?
Let her memory be at hand
when the master copy is gone.
Let a puzzle of brain cells come together
at my aunt’s kitchen table.
Let the pieces of disease dissolve.
Let laughter follow us down this road.
I wish it were not April.
Then, I wouldn’t sit in the warm sun.
I wouldn’t imagine your kiss
again, and again for a hundredth time.
I would move along and not against the day,
but instead, I wait for you
on the bench where I saw you
lovely last April.
You wore a halter dress, and it was my birthday.
A woman's back should feel the sun
or else why is it springtime?
The question made me want to surprise your face with a kiss.
I wondered how I might steal that kiss.
Did the light in my eyes surprise you
like a firefly in a jar at nighttime,
like yellow pollen from flowers mating in April,
or as a candle in the waning sun
as visible as that early spring day?
You should know that again it’s my birthday.
Today makes a year since our feigned kiss.
While we sat together in the sun,
the sound of your voice made me feel I knew you
and I've waited for a new April,
anthologizing your voice, remixing time.
A year ago I couldn’t measure my heart’s time
or else I might have prepared for this day.
I might have bought a calendar starting and ending in Aprils.
Then, I would have had a year to make the courage to kiss
your face or mouth, or hand and hear you
before you walked downhill with the sun.
I tell myself I am not myself as I sit here in the sun.
If I've learned anything this year it's to forgive time.
I've learned that pining for you
gets stronger at the end of the day.
Sleepless nights with my lips pressed against the kiss
of you in my dreams like Shakespeare’s April.
As in this evaporated year, you fill my mind today
and everything reminds me of the time
I was too scared to kiss your lips last April.
is from Miami, Florida. She holds an MFA from Rutgers University in Newark and is a Spelman alumna. In 2010, she was invited to participate in the Callaloo poetry workshop series. Her poems are forthcoming in Torch: poetry, prose, and short stories by African American women. Zahra teaches in the Writing Program at Rutgers-Newark.