Black ass is obvious
at 2:00AM on Geddes Avenue. Should I blame
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my thighs, sheering denim to skin
windows? Or these cornbread-
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cultivated hips Clifton passed on to me
that seem much broader on back roads
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void of streetlights? Either way, I’m wading the pitch
black of November 9, 2016. Satisfied frat boys
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walking Geddes the opposite way
spot the Baartman in my stride and toss this
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muffled drunken greeting to
skew me:Hey, girl…Hey, girl…Hate won!
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and so I wave my most vocal finger, keeping on toward the
university bus stop. The joy of those boys—its color, its
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god—moves me to a cystic anger, the sort of crying that
licks and bends the perforated edge of ancestry. But once I’m home
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I plan on steeping oolong, waxing my shins,
commencing the second season of Girlfriends, then
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dozing off. I’ll wake up
Thursday, hush post-election coverage
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with fits of Boyz II Men and vacuuming,
phone some old undergrad friends that understand all too
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well my need to vodka evenings
to a curt and drastic end. Then I’ll
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doze again. Probably wake and write at
the Starbucks on State, a booth by
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the lav. A novelist beside me translating war will ask,
What’s the word for “patrie” in English?I’ll doze
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and wake like this for two whole calendars—sun up then down
like a father’s last pushups. Finally a Master in
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Public Health, I’ll choose tobacco
lobbying in some swollen metro like The
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District. In a Foggy Bottom loft nearby a
two-story Whole Foods, I’ll sleep alone until open
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mic on the ungentrified side of U
Street. A beautician born & trained in Orlando
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will spit a piece about America’s kitchen,
its nappyheaded dream, a recipe of kinks. The mic
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will give a shrill feedback. The audience will unravel
its blouse of hums. And pillow-talking that night, the two of us
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unclothed, our breath a blessèd mess of sours, she’ll
recount her hardest client—
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five cornrows, sowed on the scalp of her own
nephew, found wan and black blue at the foot
of a juke box.But whenever we fuck,
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tummy to spine, visceral
as a handshake, no Omar
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Mateens or Michiganders will taunt
us. Only buckwheat pillows will frizz
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my resilient head, a head that works
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all week addicting this nation. En route
to Capital Hill, I’ll rehearse persuasion
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in my Porsche visor mirror. Congressmen
of Carolinian constituencies will be no match
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for my deep V necks and code-
switching. I’ll put District 7 of Illinois
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in a tongue-cancer spin, make sure a bill
saving Iowans from secondhand gets trashed
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in Ways and Means. And then I’ll elope—
some lowkey ceremony zip codes away
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to swerve my father’s phobic
riffles. At the alter without a coin, wifey
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will flip a Svedka cap for newborns to raid
one of us with wee-hour vomits and kegels. But
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our eventual pact is mutual: Each of us should carry.
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Yet five embryo transfers, eager bouts of
quinoa, and some Hot Pilates poses later, still
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motherhood will fight
to fail me. When Erykah Badu says
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sisters, put your hands on your
wombs
, 6% of U.S. women touch a wound. But
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I’ll grow proud of my hourglass permanence, watching
my wife abandon hers.Nicotine will keep
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my ego hectic. I’ll skew Texan policy on cessation
meds, watch whole boroughs lose their tongues
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to cheap chew. Five calendars,
five shitty appraisals(“Courtney lacks gravitas”)
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then Kindergarten will be up (weren’t our babies breastfed &
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babyfat just yesterday?) For elementary, I’ll prefer
the Montessori route since
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I wish nothing
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for my three sons but pleated chinos and argyle
socks. My wife will wish Ta-Nehisi quotes and Anacostia
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charter schools, but I’ll kindly remind my all too “down
with the black-brown” babygirl that we can’t feed this family
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with drawers of fisted fro picks. For my sons, I’ll need
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the lavish luxuries my city rearing stripped
me of: Prius liftbacks, a leopard tortoise,
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unnecessary international travels. For my middle kid’s
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bass recital in Rome, I’ll tell himDon’t forget
the coda. Try gelato. Toss three nickels
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in the Trevi! When my eldest son turns
fourteen it’ll be Spain, no reason (I’ll work my wallet off
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for these kids to have no reasons.)Is Cascamorras this month? See
some flamenco if you can.
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But then will come the winter of 2031: Usain Bolt
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will slow to a limp, Eddie Murphy will quit kidding, and my youngest will
knife his dreadlocks to the carpet when his high school’s
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Thespian Club nicknames him “Whoopi.” With all this masculine
melodrama, I’ll ask my wife where in the world
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she wants to sleep for a week. Her answer will levitate me:Wherever
my nephew couldn’t.So a timeshare villa
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in Nairobi it is. We’ll hike slopes
for beginners, gorge on tender
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slivers of Nyama Choma. The kids will trek
an elephant orphanage, track dung throughout
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the rental. I’ll try Tusker beer, finger
through a city bus seat pocket and find
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a pamphlet for Shanty Town Tours I’ll use
to wrap up a worn-out wad of Trident.But when news
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comes to hotel reception that red meat
has finally killed my father, our family will fly
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to his chosen kingdom of sleep:
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New Orleans, the farthest city north in Africa.
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French Quarter will drag around that
same Linus blanket of humidity. Café Du
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Monde will flaunt its typical
congestion of touristy whites, while Jackson
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Square exhales its usual fat
taupe fog of sage. If you
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cut a hand through the smoke like
capoeira, the blessing ends right
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there, a Freddie Gray or abortion sort
of fracture. By noon, I’ll face
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Lake Pontchartrain for recommendations on
being a semi-orphaned dyke and
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breast-stroking through the mourning. MAC will
have dropped a new lipstick, “Hooded Kidz,” and
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I’ll swipe it throughout the cemetery
tours, feeling indented, taking “act of god”
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quite personally. On Bourbon Street, sazerac and rain
will hug powdered sugar to streetcar tracks and
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a ripe weeping will have lodged in my neck: Did I really
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misjudge my father? Could his militancy have won
anything—the popular vote, three
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tricks in spades, my upmost harm? At Carousel Bar
swilling pilsner remedies, I’ll somewhat pray
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to be him—his apathy, dick, and all. Pseudo
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mortician again, my wife will gel
his afro straight as paisley sheets, back
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to that vintage conk dapper, that Ellington at
the Cotton, that Malcolm before the X. God,
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what a father I could’ve been—dapper, erect,
fulfilling my end of our pact.
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After that, half a calendar,
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a totaled Porsche (I’ll yawn off
at the wheel), some pet tortoise deaths, some
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progressive legislation and
like teens ridding a pantry of sky high
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fructose, some hardheaded lessons:
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I. Hysterectomy:This won’t be the first time I consider
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that no human on earth
was ever asked if they wanted to be
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before crowing out a Black woman’s legs.
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II. Infidelity:Irish diplomat. Admirer
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of my wigs and “articulateness.” To him, I am a wishy-washy
lesbian waiting for the right dick
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to make me somebody. In a hotel jacuzzi, Percocet-
emboldened, he’ll goSista, wet your hair!
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Call me Jefferson.But I’ll recommit
to my wife, mop biweekly, build a new

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Plexiglas terrarium, vacuum on Wednesdays. And
while vacuuming the kids’ rooms, I’ll read text messages
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about my kids sleeping with white kids.Am I a mirror?
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Boys, we’re from Antebellum
cotton and Pig Laws. Don’t you act
brand new.I’ll retrieve
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Newports from knifed slits in Adidas tongues, Camel
Blues from cardboard applicators (Where the hell y’all
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getting these tampons from?) I’ll be a perpetual Ted Talk
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tasked with studded belts and backhands, the palm’s
sullied lectures. I’ll fund carpools to track meets,
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chartreuse hoodies to lessen our
neighborhood’s suspicion, outrageous taper
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fades, badminton rackets, SAT fees. In hindsight it seems
I’ll raise too many Black boys with breath to protect
at once.
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But I’ll do it so well. And eventually I’ll unpack
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floor lamps and shower totes at universities I did not attend, each
opposite the Mighty Midwest where both sleet and white
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fraternities grow an ill-fit logic. Half-grown sons
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will return home on Thanksgiving. My eldest will have joined
a slam team. Over supper, he’ll
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quote his winning piece:America,
take credit: you made the beast who made
the bullet. Made her rich and
farsighted…

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My middle boy will have aced his Visual Thinking course
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with a statuette of Scylla I made from
wicks and bobby pins. It’s supposed to
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mean that beauty ignites or
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that beauty is about holding still enough
to be used.
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My youngest son, the poly-sci major,
will have written his first term paper:
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“The current rise in tobacco sales and, consequently,
lung cancer among middle-aged Black
men can be linked to the period of political unrest
between 2017 and 2021”
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which will earn him an 80% for imperfect MLA. So I’ll resurrect the St. Martin’s,
confronting marginalia I made all those moons and presidents ago. Back
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at the table, I’ll make this quick:
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In print citations, the author’s last name
precedes the first. If
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more than one author exists (no phenomenon is
birthed on an island) you list the first author “last name /
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first name” and any subsequent author takes
the standard “first name / last name” ordering. But
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if a source is unpublished, say it’s overheard speech
crucial to include, that citation might read:
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N
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Anonymous. “Hey, girl…Hey, girl…Hate Won!” University of Michigan Central Campus Transit Center. 9. Nov. 2016.
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My son’s new dreadlocks will sweep our
tablecloth into a wrinkle. He’ll barely
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acknowledge my guidance, but will nod to avoid
the nagging. A scattering noise will erupt
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from the bookshelf terrarium behind us. Glancing
back, we’ll catch our pet tortoise reenacting a whirlpool? Pirouetting?
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Chasing her tail? I’ll gesture to the scene:Look! Think
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of citation as tracing sources attached
to the ass of your own argument.I’ll be too amused by
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the image to mention debates of merit between
print and online sources. The distinction is historical revolution
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vs history,suidae to boar,or scorn
against discretion, the familiar choice in
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Ann Arbor, where 20 some years ago on that
transit ride home I hummed
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Boris Gardiner, recited Frost though I
clearly needed Hughes, got home and rather
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than drinking tea or waxing, counted
bumps in the stucco and dozed off
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in the middle of prayer. I had spent twelve minutes
appealing to a god without hearing, a god I commissioned
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to play an available father. But father god’s phone stayed on a
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no-vibrate silence. I rang and
no good god. No god to undo those ballots in the
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godless heartland. And yes, there was a word for
patrie in my language.It was fatherland.