Two poems by C.L. Cummings

Passage

I sit on torn sofa / black like the tv set from which Joel Osteen
stares / like a savior himself into the eyes / of a devoted follower
/ which I suppose should have been mine.

You call little sister from back room she shares / with other sister
and baby brother / to sit between my pipe legs / her bottom denting
the only throw pillow / tattered / pillow flat against our vinyl floor.

Big brother sits still between your tree trunk legs / dreaming of
Iyanna or Brianna or whatever girl he is seeing these days / will be
seeing tonight / the purpose of his waiting here unprotesting.

You take comb like staff / part hair like sea / miraculously clean /
unsullied. You hand it to me: an heirloom of wide teeth and rat’s tail.

This is a right of passage / to learn the art of braiding hair.
It is my right to learn to weave (and bob and duck for cover) /

a vignette
of a heritage having travelled
from some far off place / through the gut
of a wooden giant / chained down
and together in the bowels
of a ship for cargo / packed like Tetris
or staples (flesh flush) /
to arrive here to me;
a tradition kept holy
by maternal mores; a variant of
ceremonial style whisked from
the shores of that place / surviving still
in the most Darwinian fashion.

I part a rocky sea of my own / rough and deadly / flyaways pitched
overboard.

You say fix it / so I clean it up the way I’ve learned women always do

(practice for my domesticity:
a vignette of my heritage: black, like shadows.
Black, like empty, like execution despite surrender.
Or, like rock. Like the origins of that Elvis groove,
like a sky for stargazing. Like Zipporah the Cushite,
bearing a brown so deep,
so close to the root she became a tree
to shield her prophet from the wrath
of a burning bush, blessing a wound,
anointing the blood.
Black and woman—
the birth and fall of man,
the beginning and the end…
So biblical it’s blasphemic).

I take staff in my hand / calm a shaky ocean / see that it is good.

 

What Is Coming

I come to she
silently.
She greet me
likewise in quiet
as if not to disturb
what is coming.

What is coming,
we know,
is williwaw
to stir up ash and dust
from places
ash and dust hide
unnoticed,
and in the stirring
all the ash
all the dust
can go unnoticed
no more.

She touch me
like inspecting
tomatoes for
bruising.
I touch she
like handling
mangled glass.

What is coming,
we know,
is antiseptic
laid into
youthful wound—
a stinging raw
but for the better,
and thus inherently
understood.

In sleep
we drift
and drift
farther.
By morning we
loll at opposite
borders of the bed,
hanging from it
like necks in nooses.

I rise first,
watch she
on the edge
of it all.

Soon, this will
return to soil,
to that of which
it sprout.
And from this,
we hope,
better seed
will plant
and
better seed
will grow.

 

 

 

C.L. Cummings is both a graduate and current student of the University of Central Florida. She does editorial things over at bagliterary.com.

 

 

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