Now and then, I go to the graveyard of me
and visit the mirrored stones.
Each cages a different likeness, save for one—
empty till I husk my next face.
When the time comes, the crows will scream me a cake of rust
while I feed the dirt new birth sac and wobble out on baby legs,
naked as the last day I was born.
Into light or dark, like a snake doctor ready for air,
I bust out of old skin,
my midwife hands waiting to catch
the blood-slick crown.
Come out of the holler hollering
with a twang that won’t quit me
no matter how many state lines I cross.
Chew through the umbilical, shred it, hex
the strings for my steel guitar.
House full of bibles and lightning.
Shit shed outside, a pot to piss in.
Bare feet on thorn, gravel, hot asphalt.
No shoes—when you step in it, you feel it.
Spigot out of the ground.
I know the stick, the fist, the sickle word.
Name your weapon; I’m still walking.
Cinder-block church on the hill.
Pictures of my people in caskets.
Death keeps a straight face; keening and wailing we do.
Red ’64 Plymouth Fury, palming the wheel with one hand.
Camels, Raleighs, smokehouse roll-your-own.
Real McCoys with grudges and graves to prove it.
With all that behind me,
you think I’m going on birth control?
Labor is my life’s work.
Take me or leave me.
Image: Janine Antoni, Cradle, 1999
59 x 58 x 65 inches