NYU Black Renaissance Noire Winter 2014 - Page 136

By CYNTHIA DEWI OKA Promised Land: Sonnets for My Mother III. Like milk and honey, fear clotted the moon’s rays when credit ran lean as canned soup, staying warm meant sitting in church four nights a week and paying rent shackled her to a decade of twelve-hour days, six-day weeks at the sweatshop two hours away. Winter, stuttered benediction of knuckles, lent snow’s chaos of pronouns to her already bent tongue, loaves of discount bread frozen for months and gray she swallowed without chewing. Faith, raised to duty, is made for such times as these when you must grope blind for shoes in the cement of night, trick aching bones to lurch with the bus, listen to your mouth empty of meaning every time you try to cross the line between you and daughters goldening into stones. II. How to hear God’s call among the black thousand hungers that needle flesh into a single cry, sleet of bodiless wings, a riven tongue of sky? Flight is the armored wind prowling his shadow, sand spilling out of its eye sockets. He feels its hand in the wrench of dung-crusted dokar wheels, the sigh of kites ruffling crowns of coconut trees, the lie of a homeland as the heart’s rest. How do they stand up, twenty pews away from each other without ever trading a single glance, when a man they have never seen before asks, who believes here with all of the words they have never braved aloud, all the names and lengths of skin they have gnawed away, in land where milk and honey can sweeten fear? 134 I. Wake to the violin of leaves. Before light’s vein ruptures night’s harem of sirens and red-eye crows, pull dark deep in your lungs, wash your face in shadows. A thick cloth between you and the wolves in your brain rends inch by whitening inch. Breath’s hunger for rain nooses the sallow air, seams the hush of pillows made silken by sweat, your body’s heat the bruised rose giving up its fleshy please to a