Losing the family home
to a long list of liars:
real estate brokers, mortgage bankers, and lawyers
in grey sharkskin shoes

Msyo could finally let go
of the brick 2-flat on St. Lawrence Avenue
with neither bitterness or regret

But with understanding.
“Well,” she said at last,
“look like Mother never wanted me to have it.”

She seemed startled
by her own thoughts, the raspy voice
strange and distant,
as though coming from the shadows in the next room
or the oak paneled foyer.

“I was a little girl,” she went on
speaking to herself. “I didn’t know
what was happening. All this blood in the bathtub.”

She felt a heavy weight
suddenly leap from her shoulders
to swing from the dining room chandelier above.
A hairy burden that had curved her back
so that finally, after seventy years of youthful glow
she now looked her old lady’s age.

“She never forgave me,” Msyo said of the dead woman,
a smile lighting her face. A soft face like the faces
of generations of little Black girls
raped in Woodlawn, Bronzeville, and Harlem.

And sworn to silence,
in the hazy afternoon light of double Dutch summers.
Their grape-firm nipples and small breasts
beginning a slow bounce with each daring skip, and seductive turn of the rope.
LaQuita, and Ponchita, and Big Baby Blue
jumping to keep away the slowly growing sadness inside.
Then birthing more confused little Black girls.
Bequeathing this terrible inheritance and bloody baptism
of torn hymens,
painfully bleeding in claw footed, cast iron bath tubs.

“You a fool,” she said to her dead mother. “Like I wanted your old man.
That old man.” And laughing.
Laughing at the deathbed mortgage that lost the family home.

Finding Salvation in the umbilical pain
her Mother likely knew.
And laughter, laughter like prayer that freed her mother
from a lifetime of festering hatred
with hip shaking love.

✶ ✶ ✶ ✶

O.A. Fraser lives in Hyde Park.  He explores the anguish of individuals whose lives are marginalized through the misfortune of poverty, and dislocated as a consequence of social change.  Often he examines mental illnesses as hidden disabilities: the constellation of anxiety disorders in general, as well as the experience, stigma, and quandary of agoraphobia in particular.

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