Behind the apartment do the dogs still bark? Do
chickens scratch around looking for
bugs? Sometimes they used to bring in a
truckload of hogs and slaughter them, the
whole family working together. Or was that
hogs rooted around and truckloads of
chickens were slaughtered?

Once or twice the ground shook. I
stood in the doorway and waited for it
to stop, afraid I’d be in the way
trying to get down the stairs and out of
the house with my bad leg, even though the
landlord added a railing.

I hope the restaurant down the street 
still serves a full breakfast of 
rice and beans with
eggs at a price I can 
afford. Three months ago I left 
on a short vacation. Now I’m
home. We all wear masks and disinfect
our hands and feet coming and going. Tomorrow I
will see about the food situation. For
now, it’s good to be home.

Moon Shadow

If I lost my body parts, I would not be
joyous in the loss. Already they are 
trying to
sneak off. My feet 
ache. My knees sore and stuff, slowing me
down. Words blur without
glasses. My lips are unable 
to sustain a good 

If I could, I would be 
at the edge of the 
sea watching my 
shadow in the moonlight. But
the sea is far away. 
Rain clouds hide the shadows. One 
night I will catch it 
in my drive, between the trees,
before the too powerful 
blot it 

Below The Treeline

In the evening heat, we sit on the porch
watching fireflies light up here and there and
here again down in the yard. We pass the bottle 
back and forth as we settle
into the lethargy that overtakes us now at dusk.

Years ago, when our children were small, they
would run around chasing fireflies, putting
them in bottles. Strange to think about
those times, before masks, before social 
distancing. When
family gatherings were not on Zoom and 
we were together in the yard, sitting 
at tables laughing and playing 
cards. Passing the babies
from lap to lap.

As real dark sets in,the fireflies 
disappear high
into the trees. I go inside and 
set the porridge for

Graduation Party

My dress and tights were blue. My
shoes were black and flat. My hair had
been straightened.
We stood on the stage in the auditorium.
The curtain behind us was red. I was through
with elementary school.

We only had to stay until graduation was over. Afterwards, 
I went home with my best friend. The boy who lived 
around the corner from her was there too.
He was a nice boy, rather short in 6th grade. I
don’t remember his name or ever seeing him after that. Probably
because I was double promoted right past all
of my classmates and friends and into the confusion of
kids who’d been in Junior high six months already. And then
we moved to another district.

But that day 
after graduation, was perfect. Detroit 
winter cold, snow piled on both sides of the 
shoveled sidewalks and smooth
all over Deidre’s unshoveled backyard. We threw 
snow balls and laughed all afternoon. One
hit me in the face, the boy I can’t 
remember wiped it gently off.

Surviving A Pandemic

In the beginning, we 
thought we needed supplies for 
two weeks.
Family accounted for and hunkered
Toilet paper and baking
yeast bought before it disappeared from
the stores.  Should have
bought flour, but who knew? Tulani 
came through with
ten pounds of whole wheat.
Ayanna brought vegetables and
fruits from farmers, meat from the 
butcher and bread from
the baker.

Initial driveway gatherings were 
emotional. We stood far apart
talking. Putting supplies on tables between.
Eating outside separately once or 

Celebrations continued. A birthday in the driveway. 
Another birthday and two graduations via 
zoom. Father’s day with masked visits. Ayanna's Cookies,
Tulani's cupcakes, Ife's cheesecake and Cabral's
doubles delivered door to 

We began gathering for
game nights on zoom. Seeing
some of the far 
flung family
more often than before.

Three months later, fireflies appeared.  Evenings 
we sit, watching them flicker in the wild
yard, thankful we are all
still here. Waiting for the cicadas to
begin their summer songs.

My Aunt

She was tall and stylish even on
her 90th birthday. A
surprise party, family, old friends,
church friends.
All of us had a story we could have
told about a thoughtful word, a
gift at just the right time.  Maybe
younger family members would not be
as kind in their thoughts. She could be
brusk, speaking her thoughts without
softening them.

She grew up tall and awkward. 
Old photographs she scrunches
down as her height takes her 
past older brother Hugh.

A dressmaker friend convinced her she was
beautiful. Helped her find a style. She 
piled her hair up on top of her head, draped
her clothes so that they softened her.

Thinking all the time, but not bookish or
academic, she left college after a year to 
work as receptionist for her doctor 
father and brother. Lived at home with 
parents and a
house full of siblings.
She eloped at the the last
minute, before being sucked into a 
marriage. The gifts and
guests waiting, she was in Toledo marrying
a dashing lieutenant. A different kind of

Back home with her newborn son, she
never went back. Working for her brothers in 
doctors office and print 
shop and the church. 

In the church clothing factory 
she helped design clothing made from African fabric.
Movied easily into managing the Cultural Center,
first one and then three. Made trips to Africa 
to buy sculptures and see the motherland. She
became advisor and helper to a generation of
women, giving them confidence to fly.

What I remember is the time she told my
father to take me to Dr. Louis so he could do
something for my awful acne. She tried to
get me a summer job working at a grocery
store in South West Detroit 
so I could use my high school Spanish. My mother 
nixed that one.
The maternity clothes she brought up
to the Black Conscience Library when I’d
left home and was a revolutionary
librarian, pregnant with my
first child. 
The way she looked out for
my uncle Henry, sending him new sheets and
asking us to clean up for him because he
was too nice a person not to. And he

Once we were both in Detroit staying at the Training Center,
housing for church members. 
My oldest daughter had a new baby. 
My father was lived on the 7th
floor. Barbara had just come and was in her apartment. My
father told me to call her and when I did, she said, in a thoughtful
voice, he want’s us to get to know each other. Or be friends. The years blur.
The last time I saw her, she wasn’t as sharp, was
starting to fade. It was a family gathering at
her son’s house. We talked for a little. She said
all the boys were dead. She mentioned talking to her
mother, who had been gone for years and years. And
told me I had always been nice.

Call it what it is

They are still shooting us in the streets. Not
just this year. Or even last. All of
my 73 years and my father’s years and his father’s
years. My grandfather's father, my great
grandfather, was born into slavery. You
know how that went.

Both of my grandfather’s moved
north. Looking to breathe that fresh air of
freedom. That was before the red summer of 1919, when
white folks killed black folks north, south, east
and west. And it never stopped. Let up a
bit from time to time. Went unreported even
more often. These days passing people catch 
it on their cellphones.

We’ve moved north. We’ve moved 
south. We bought
land. We voted.We got educated. We 
marched and protested. We sang,rioted and 
rebelled.  And even while 
we are marching, they are still 
shooting us down in the 
streets. Talking about new 
days,tearing down 
statues, retiring Aunt 
Jemima and Uncle 
Ben, feeding exploited workers fried chicken 
and waffles. Back in the day, I 
would have ended this poem 
with a call for REVOLUTION! Now
I just wait to see if they
will again diffuse this anger with 
drugs. Or if it will 

The Rain

She points to the stairs,he won’t budge. 
He stands in the pouring rain, ignoring 
her signal to exit up. Families mill 
about, confused. Should they go 
up or wait for further
The children sob, rain 
dripping from their chins.

A large woman in purple wants to help … The 
rain blows in through 
open windows. He gives the thumbs up,
standing in a widening puddle of water.

Giving him the side eye, she 
pours a glass of water, unaware of the 
boil water warning in effect.
Three beats. The rain continues to pour. A cool
wind blows. The trees bend. Two
beats. Too stubborn to obey,
he remains right there, dripping, while
she drinks the dirty 
water. A tree crashes beside him.