February 14, 2020
Feb 14, 2020
Is when a Black woman
collapses in on herself
needing a galaxy for implosion.
Women are not supposed to
be bigger than a cluster of pet dander.
Whatever moxie we’ve collected
goes to brushing the cinders off our jackets.
Up from history we go, bites of bygones,
gathered in a cameo for our troubled necks
and we translate it, to warm ourselves
when the poison becomes a melody
Donna hasn’t been herself lately, and her manager’s having a fit. Jonah called crying this morning, George lost his wits again over something minor, Mildred says it’s been years since she felt anything but guilt. Allison cuts herself because God said she’s a sinner, Michael sulks on the couch refusing to make dinner for the kids. Omar is so angry. Angry all the time. At the holiday party Heather makes her entrance, already trashed on wine. Tina sighs like a prophet in class, Imani is sobbing about her past to therapists who don’t get it as Roland freaks out for no reason on a cashier at the theater. Veronica is so bored she may as well be dead, wedded to a man she cannot love. Stuart has an awful opinion about everything. I mean everything. Yusef’s words sting everyone around him like a bee with bad knees. Larry buries people’s pets for a living. Louise left her family at the badlands and took off for Vegas. Dan ran, he just ran and ran, with nothing, into the woods. Grace shook her parents off and got cozier with their goods. Eleanor’s favorite social activity is calling the feds on “suspicious” people when her daughters aren’t occupying her time. Marianne, the respectable daughter, is demanded to grow a spine. In the bough of an anxious frenzy, MacKenzie cancels the seminar, goes to the bar instead. Terrance’s permanent mood is brood, and everyone hates him for it, especially his teachers. Esperanza got hassled at the park for sparking a blunt, even though it’s in a decriminalized marijuana state. Freckles, the cat, actually came back, but he was still a miserable feline. Annabelle doesn’t know the first thing about leaving, the distant dream of a tree living on top of a mountain. Patricia is numb all the way to her lungs, they stole her voice when they took her son away. Eddie, on the other hand, is hell-bent on owning everything. He sees a community of poor folks and he gets the machinery ready. Jeri, the street mime, is unable to find a way out of the box they put them in, Glen drives everyone nuts when he sings. And did you hear about our girl Heaven? She got on an international red-eye and was never seen again.
Mother Earth Succumbs to Sickness and Her Children Come to Visit
Too many long black nights that last forever. She can no longer sleep, rest has become impossible, and when sleep finally comes she cannot get out of her bed. Her sweat takes apart the towns and cities of the world, fills them with delirium and panic. She has lost control and she is alone in a hotel room battered by the winds of her laboring breath. Completely alone. Naked. Everything pummels her limbs: every pinched grain, TV, shifting begonia, nervous corporation. The stamina she had for enduring pain is obliterated like the bombs they use on her body, the bullets harvested to murder their offspring trying to get an education that would, undoubtedly, lead to more pain for themselves and for her. It’s too much. The stakes are too high. She must end this. Finally, she drifts off to sleep.
When she awakens, four women in beautiful hats are standing by her bed. Their eyes are beyond any universe she’s known before. Maybe this is where planets are taken when they die, and they’re here to escort her to a place that doesn’t involve the human saga. In their arms are the descendants of flowers she grew when she was working between depressive cycles, strange beings continuing their lives, who are grateful, who had left the planet eons ago because they were natural explorers, and now roamed the galaxies as bards telling stories about their origin mother. They began to sing, everyone began to sing. She knew the words. The delirium opened.
I asked an older white woman
what it’s like
living with the threat
of nuclear war
she said you live
don’t think about it
as casual as
While we have you...
...we need your help. While reading Four Poems by Nikki Wallschlaeger, you might have noticed the absence of paywalls at Boston Review. We are committed to staying free for all our readers. We've also gone one step further and become completely ad-free. This means you will always be able to read us without roadblocks or barriers to entry. It also means that we rely on you, our readers, for support. If you like what you read here, pledge your support to keep it free for everyone by making a tax-deductible donation.
February 14, 2020