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Everyone who has ever loved me has kept their razor close. Dull but,
when propped up on a vessel, sharp enough to make me wet.
Relax, it’s Sunday.
A Kodak print of my dead DJ uncle who nicknamed me Butterball
is propped up on a vessel on my water-damaged desk.
His pearlies beam with a KOOL. It’s my first birthday.
Butterball beamed then.
In Cabo Verde there was water everywhere but in the air.
I’m at Arquivo Nacional begging a piece of paper for an explanation.
Who needs a doctor’s note to confirm I was born moving on,
ass in the air, screaming singing.
If I look back at it,
you might think I’m alive.
Apologize! For thinking of someone else in my house!
Yes, I’ve rules in this house. Save, a house.
Mami, not the archives,
told me she stopped smoking crack when she met her crush at a wake.
That’s how bad I’d like to be desire’s idea of a good time. Unsick me,
that the first time I was touched
yes slid down the heart of my palm
like the essence of a mango, let’s say, of a peach.
Essence of a peach over mangoes.
Mangoes never ripen where I dwell.
I come here because I like the music.
DJ never cuts
the best part off
DJ knows where to cut
bandages my name and knows exactly where to scratch.
I receive the DJ on top of two resilient speakers.
We holler at the same time.
Before I holler any name, I, secret two letters,
perch them between the tiny gap
of my front teeth like when a child swallows what it wants
and adult is forced fearful.
SPIT IT OUT!
SPIT IT OUT!
OPEN YOUR MOUTH!
LET ME SEE.
Baby is mostly fine. Her letters rest unlonely.
As long as she is baby, baby moves on with her day.
Where am I now, but back in the hood, riding passenger side, my
Brazilian wet & wavy head heeled back in hope.
Pleasure as the sun screams onto my eyelids,
dying inside is not enough.
Unmoving, I wait for myself.
Shauna Barbosa is the author of the poetry collection Cape Verdean Blues (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the New Yorker, Ploughshares, AGNI, Iowa Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Poetry Society of America, PBS Newshour, Lit Hub, and others. She was nominated for PEN America’s 2019 Open Book Award and was a 2018 Disquiet International Luso-American fellow. Shauna received her MFA from Bennington College in Vermont and is currently working on a compilation of stories.
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