Back to Issue Twenty-Nine.

Can’t Afford Sadness in a Time Like This


Because no one is down sick or dead
tired, the black patron saint of sadness

tells me I’m not allowed to weep.
So here I am, all manners and no accent,

sitting here in the land of field peas and saltwater
fish, not weeping but watching

my cousin in ACT I of motherhood
as she pulls the pink taffy from her fingers

and stuffs it in her twins’ mouths. They stretch
their necks like stunted giraffes. We can’t afford

sadness on this wide street of abandoned
school buses where we both stole

our first sip of Crown, where a neighbor boy crashed
my cousin’s dirt bike into the tree and she cursed him

out like a drunk uncle
until her mother dragged her

into the house. We can’t afford it
as we sit in the foliage of willows. We must

enjoy a gentle sweat. The leaves
are so green and cover us both

like Baptist hands, no one hears us
sing of our no show siblings with a Motown

grief. No one can look at us and know
we are as lonely as every room

without a piano. We know too
much and not enough about

our faces and who gave them to us.
My father now lives

in the letters on my cousin’s calf
and I visit him when I can.

Her father joined him this year,
and I have not offered my skin

as a canvas for a needle’s pinch. I know
they both went into a light, my father breathing,

until not. Her father breathing then thrashing
into it like their pet pit hit

by the mail truck. Her puppies left
to house in their peeling garage.

I’ve been running from what needs me.
I refuse to make either of us cry in this poem so

I’ll just tell you that the willow weeps.

Karisma Price is a Cave Canem fellow. Born and raised in New Orleans, LA, she holds a BA in creative writing from Columbia University and an MFA in poetry from New York University. Her work has appeared in Four Way Review, Narrative Magazine, Wildness, and elsewhere. She is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Tulane University in New Orleans and along with Kwame Opoku-Duku III, she is a founding member of the Unbnd Collective.


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