Can’t Afford Sadness in a Time Like This
BY KARISMA PRICE
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.