DREAMS OF MISSISSIPPI BURNING
BY KALVIN MARQUIZ
plucked from my mother’s once barren womb:
a desert split open. She spills out sand dunes,
a city of salt for every child that could not
latch onto umbilical cords.
My smile is a cesarean wound.
A stitch for every sibling that did not burst from mama
and cling to her bosom. for every daughter I could not be
for my father. for the son I will never be.
When she looks at me all she sees is smoke, though
she does not look at me often.
Once, I am sure, she looked at my body
swaddled in white fleece and wiped off of blood and said,
My God. Saw: a miracle, a torch,
a burning bush telling her to bring the children
to the land of milk. Cradled me to her breast and said,
Do not be afraid. You will not perish. I will be with you. My God.
My mom does not talk about her nine miscarriages,
the lives she cultivated and felt wilt,
plucked from her like pearls from an ocean bed.
I think she is too afraid to look back,
too afraid to watch the city she lived in burned,
too afraid to spill into salt.
Instead she looks through me, her brimstone child
like one faces a wind,
wise of the season that has past.
Once I was young. This I know.
Once she combed my hair.
She parted each section,
her fingers dancing through the thick, brimming.
Once she told me I would do great things.
Once she said, I prayed to have my own children.
Once she said, I’ll always love you.
I was her son,
dark and brimming with possibility.
Once she cried and my hair thought it rain or an offering.
Once she was done combing my hair,
we went to church. This I know. This I have to know.
If the church says, Amen, it is a word.
And thus it was a word.
The reverb of a hollowing Amen
gnawed my ribs into prison bars.
What Reverend could have said instead of gay
was Paper weight of the bible. Robber of the barren womb. Apocrypha.
Soon to vanish.
& what always can be said in place of faggot:
Is it no surprise Sodom and Gomorrah were
in the South? Along a river?
Needless to say, the church was in Mississippi.
Needless to say, the river is full of bodies.
(We are not to forget history.)
Needless to say, on a summer day,
the sun can melt concrete.
Needless to say, a child, even if tucked inside a church, can melt
under the weighted glare of sun.
I have forgotten who She is.
I think her God now.
I have no holy father,
only an anointed mother who can offer me salvation.
Instead of bone she broke flesh,
and I am here,
a river of guilt.
A heart like Mississippi.
Full of dead brown bodies.
Full of cities waiting for reckoning.
She watches me like a farmer watches rain,
assessing what (damage) will be done.
“You know Sodom and Gomorrah burned for the desires of the flesh, boy.”
And God never looked back.
Yet we drive through Mississippi as if it is holy ground.
Sometimes I stare in puddles,
and see faceless children.
Their silhouettes inhale,
and I beg them to give me back my breath,
who art in guilt.
Hallowed be thy Womb.”
I thought hallowed meant empty.
I thought thy meant mine.
So forgive me of my selfishness.
I thought, Hallowed be thy name.
Meant my body was to be filled,
in the ways, by the people
who I pleased.
But again we do not pick our own names.
Again we do not own our own bodies.
Again I am sorry.
For taking the vessel of a real son away from you.
For each city burnt, each child not conceived,
I offer a name.
Plucked from my mom’s womb,
a sea of C’s,
for the real sons I am not. for the daughters I am
too much like:
cecilia, cameron, carson, casey, c____, c____, c____, c_____,
Once I burnt myself on the stove to see how hot flesh can get before melting.
Needless to say, it was before church.