from NER 39.3 (2018)
Spades is a way of life for black folks.
My mother went into labor
In the middle of a game.
I was born as
Five and a possible. She said
She’d felt no greater pain than that loss,
Than when she turned away, shamefaced
In the midst of kin,
When certain bragging rights began to crown.
They pulled my body from her diamond,
Held me up to meet her gaze, to study
The odds of what a luckless god had
Given. An overbid could get you shot
At Grandma’s house, could have you
Question the number of hearts
You had in your hand.
Everyone knew that my mother was the score-
Keeper. She counted the books twice every
Round. There had been three before me.
Babies my mother got but did not get.
My mother taught me to watch a man’s eyes
When he deals, to cut the deck
Like his cord of wishful
She’d warn in silence, don’t talk across the table!
Then demonstrate over dinner with my father,
As the air held the weight of
After the divorce and Grandma’s funeral,
All the words in my mother for tired
Were tired, her hands folded in scorn