My ancestors weren’t hippies, cotton
precluded fascination with flowers.
I don’t remember communes, I remember
ghettos. The riots were real, not
products of hallucinogens. Free love had
been at Redbones since black unemployment
and credit saturation.
The white women my mother cleaned
for didn’t notice she had changed. I guess
it was a small event, a resurrected African
jumping out the gap in her front teeth. I
guess it looked like a cockroach; that’s
what she was supposed to have, not dignity.
My mother just couldn’t get excited
about the Beatles, those mops she swilled
in ammonia everyday on their heads. Besides,
she didn’t work like a dog but like a woman;
they aren’t the same. The hair was growing long
for the same reasons Pinocchio’s nose did.
I can think only of a lesbian draping
crepe paper chains over my head to make a
black Rapunzel possible; that’s how a white
woman tried to lift my burdens. At the time
I didn’t reject her for being lesbian or
white but for both burdens. That was when
I didn’t want Ivory soap to be what
cleaned me, made me presentable to society.
All the suds I’d seen were white, they still
are but who cares? I’m more interested in
how soap dwindles in my hand, under the faucet.
I’m old enough to remember blocks
of ice, old enough or poor enough.
I remember chipping away at it, broken
glass all over the floor. Later in the
riots, the broken glass of looting tattled
how desperate people were to keep cool.
There are roses now in my mother’s yard.
Sometimes she cuts them, sets them in Pepsi
bottles throughout her rooms. She is,
I admit, being sentimental. Looting her
heart. My father who planted them is gone.
That mop in the corner
is his cane growing roots.