Lynne Procope

Issue #
February 3, 2014

the poet's lover is white and speaks in his sleep

Some days my mouth is filled with stones.
What I am saying is that I am clumsy.
I want to be white and still be in love with her.

Some nights I watch the places our skins overlap.
I think it is easier to say- brown than it is to say
skin made of armor and anguish. She is beautiful

the way an ocean is beautiful.
I can never tell how deep she is or how dangerous.
When she is sleeping I listen to her heart’s
subtle pulse. Its sound fills my ears.

I am swallowing the stones
to make room in here for babies, for calypso,
for scotch bonnet peppers, for hip hop, for
the swollen well of my lover’s anger, for her knives,
for the long reach of her sorrow, her patois,
her distant stare that some days says I am
too different for her to believe me, for the strange sounds
hiving at the back of her throat.

Some days
I want to make love to the back of her throat.

I put my mouth to her neck,
to the delicate glands, to the clavicle and I imagine
I can hear her grandmothers drowning.
I put my hands around her throat.

My lover can go for hours without breathing.
She wears her grandmother’s dresses, too well,
I think. She is not kind. She still hasn’t forgiven me
for being born this way.

She comes from women hewn of iron.
She tells me that only a few of them could contrive
to stay aboard the ships, only one or two could keep themselves
from sinking swiftly into the Atlantic.
Some nights she dreams she sees their arms
undulating below the water, reaching for her feet.
Some nights she doesn’t sleep at all. She says after all this time,
maybe their arms are not so brown anymore, she says
perhaps the water has stolen this too from them.

She does not know if they wave welcome or warning.

She comes from women fragile as coconut husk.
She is all throat. I do not believe her
when she tells me she is afraid of the ocean.
I do not believe her when she says she cannot swim.
She only tells me this when we are neck deep in the Atlantic.
She only admits her fears when she is done swallowing.
My lover can swallow the ocean.

I allow the stones of her to settle in my stomach.
           I am choking on the stones, beloved.

I’m still clumsy. I’m in love with a woman
made of color. She is cruel. She is laughter.
She is bare, all the time. I allow her to leave me,
to strip me naked, to marvel at how pale I am
beside her.                   I am looking for her
in rooms full of people who never see her.
I am seeing her, every day, for the first time.

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