"Ghosts," by Emmanuela
 
   
 

 

     
 

 i

We are not always
the bravest sons
our fathers dream.
Nor do they always
dream of us.
We don't always
recognize him
if we have never
seen his face.
We are suspicious
of strangers.
Question:
is he the one?

ii

I stand waist deep
in the decadence of forgetting.
The vain act of looking the other way.
Insisting there can be peace
and fecundity without confrontation.
The nagging question of blood hounds me.
How do I honor it?

iii

I don't understand
our choice of angers,
your domestic violence,
my flaring temper.
I wanted tenderness
to belong to us
more than food or money.
The ghost of my wants
is many things:
lover, guardian angel,
key to our secrets,
the dogs we let sleep.
The rhythm of silence
we do not disturb.

iv

I circle questions of blood.
I give a fierce fire dance.
The flames call me.
It is safe. I leap
unprepared to be brave. I surrender
more frightened of being alone.
I have to do this
to stay alive.
To be acknowledged.
Fire calls. I slither
to the flames
to become birth.

v

A black hole, gaseous,
blisters around its edge,
swallows our estranged years.
They will never return
except as frightening remembrances
when we are locked in closets
and cannot breathe or scream.

I want to be free, daddy,
of the black hole between us.
The typical black hole.
If we let it be
it will widen enough
to swallow us.
Won't it?

vi

In my loneliest gestures
learning to live
with less is less.
I forstalled my destiny.
I never wanted
to be your son.
You never
made the choice
to be my father.
What we have learned
from no text book:
is how to live without
one another.
How to evade the stainless truth.
Drug pain bleary-eyed.
Harmless.
Store our waste in tombs
beneath the heart,
knowing at any moment
it could leak out.
And do we expect to survive?
What are we prepared for?
Trenched off.
Communications down.
Angry in alien tongues.
We use extreme weapons
to ward off one another.
Some nights, our opposing reports
are heard as we dream.
Silence is the deadliest weapon.
We both use it.
Precisely. Often.
 
     

 

 

 "The Father, Son and Unholy Ghosts" © 1996, 2002 by Essex Hemphill

This piece appeared in the first edition of the companion book Tongues Untied: Poems by Dirg Aaab-Richards, Craig G. Harris, Essex Hemphill, Isaac Jackson, Assotto Sainte (London: GMP, 1987). Reprinted by permission of the author; the Frances Goldin Literary Agency; and the Hemphill family.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
 
     
 

Original Graphics © 2002 by Emmanuela Copal de León
 

 

 

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