The Best Literary Writing About Mothers and Motherhood

Cheryl Boyce-Taylor – Poems

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CHERYL BOYCE-TAYLOR

 

STILL THE SWEETEST WORDS I EVER HEARD:

Mom, I found my girl, she reminds me of you. Her name is Deisha.
Mom I’m getting married walk me down the aisle.
Mom I’m coming home for your birthday
Mom I love you     Mom grandma is my best friend I ever had
Mom the album went gold   Mom I have a son his name is David Mom I love that little guy.

Try to forgive the wish of the body
leave the ache behind tears pressed into a damp box
start by burning the mosquito nets   let river rise in your bones let rage burn it down   build again

I miss my child’s morning voice as I wake him on his birthday/

I miss the way he says ma tell me about my twin brother/and what time was I born ma/and how many pounds did I weigh again/and when did you get to hold me ma/how long did I live in my incubator/and tell me mama the story about how I was born first/ before my twin Mikal/in the labor room/and how the doctors scurried around when they heard the loud hollering baby A./and how they came to find baby B. on his way out/after you had told them repeatedly that you were a twin/and that you were having twins/how did you know this mama/

Sitting at the edge of Wesley Lake I ask my friend Jessica am I really growing out of grief Is my heart mending or am I kidding myself     Jessica who has eaten grief and lived to tell  so I ask  am I getting better  still unsure of the opening at the long tunnel of losing a child this ache that splits-

November 1970 the year my child was born trees gathered empty house ill shaped with winter   too soon he came out of my child’s body eyes coral brown   slick as rain puddles   he entered mouth a blue wiry wind   hands dark as Volta river   and I fell and stood stood and fell   torn away at the root an exquisite ache at the grounding.

 

I thrash around in bed
scream at the window
I wonder if God hears
I look to privit her lean brown frame
she gives me no answer just stands there
winking in her forest green eye shadow wordless
the mask of her stillness visible on her tapered neck
I eat and eat from the table of loss finally when it’s all gone I want more
afraid to live with/without it   miss the daily discipline of tears as company
miss the scorch loss brings to my face thank you
and please  the morning stab of grief

Cry cry scream break the planet body  body break the planet/even now I take a last slow look push my stomach into the blue metal box one last time push and push so you touch your first home

That boy entered my house by the back door. Swallowed my joy then made a poem. That year the boy learned to make spells Rap music to keep the blues at bay. That man who prayed before each meal. That man who lived and lived brave that man who loved hip hop/rhymes/hymns/prayers/falling out of his pocket/ deep funky brass keys trailing out his back door.

My sweet boy
my river my baby who smelled like popcorn and freshly picked tangerines
how sharply loss wounds the body

wounds the body body

Before she enters the long hallway ascends the 22 steps to our apartment
I can hear my wife’s whistle    no matter the occasion   she whistles

Imagine summer without Japanese azaleas  their light paper wings   my tongue heavy as a car tire  hands an empty cardboard box
no son’s shoulder to caress no face to cup in damp palm loss wounds the body
to braid my child’s hair again to make him beef stew  hear the pots bang
outside death’s teeth stunned us into a kind of freeze     we walked
around zombie-like mornings we woke   put the coffee pot on flipped up the news the world went round
and round and round as usual

imagine that-

 

 

Malik as a baby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“In March of 2016, I unexpectedly lost my only child Malik Boyce Taylor to Type 1 Diabetes and Kidney disease. He was a real trooper throughout the twenty-six years that he struggled with that dreadful disease. At 16, he and his friend Q-tip founded “A Tribe Called Quest, a Hip Hop Jazz Band, he lived for his music wrapping their last album about two weeks before he died. He was a father, husband, uncle and loving son. The brightest light of my life went out that day. I have been trying to keep my son’s zest for life alive through my words. Always for Malik, the beautiful.” CBT

 


Cheryl Boyce-Taylor is the author of four collections of poetry. Her new collection ARRIVAL was published in 2017 by TriQuartely Books: Northwestern University Press. About Arrival: “Precise, glowing, and painfully beautiful language set to a cadence that moves inside the body even after the poem has closed.” -Kimiko Hahn

 

 

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