For my Wife, who Fell in Love with a Ship Buried at Sea
By William H. Evans
I. Language for the Thereafter
I don’t know if I would find another husband
as much as I’d find a way to keep your ghost
from sitting in the corner, trying to shake gunpowder
off your shaved face; and I’m left with a stomach
bumpy with gravel and whatever else is made from the dead.
They warned me, ya know. Not about some other woman’s hands.
Not about you leaving me or anything, easy. They warned me
you were too dark to be mistaken. Too dark to be bystander
or anonymous. I couldn’t listen to that choir anymore. I wanted
the trumpet, even with all that dirt shoved down its throat.
II. The Son that Became a Full Box
I catch my mother watching some movie
where rosary-draped women in Italy tear themselves
apart on top of a boy’s casket. My mother’s voice
is the smallest thing in the room. Nobody got time
for all that hollerin’, gotta work the next day.
Keep my voice in one piece, so I don’t quiver when I tell
your father that someone cut down his forest.
He won’t say much, but he’ll be mad. Anybody’s
guess how it shows. Let the courts tell it, black men
always angriest after they already dead
and somebody else on trial for it.
One night, you joked about not making it home
because of the hoodie you wore. I was so mad
at you, I wished myself more daughters.
Nobody survived a Molotov through the window
so you could play dead for the coyotes.
Ain’t nothing funny about finding your heart
in a shallow grave.
III. Of the Many Toys
Two-year olds claim anything in their universe,
and still, my daughter says, My Daddy,
as if someone is trying to take me from her.
She doesn’t understand that no one wants me, like she
does, but rather the ground got more arms to hold on with,
puts up a bigger fight.
My Daddy is a raft in the black water wild.
My Daddy be fingers that keep a black hole from closing.
My Daddy the last dance before the hanging,
the one that don’t end until the men with guns
get bored and go home to count dead, suspicious
boys in their sleep. Her face raises a black sail
when she has to watch me walk into a pile of bones, like
I’m supposed to come back. Like I can make
it light again. Have you ever had the burden
of making the sun rise, everyday? Do you
have any idea how exhausting that is?
By William H. Evans
only talk to her in a crowd. smile, incessantly. remember your belt
almost too-tight. know the answers in class. only volunteer
half of the time. cloak the depth of your voice. show her a picture of
your mother. your sisters. the good ones. text her after school to make
sure she’s home, but don’t walk her home. alone. text, everything.
keep them. remember oral conversations are harder to dispute.
break the bank on a polo. leave the watch at home. the earrings.
the dread locks. a firm grip for her father, a two hand vice of harmless.
do not cringe on the living room tour, the one where no black faces
appear in the photos. mention your mother. mention her fancy job. your
five year plan. your ten year plan. your plan past the life expectancy he
thinks is owed you. mention his daughter in every single one. avoid music.
avoid the suffix on your own name. avoid your whereabouts on election
night. avoid talk of your father at all cost. never avoid eye contact, not
when he thanks you for coming, not when you thank him for letting you
leave his home alive. your goodnight kiss to his daughter? doesn’t happen.
not this time, not this congress. know your distance. know the key
in the ignition like you know the bomb isn’t armed. this time. check your
mirrors. check your mirrors. check your mirrors for traffic. know that the new
polo isn’t warm enough tonight. know warm only exists for the living. know
the hoodie stays in the trunk tonight. know what stays in the trunk.
William H. Evans is a writer and instructor from Columbus, Ohio His work appears or is forthcoming in The Legendary, Union Station Magazine, joint and others. His second poetry manuscript, lowercase boy, will be published on Penmanship Books in the Fall 2014.