When My Mother had the World on Her Mind, Crickets in Her Ear
1. Boy, don’t let a shadow in you, I never want to see the devil in your eyes,
a traceable line of your daddies.
2. If you dream about fish or a river, somebody’s pregnant, we need the water
more than it needs us.
3. Dream about snakes, you haven’t been living right, wash your hands of it.
4. They’re shooting boys who look like you. You know my number, use it, keep all your blood.
5. Stay alive.
So badly I wanted to be washed away,
have my stomach flooded with the blood,
but I was never raised in a church,
never caught the spirit down my legs,
up my back, was taught early
not to trust anything white
or anything black wrapped in white,
snow against moonless sky.
All summer I looked for Jesus
in things around the house, in the eyes
of my grandmother’s picture on the wall.
So when we were invited to see
the water fall over my cousin's head
I went, eager to see something leave him,
to watch it crack the floor as it ran out,
see a faceless, a too small to be a shadow,
man go back to a kitchen un-hollow and settle
in the neck of a gin bottle, half empty.
The light through the stained windows
of the church was smiling.
I saw my cousin’s elevation,
I remember wings,
he flew around to the pulpit,
hallelujah went a deacon holding him, amen
went the other, fruits
on hats responded by shining
and I thought save me, save me, until
we were called niggers leaving the grocery store
and I went back
to breaking dove wings.
Tyree Daye is a poet enrolled in the MFA program at North Carolina State University, and a longtime member of the editorial staff at Raleigh Review. Daye’s work has been published in Prairie Schooner, San Pedro River Review and Sugared Water. His chapbook, entitled Sea Island Blues, was published by Backbone Press in 2014. Tyree recently released a new chapbook entitled What You and The Devil Do to Stay Warm with Blue Horse Press in 2015, won the Amy Clampitt Residency for 2018 and The Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner Award for his poems in the Fall 2015 issue. He is a Cave Canem fellow.