AMERICAN SONNET FOR MY GRANDFATHER’S LOVECHILD

by terrance hayes

You take a tree where all the blackbirds are sleeping,

Except for the one clapping its wings: that’s the kind

Of woman who raised me.  My mother changed her name

To daughter, then to sister, then back to mother again.

Three times, she parked outside her wretched father’s house

Undertaking a melancholy kind of karaoke, she can’t sing

Really, she’s ashamed of her teeth, but she pretended

An emcee was saying, Give her a hand when she finished.

I wasn’t there, but I bet she jangled her car keys

As if she was offering a small girl a ride to the beach,

To the oceanside, to the water a girl becomes to survive

And the soft applause washing ashore when she retreats.

To love her I had to love the night curling up around me.

I woke up surprised whether she was coming or going.

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