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Douglas  Kearney
Douglas Kearney

The Black Woman’s Tears Swap Meet Is Open Every Day

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, July 25, 2016.
About this Poem 

“‘The Black Woman’s Tears Swap Meet is Open Every Day’ started out as sections of another poem called ‘The Black Woman’s Tear Monger’ in which a street vendor’s holler (the vendor’s hawking tears) is intercut with eerie scenes of black women weeping. ‘The Black Woman’s Tears Swap Meet’ is a family album in a similar vein; like ‘Tear Monger,’ ‘Swap Meet’ reimagines private and public sources of grief into a catalog of images I tried not to think of as metaphors. Both appear in my upcoming book, Buck Studies.”
—Douglas Kearney

The Black Woman’s Tears Swap Meet Is Open Every Day

some black women are my friends & their tears seem the hems
                           of blue dresses.   I ball un-ball
my pocketed palms
                           & think on stockings, bells.

among my students sometimes number black women—
I wish their tears were rungs;  such desire may too be grease,                tho.

my mother’s youngest sister’s torn calendar tears,
             Mondays, Marches, 29ths, ’91s & ’83s
till wicker bins choke, shredder hacks.

a couple of tears, middle sister pinches at her eye,
a black woman’s spyglass. she peers
through the wide between her &.

my older cousins, black women, their tears are:
             (a)  fresh batteries in broken clocks
             (b)  ruined coin souvenirs
             (c)  wheatbread heels jim crowed in fridges
             (d)  what pitted the yellow linoleum thus

the black mother of the black woman who married me,
her tears’re sunk ships:
coral polyps load the lode  & awful hopeful at it.

...!!!] then I’m at last quiet.
                                       my daughter, black girl, rattles,
at me, her scabbard of tears.


my younger cousins, black women, their tears are:
            (a)  pill bottles
            (b)  in pill bottles
            (c)  lids you press down, then turn to loose
            (d)  anything bottled & near bathroom mirrors

likely my father’s oldest sister, black woman,
kept her tears where they’d pass for shotgun:
            slant shade the jamb threw as simmering mask.
 
            my father’s other sister, her tears stop his mouth,
or they’re wood doves, cote’d in his chestnut mind?

grandmother, my black father’s mother? gone.
her tears were empty chairs: pine
                                                  among pine-ware.

white bowl      though the rice there was tears of my great aunt,
black woman.

these days, my grandmother, black woman who mothered my               mother,
mislays her tears—she always finds them in the,
                                                            finds them in,
                                                            finds them—.

the black woman who married me,
her tears inside her out like black church stockings   /     runs.

& my black mother dead.

Copyright © 2016 by Douglas Kearney. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 25, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2016 by Douglas Kearney. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 25, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

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American Poets
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From the Archive: May Swenson at Joshua Tree National Park.
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Like Any Good American

I bathe my television    in total attention    I give it my corneas
I give it my eardrums    I give it my longing
In return I get pictures      of girls fighting    and men flying
and women in big houses    with tight faces    blotting down tears
with tiny knuckles    Sometimes my mother calls
and I don't answer      Sometimes a siren     sings past the window
and summer air     pushes in     dripping with the scent
of human sweat       But what do I care      I've given my skin
to the TV     I've given it my tastes     In return    it gives me so many
different sounds     to fill the silence   where the secrets
of my life     flash by like ad space     for the coming season

Brynn Saito
2013
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One Today

A Poem for Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration
January 21, 2013

 

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.

All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.

One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.

The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello / shalom,
buon giorno / howdy / namaste / or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.

One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn’t give what you wanted.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together

Richard Blanco
2016
June Jordan Postcard from 1978
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A Small Needful Fact

Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.

Ross Gay
2016