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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.

Douglas Kearney

Douglas Kearney

Douglas Kearney is the author of Someone Took They Tongues (Subito Press, 2016).