Before Making Love
–Toi DerricotteI move my hands over your face,
the cheek bones, broadly spaced,
the wide thick nostrils of the African,
the forehead whose bones push
forward at both sides as if the horns
of new fallen angels lie just under,
the chin that juts forward with pride.
I think of the delicate skull of the Taung child—
earliest of human beings
emerged from darkness—whose geometry
brings word of a small town of dignity
that all the bloody kingdoms rest on.
La poesie vit d’insomnie perpetuelle
—René CharThere’s a sickness in me. Duringthe night I wake up & it’s broughta stain into my mouth, as ifan ocean has risen & left backa stink on the rocks of my teeth.I stink. My mouth is ugly, humanstink. A color like rustis in me. I can’t get rid of it.It rises after Ibrush my teeth, a tastelike iron. In thenight, left like a dream,a caustic lightwashing over the insides of me.*What to do with my arms? Theycoil out of my bodylike snakes.They branch & spit.I want to shake myselfuntil they fall like witheredroots; untilthey bend the right way—until I fit in them,or they in me.I have to lay them down ascarefully as an old wedding dress,I have to fold themlike the arms of someone dead.The house is quiet; allnight I struggle. Allbecause of my arms,which have no peace!*I’m a martyr, a girl who’s been deadtwo thousand years. I turnon my left side, like one comfortableafter a long, hard death.The angels look downtenderly. “She’s sleeping,” they say& pass me by. Butall night, I am passingin & out of my bodyon my naked feet.*I’m awake when I’m sleeping & I’msleeping when I’m awake, & no oneknows, not even me, for my eyesare closed to myself.I think I am thinking I seea man beside me, & he thinksin his sleep that I’m awakewriting. I hear a pen scratcha paper. There is some ideaI think is clever: I want tocapture myself in a book.*I have to make aplace for my body inmy body. I’m like adog pawing a blanketon the floor. I have toturn & twist myselflike a rag until Ican smell myself in myself.I’m sweating; the water ispouring out of melike silver. I put my headin the crook of my armlike a brilliant moon.*The bones of my left footare too heavy on the bonesof my right. Theylie still for a little while,sleeping, but soon theybruise each other likeangry twins. Thenthe bones of my right footcommand the bones of my leftto climb down.