"Not on my watch,"
the nightman to the clerk.
would never allow something like that to happen."
on my watch,
I am doing
what I can.
I could do more.
I were an angel,
way I think angels might be,
would cradle the head of people as they die,
them into my frame like a chair,
to speak every language so that I can whisper
McCartney's words of wisdom into their ear: "Let it be."
I were an angel, I would want to understand the forgiveness
waits in fear.
would visit the living.
would go to the Rasta crowded in his Florida jail cell,
slowly circle them,
his visions of dread-talk responsibility. Every word
its own kind of destiny.
would go to the pale man, in his pinstripe suit:
bars he does not see,
his hand, show him the Rasta's vision.
asks him if one man really knows how to judge another.
the cocoa man with dreadlocks he put away years
would drift into the eye of an infant as it absorbs color for
the information into the hand of a painter.
for long periods on the mountains of a father's fingers
they race across his grand piano.
from an African mother how to
water on my head for long distances,
her songs--the ones that keep one foot in front of the other.
the tears off the cheek of an eight-year-old American boy
he is told not to cry, lick them up so when he is a grandfather
can mail him a letter about his life.
a damp cloth gently across the President's cheek
he thrashes, twisting sweaty covers,
worn raw by the expensive sheets he bought for their
has nightmares, his heart bangs, ba-bang, bangs, refuses to
the Iraqi mother praying, covering in cloth.
heart, ba-BOOM, ba-BANG, BANG, thuds out her name for
word for home. Ba-boom, ba-bang, bang: oil pump pounding.
in the cancer ward with the grandmother who knits,
the bald cowboy who talks peaches with the nurse.
had a good peach from Alabama once, but I'm telling you..."
likes to tell stories about his orchard in Georgia.
flour at the woman baking in Mexico.
is wise enough to know that an angel teases her.
makes the best tortillas of all her sisters,
is why she is the cook tonight.
stained apron protects the flashing colors of her celebration
Tonight they are marking a new child's conception. I toss
that she will brush at her skin, shake laughter into the recipe.
alongside the man in red shorts in his moment of
on the sound of shoes against track, staggered
pushes him into the plastic tape, sweating, raising his
arms up to
sky. "YES... YES... YEESSSSSS!"
naked with new lovers, crosscrossed, playing tic-tac-toe
my body upon the hot sand to give a Ghanian boy a
feet. In exchange, he will teach me how to be grateful
will teach me how to talk to seashells,
what it means to live a shoeless life.
in the moonlight with sisters waltzing across a wooden
tripping over plastic chairs, kicking off high heels.
shoe plops into the lake and the
of women's shadows paint the ripples.
on the ceiling fan in a corporate office as an associate
his new location numbers: extra earnings for the boss,
smiles, pats him on the back. He rushes
new necklace for the wife.
am with him in his breast pocket, reaching around, embracing
to him images of local workers,
now that the company is moving.
show him the swollen eyes
the young man who will work in the new sweatshop,
to feed a village
a dollar a day.
will continue my embrace as he watches his wife hang
necklace among the dozens she cannot choose from.
into the dirt under the fingernails of the farmer.
with the scientist as she swims
the underwater cave, looking for the space
saltwater meets freshwater. She studies the kind of life
can survive constant change.
to the woman in India,
bitterly because her baby has been born a girl.
I will understand what it means to be a woman
naked over dirt floor, knuckles clenched in fists of blood,
womb signs a dowry to a husband and
bread for an old woman's table.
the line for a Colorado fisherman standing along the river
breath caught by the sunrise.
a mother goodbye with the lips of a boy strapped in
suicide bomber who knows unending hunger,
of lost brothers, a dying hope for cultural salvation.
desperate action that expresses all he has been taught of
would take his hand. I would go with him.
a mother goodbye with the lips of a boy dressed in uniform,
Army. A soldier who knows a country that tries for freedom,
homeland that makes promises.
he be prepared to confront the desperate poverty of his
leaves a mother. A desperate action
expresses all he has been taught of honor.
would take his hand. I would go with him.
inside a Native sweat lodge.
to prayers of earth, water, fire turned to steam,
element present in the center of this elders' ring
would stir the coffee of the night watchman, sitting in the
York Tower lobby, the man who
the faded brass-buttoned uniform and remembers the
everyone in his building, all those who come and go
their way to me.
I were an angel, I would understand forgiveness.
would sit on the other side of fear with
knowledge of oneness folded
a soft blue weave draped across my shoulder: padding
the head of the next member of my family.