The night my friend died
he pressed dark chocolate
into a macaroon, popped it
in my mouth. The sweetness
cut the pain. Another time
he shows me how to fry
black mustard seed in ghee,
spoons silky dhal between my lips
with one raised eyebrow:
“Enough salt? Enough cumin?”
The day he gave me his hand
Baba wore a robe the color of mint.
Sometimes he ignores me for weeks,
then comes to me in dreams
riding a tractor or sitting on a deerskin.
Baba has three small moles
on the left side of his face.
When he prays, we see
the bottom of his socks are dirty.
Baba plays a blues lick
on his ‘66 Fender,
in the dark his glasses glint
and hide his eyes.
Baba says if you’re very quiet
you can hear a sound inside
like crickets singing,
then sleeps with his head
in my lap.
Baba shouts at us to stay awake,
says we can sleep when we’re dead,
he rocks back and forth when he chants,
sends his wives around
to splash us with rosewater.
Baba gives me his hats
he moves sick people away from me
he drives a red pickup
he gave me five hundred dollars
he gave me a new name.
Baba disappears into a photo booth at the airport,
reappears to give me a small version
of his face.
Baba cut all his hair off, then he grew it again,
he wears no coat when it’s cold.
Baba passes me in the coffeehouse, writes
at the top of my letter, Bismillah, since
Baba does everything in God’s name.
When he rolls a smoke
on a picnic table in the moonlight,
watching trains go from Chicago to New Orleans
and back again,
a circle always gathers
to ask the hard questions:
what about abortion, what about gay people,
what happens when you die?
In the silence before he answers
I know the stories about Jesus
Baba, Baba, I can hardly keep up—
my heart runs after you
with my soul in its hands.