after Langston Hughes
I followed the shimmer far down a road I still haven’t found
the ending to. I picked up my life
my mother sewed a map to back of—
so one day I’d lay it out and travel back to the flat land
of eastern North Carolina.
A map to land where my body will finally die,
where my ghost won’t ride the trains all night,
count steps from liberty to home.
I tried to find the ocean before I was covered in southern soil.
I put my head underneath the Atlantic, swallowed so many memories,
I’m filled with people,
someone has taught me to fly.
Whichever way I flew, my inheritance couldn’t be lifted
from northeastern North Carolina’s wet clay,
its hands harden around my already weighted ankles.
My mother’s mother planted hydrangeas where I wanted to place an ocean.
Where I wanted to place an ocean, she grew me.
I picked up my life, for it was the only one I had to pick up,
the way the body must pick itself up if no one is around
to offer a rounded hand out of the snow that only buries. Stuck to my life
were the same things I carry back with me now,
my father’s lying I’ve mastered and wear how a field wears the bones of birds.
The green tint of gin bottles my uncles made of their bare nights.
the only reason I have something to pick up.