Suppose I could tumble into the Charleston harbor
and waves could weave my hair into roses,
float me in dark until I forgot the jagged
fault lines underneath. Suppose a sandspur’s
hooked in my foot and the skin on my heel
is Charleston and my eyes hurt from reading
the newspaper from that paper mill furling over the bridge.
Suppose my mother took my hand and dragged
me all over Charleston, where people don’t play music
on the streets, the music is bottled
and comes out of vending machines like Coke.
Maybe my hair is salted full of sandgnats.
Maybe I bled on a cannon aimed at the sea.
Suppose the black children in Market Street paintings
were nailed to their joggling boards. Suppose the bridesmaids
in plantation weddings wore dresses of red clay
and devoured cake with stained teeth. My mother smiles
when she directs strangers to the slave market,
when she explains those bright colored houses,
how they’d send slaves to the pink, the purple, the green.
I hate to talk about these things.
If the cobblestones cracked, teeth would bubble
over the streets, and they’d be pink, purple,
green, and sharper than steeples.
Suppose my mother had palms like pine bark
that stung when she clapped,
that her skin melted and broke like praline.
Suppose we were braided together into a sweetgrass basket
and saw the sun in slits and someone lit a match.
I need to talk about these things.
I need to smell horse shit behind carriages
in the street and I need to tell people about Charleston
because my bones are wrought iron
fences, they hold me up like iron earthquake
rods between Charleston houses.
When the ground shivers like skin
brushing off a fly.