I wondered what my mom would do in the morning
When she heard I was gone.
I don’t know what the word is
For a parent left orphaned by their child
But I wondered what my mother’s face would look like
When she learned she was no longer mother to bone and flesh of hers
only to the niggas on the corner who call her mama out of respect.
My very last seconds defied time
Held them by the shoulders to laugh in its face deep from the belly
My very last seconds were years
They condensed a lifetime into a thick, sugary molasses
My very last seconds lasted longer than the Confederacy’s rebellion
As they were plucked from me like eyelash petals from a daisy.
In my very last seconds, my mouth flashed the taste of cardamom,
My tongue dry and quiet.
In my last seconds, I spent years mourning the life I wouldn’t get to live
A life I fought for every day
A life dragged through the streets under the armpits towards salvation.
I vaguely wondered why the fuck anyone coined the term “friendly fire.”
In my very first seconds of non-existence, I took the moon’s job
Reflected her light — blue and shiny and complete — over my tightened skin
An unwilling beacon to guide my sisters through the dark night
As my mouth flashed with the taste of dirt,
my tongue dry and quiet
I vaguely wondered who will replace the statues
With their metal noses scratching at the pavement.
The day after, I could hear the earth humming
An imperceptible rumble
The feeling of rocks shifting
Deep in the throat base of women who looked like me
As they each caught each other’s fire
And the rumble became a volcanic avalanche
As black women are known to mourn
It is so intrinsic that you could find it in our DNA
All too acquainted with how to mourn our girls.
They pushed me out
Through round hips and tearing and blood and spit
I crowned seconds before their grief
And my mouth flashed the taste of stars
And my mouth was hot and quiet.
I vaguely wondered what my face would look like plastered next to Goldman Sachs
In my senior photos
If my shade of brown would compliment the screams.
I couldn’t see
But I could imagine from their cries
I couldn’t see
But I could hear their kneecaps cracking the pavement in my honor
And the girls and the mothers cried out my name
Distinct, precise, syllabic:
Their voices sounded like my own
I made sure to project my vocal cords to them
With my last second, I gifted them my breath.
I can hear the low rumbling of a voice that sounds like my own
Demanding at the very least, that they pronounce each letter of my name with confidence.
And my mouth was dry and silenced and spiced and cracked and angry
I vaguely wondered what the moon would have looked like on my birthday
And if her full face would show itself, reflected in mine
If I listened hard enough, maybe I could hear them screaming themselves raw
With my voice
It would even reach the moon.
Edited by: Ava Emilione
Cover Photo: Oluwatoyin Salau