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Billye Okera

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They Are All Dead
by Billye Okera
Rated "PG13" by the Author.
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They are all Dead:
Ancestor leave, all of the time; and some of the time they leave
wounds that never heal. And yet...


They are all dead
My father lies beneath the cold earth I don’t know where
And I search for him like a hound after his own vomit
And you wonder why I curl in your arms and cry 
  Like a child
While all the while – you wanting me to be a woman
And I’m just want you to touch me without violation
Realizing all the while that the earth decays all things
The way love decays when you try to make it 
  Something it can’t be.

My father wore a big Stetson hat
Aand he drank Remy and Martin
Until my mother’s face became his spittoon
and she swooned and fell
Until the child in her belly cried “Let her be”
And he never forgave nor cuddled nor cared
Nor even spared the rod to spoil the child
But died all lonely in a room where they found him
  Three-days later
And put him in a morgue where they named him
  Three-months later
And you wonder why this loneliness.

My father died the death of lonely Black man
Suffering and wanting his woman – to want him
But she couldn’t want him - and wouldn’t have him
Because he was too, too wounded to love
Hate permeating all that he touched –
  He stopped touching her
Except to leave his handprint on her face And pride.

And I search for him like a hound after his own vomit
And I wallow in the likes of him
Men - absent hope - absent the ability to touch
 Without violation
Absent temperance, and so absent joy
Or just enough to bid me come to them, 
   Touch them, taste them
And they spew me for their mouth A luke-warm flusey.

Whose tragedy is this?
  Whose dream is this?
    Whose fault is it?
Who’s going to bring the balm of Gilead
And paste the poultice on this wound
And let the puss past from entrails telling no lies?
My father died, and I can’t even remember his face.
My father died, and I can’t even smell his breath.
My father died, and I never dream of him
I never think of him, I never tell him lies
He never told me stories or read me poems
He never said my name, or called me baby
He never played with my pigtails
Or swung me, scared to death, in the air
To catch me again – to teach me his presence  
  was assured.
He never stepped to the boys who stepped to me
And never told me I was beautiful – even if it were a lie
And I never believed it.
   And least…I coulda’ believed him.

My father lies beneath the cold earth I don’t know where
Don’t know if there is a marker for his grave
Yet he has marked himself in memory
He has seated himself in the empty chair 
  Beside the chiferobe
Where locked inside, I hide my need of him
And my hatred of his absence.

They ARE all dead!
My mother lies beneath the cold earth
Her grave un-marked in stark recognition.
My mother died just as I began to tell her the truth
Just as I began to level with her about the pain
Just as I began to name the demons she had brought to me And had them devour me without penance.

My mother died and I cared for her as all daughters do
And I nursed her as all daughters do
But, I do not remember loving her…
And, I did not cry for her.  These tears 20 years later…
Stand at the ready in a steady refutation of need.
I plead with God everyday to let the torrents flow
And render me able to feel the cold, cold chill
  Of her leaving.
What’s grief when there is no relief in memories of joy?
Or secrets told - or an old soul coming to you in the night
   To quiet torment?

My mother died the death of a lonely Black woman.
So strong. So brave. So eager for the love that never came - She’d name anything a blessing
And confessing only said, “I’m Sorry, Baby”,
  Not, “I didn’t know”, but just, “I’m Sorry,
     O’ my God, I’m so sorry.
And I guess that will have to be enough
Since the dead don’t rise to ratify remorse.

When I am old…when I am leaving this place
And even grace won’t save me
Then…what will THEY say of me?
What trespass will they recall to forestall their time?
And what rhyme will they give their children of me?
And what potion will they need?
And what tears will they cry?
And what memory will they hold?
And what legacy will they nurture?
And what ditty will they remember me singing
  When I am old...
Before the cold, cold earth reclaims me!

                                           Billye Okera ©2005

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Reviewed by Mitzi Jackson
wow this is magnificent! powerful and real!
how many women have echo these cries in the universe?
far far too many
your voice is so needed in this world in this place and i am glad to be meeting it here!!!
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