by Dave Harris
this is the part you hate most.
every night before bedtime but after the bath
once the water has spilled and washed the wear away
your mother holds a stick of cocoa butter to the flame
lets it melt into her palm
drop by drop, she rubs the oil into your feet
ashy as hell, always on the parts that hold the most weight
ankles and elbows, knees, the spaces between fingers
they need touch the most.
your body does not look familiar like this.
you only know the white of things
got no clue why this ghost cannot live here
nothing pretty in ash; flesh dries into sin
healed daily with oil and cream and sometimes a wet tongue
this desperate salvation.
she holds your small body like mothers do.
soothes every split. oils each wound.
massages away your chalk outline until ain’t nothing left but shine
black boy always be shining
we stay on all the surfaces
we leave the windows with new glisten, stain the mirror
can’t help but slick everything we touch
nothing wanna touch us back
you smell of cocoa butter, and you don’t even know
what country that smell comes from but it don’t matter
y’all all stink the same
you grease thing
you child of tar and reek
you slow die in this air
and this is the part you hate most
your mother has finished.
she returns the balm to its container
squeezes you soft like always,
holds your smooth, slippery face between her hands like prayer and says
“there. look at that skin.
look at that brilliant skin.”