|Sestina for Mamas
by Qiana Towns
This life is all about being beautiful.
Mamas dragged us into scorching kitchens,
Screaming for mercy. On the stove chicken grease
Crackled like fireworks on hot summer days.
Madame Walker and her evil invention ruined
Plenty of play days on the block.
One day a rainstorm flooded the block.
The rain tumbled from the sky in a beautiful
Rage. The rain took a breath then washed ruined
Over our press and curl. It happened on hot days,
Days when the temperature in the kitchen
Soared above hot as hell. Mama used good grease
For shine. The mamas used chicken grease
When the good grease was gone. On the block,
That's how we got by. Defeat followed us everyday,
Threatening to take what we had. We wished for beautiful
Conks like Malcolm Little's. We wished for kitchens
With anything but chicken and red beans, ruined,
Wading in salt pork. We lived life oblivious to the ruin
In the pot. Mamas put meat on our bones with cracklin' grease
From the kitchen. Rhythms escaped through broken kitchen
Windows. We were happy then. Every lot on every block
Living like Roger & Me. It was promising, beautiful.
It was life in the neighborhoods of yesterday.
I long for those good old days
Of yesterday. When nothing could ruin
Mama's easy smile. I yearn for the full
Beauty of our mothers, the smell of pomade.
Those were the days on the block.
I still long for our busy kitchens
Where Mamas kept our bellies full, kitchens
Where Mamas pressed our hair every Sunday
Evening after The Love Boat. Mamas on the block
Survived shut off notices, heartache, ruin,
Recycled outfits, problems, and grease
In search of something higher, something beautiful.
© 2007 prickofthespindle.com
Qiana Towns holds a MA (with a concentration in creative writing) from Central Michigan University. Her work has appeared in Temenos and Central Review and will be included in the forthcoming all-poetry issue of Pindeldyboz. Her awards include Jett.com National Poetry Month Prize. She is currently pursing a Master of Fine Arts in poetry at Bowling Green State University.