It was spooky—the dead speaking to us that way, as if nothing stops, ever. Every world continues,
every voice. It's just happenstance, or luck, that we hear it.
It’s okay, mommy. I’m right here with you,
I say, but I’m not there anymore. I’ve grown
My fingernails long enough to scratch and
Pick at every hair in my head. you say
He’s dead. he died inside the car with you
And I—didn’t hear him moving around the
Apartment last night—don’t own a gun.
You say he was a good man. he wouldn’t like
My pulling out my eyelash, eyebrow, arm hair
Now. now, mommy, it’s okay. I know you
Remember me with hair—braids with colored,
Plastic balls settled at the top of a nest of black—
Waves of lotioned hair, with a braid undone,
And a hair tie loosed so, like everything else
That comes after this disease. they say
It is compulsive, signaling unease, but I
Can’t seem to get to its root. it’s a habit to pull
Past pain, to remove something from me.
It’s okay, mommy. I’m right here with you. they
Tell me it is reversible—something that can be treated
Like wood—which can keep a structure beautiful
For years. when building something to stand
For a while—the body of a man, for instance—
To stand without talking back, as some have
Unfortunately—it is best to use pressure.
According to the pamphlet on my kitchen
Counter, the walls are not crawling with insects.
It says our building is treated by people
I can’t seem to name, but I know
I heard him, mommy. I hear him. do you?
I HAVE ONE SMALL GLASS AND A LIMITED REGISTER
I keep a word bank in reserve to answer people when I am not listening. The problem is that I am always listening. I never break into the reserve. Whether this is really a problem, I am not certain. I am certain there is a problem with my reserve. I break into it sometimes just to check in. To make sure everything is still there, I open it up. I think that I am opening. One cannot be certain.
are you afraid of the dark, girls?
after Tonya M. Foster
told that somehow
you’re (b)lack on the outside
on the inside.
what that means.
maybe, talking white
is like (s)peaking
only a (b)lank page.
maybe, my body is
my body language never
spoke up for me.
sometimes, I’d (s)ink
in my stomach.
the thing is
between this brain
and body is real.
a thief’s been here.
stole the connection
between (y)our brain
and bludgeoned body.
but we’re not, right?
hush. like the time
I told them, I’m (not)
here. you can’t
Shaina Monet is a New Orleans native and the winner of the 2017 Vassar Miller Poetry Award. She serves as a poetry editor at Bayou Magazine and has work forthcoming in Crazyhorse, Yemassee Journal, and Sundog Lit. Currently working on her first chapbook, she mines family stories, census records, and other legal documents to trace her family history and create poems about her Creole, Indigenous, Irish, and African American ancestors in North America and beyond.