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A Patch of Blue in Tenleytown

By L. Lamar Wilson

She ambles about this Mickey-Dee kitchen’s din,
unmoved by the hot grease threatening
her ¿puedo tomar su orden? mask.  

No one is supposed to see it here.
A port-wine patch covers the left side of her face
from lash to lip. She’s focused, unblinking.

Ah, I know this face, its smile a guise
I’ve mastered since I anchored the front row
of my pre-K graduation pic, gummy grin thrust

in front of awkward contortions
of a humerus bone my sky-blue gown
could not hold in place, shoulders propping

a hunched neck, arched vertebrae defying
scoliosis’s grip, hoping no one would notice
the remnants of a failed surgery dimpling

my knuckles like train tracks dividing the haves
& never-wills in a town on a Deep South road
to nowhere. She catches me staring, & I wave

my limp wrist, an SOS. We burst into laughter,
instant familia in this part of this town eager to forget
it was once below the Mason-Dixon line, too,

designed by one brilliant brown man’s mind, one
who knew how to keep enemies out. She pushes
her hair back to show off her patch of blue,

waves both hands wildly. Esa sonrisa ir, por favor!
I want to say but instead order dos bocadillos--
all I can afford. Now we must say goodbye

& return to lives among those who aren’t
in our tribe. I take one last glance at heaven’s kiss
on her peach-pit flesh--mirror image of God,

of a schoolboy’s stance--wave again, then
leave humming Celia’s “No Encuentro Palabras”
for mi hermana all the way home.

Added: Sunday, April 19, 2015  /  From "Sacrilegion," (Carolina Wren Press, 2013). Used with permission.
L. Lamar Wilson

Sacrilegion (2013), L. Lamar Wilson's first book, was selected by Lee Ann Brown for the 2012 Carolina Wren Press Poetry Series and was a finalist for the 2013 Thom Gunn Poetry Award; Prime (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2014), a collection of poems and interviews with the Phantastique Five, was named one of last year's best books by the Poetry Foundation. Wilson's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in such journals and anthologies as Callaloo, jubilat, The Los Angeles Review, Rattle, The 100 Best African American Poems, and Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poems for the Next Generation. Wilson, a Pushcart Prize nominee and Cave Canem graduate fellow, is completing a doctorate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in African American and multi-ethnic American poetics.

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