More than a decade after being sentenced I share the news with my mom.
We’re at a table at the Gruet tasting room in downtown Santa Fe where our server has just explained their grapes, some of which grow as near as the reservation 30 miles away.
Their grapes being not sensitive to settler colonialism but to the dramatic withdrawal of heat ripen uniquely in desert evenings.
She admires the water fountain, then sets her phone on the table to play smooth jazz from its speaker, which is the kind of woman my mother is. One who fills whole courtyards, pleasure surrounding her appearance.
I say, if you don’t turn that off! As I sometimes reproduce the correct ways of being Black and a woman in public. Still believing I can control whether someone looking can look at me and think, nigger, or not.
I excuse myself to the restroom where I approximate a set of upright push-ups without touching anything.
There’s a knotted surface in my heart on which every other knowledge falls.
But nothing can touch it until I say so.
Outside the streets are sobering in color. Later when they’re black we’ll wander street lamp to street lamp, shoulder to shoulder affirming our love to each other.
When I return Mom says that my butt is getting big.
Squats, I tell her, and late-night cycling out the saddle. I do this with earphones in a small room lit by candles. My birds asleep beneath their blankets on the other end.
Few people appreciate that you can spin to R&B.
Torque, I say.
And what about my triceps, I ask. I’ve been doing long arm workouts to “Pretty Wings.”
My arms and shoulders are my mothers. I don’t have her legs, which are thick and oddly hairless. I have her underlying wildness. Adoration for avian creatures. Cancer to balance the fire in our charts. And difficulty grasping certain everyday words.
I say I want to share something and what I will say is not a reflection on you.
She shifts in her seat. Makes herself long.
I say my goodness, relax your neck before I chicken out.
I don’t have the language for what I regret. But it didn’t happen this way. Or that afternoon at all.
Added: Friday, November 25, 2022 / Poem used with permission.
Saretta Morgan is the author of Alt-Nature (forthcoming from Coffee House Press in 2024), and the chapbooks, Feeling Upon Arrival and room for a counter interior. She lives on Akimel O'odham land in Phoenix, AZ where she organizes against state violence with the migrant-focused humanitarian aid organization, No More Deaths.
Image Description:Saretta Morgan is a young Black woman with brown locs dressed in a black shirt and jeans and a blue and white necklace. She leans forward. Behind her is a hallway with white walls and black doors. Part of a large photo of a pink squid with bits of debris is also visible.