There’s a photo of Laura Nelson, a rope between her and a tree.
The backdrop, more trees.
A person in the picture is bound to history.
Bound to the same color.
And there’s a sculpture of Mary Turner in bronze
holding her stomach.
She is childless.
Her husband Hazel died a day before her
but with less spectacle.
I always thought my mother was crazy for the way she wore blackness
like a new wristwatch.
And with her skin beige and hazel,
I thought she must have been compensating for something.
Grief is a healthy disease
The body has more than one soul.
The main soul is behind the forehead
and the second soul is in the pupils.
There’s the world of the photograph vs. the imagined world.
In a picture everything is placed like a target.
I always believed my mother was crazy for not wanting to kill herself
on days when her body
would no longer do what she needed it to
like love, make love, or speak—
At noon on Sunday in 1918, the mob found Mary
8 months pregnant and took her near Folsom Bridge, over the Little River
and tied her by her ankles.
Her sin was speaking.
We are difficult in the sense that we can’t un-God ourselves.
In the photos of my grandmother, she’s always small
and scowling like a cub.
When she was young,
she would never leave home without a blade in her wig.
Outside of a club, a man wanted to fight her.
She pulled the blade from her wig
and cut his chest like tree bark.
The next morning, she went to the police station crying,
saying that she might have killed a man.
They laughed at her.
God tries out different combinations of mothers with children,
rearranging them at the first sign of uncleanliness.
The white men broke Mary’s stomach in two with a knife.
What was cut from her was something more than human.
The two cries they let out didn’t reach where the two colors met.
The brown body meeting the brown dirt.
Earth’s natural law of what America births.
My mother was never crazy, only quiet—
A girl grown woman.
In a photo in 1981, she looked like two cries, a batch of berries
held close enough together not to burst.
Its insides having dark blue ink like skin.