Gifts for a Beautiful Body
and Other Poems


Gifts for a Beautiful Body

After Ta-Nehisi Coates and to my son

Who am I to tell you now
what was given to me

(by my mother
and my mother’s mother)?


A gold bracelet, engraved
with my name, announcing


God’s ornament, a visible body
covered in star-studded cotton.


I wanted to give you gold, myrrh,
and frankincense, but your cry


kept circling the dim room, hungry
and fragrant. I needed your faithfulness


of breath. Your skipping and pedaling
feet, your feet (Oh Mary!) of ages.


I would have to lie to tell you
that death always comes


like precious stones. Some are slashed,
some buried, too many given invisibility


like a gift—perhaps the only way to see
a body is with your own eyes.


Perhaps the only way to see a whole body
is to see one coming out of you.


You survived before you lived,
but I still listen for heartbeats


in arched places, anxious when people walk
around you like broken branches.


Blessed be the one who hears you cry out
like a million pressed stones—


jasper, turquoise, emerald with gold—
and uncovers your breath of bees.


Blessed be the one who sees you on the sidewalk,
migrating, and declares you good.


[romantic theme increases in
volume and dynamics]

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