The Trees by Jericho Brown
In my front yard live three crape myrtles, crying trees We once called them, not the shadiest but soothing During a break from work in the heat, their cool sweat
Falling into us. I don't want to make more of it. I'd like to let these spindly things be Since my gift for transformation here proves
Useless now that I know everyone moves the same Whether moving in tears or moving To punch my face. A crape myrtle is
A crape myrtle. Three is a family. It is winter. They are bare. It's not that I love them Every day. It's that I love them anyway.
HeLa by Jericho Brown for Henrietta Lacks
I won't die. I keep white men up at night. I come from the deepest basin they know. They want to watch me grow so they took me from Mama. When they hold me close, it's always so cold, but when Sister came to see me the other day, she kissed me & called me beautiful & I was warm again, like it always was with Mama, just for a little while. Yemoja olodo awoye Yemoja...
I—two, one hundred, three million, legion, spawn of gall, glory of silt gone sour—make the slack-jawed bow & wish they could drink from my ever-after. Now these men have brought women friends to look at me. They say I'm getting stronger every day. They want me to tell them my secrets, but I don't know what they mean. How can I explain who I am if they can't see, after looking at me? They call me HeLa. Healer. Mama would be proud to know we got healing in us. I hope she understands I didn't want to go... Yemoja Orisha Orisha Yemoja fun me lowo. Asé. Asé.