In a college dorm, in a prison, in a marriage
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The child lolls half-asleep in the front seat.
“Why do it start and then stop?” The rain, she means.
“The clouds are banging into each other,” I tell her,
which is what someone told me when I was her age, seven.
Turns out to be wrong.
Like almost everything.
Her hair’s styled in tight cornrows.
In this light I see the downy fuzz
of what will someday become a mustache
she may bleach or despair of. She’s frowning.
“But why do it start and then stop?”
“I don’t know.” “You don’t know?”
Clouds overhead the color of dark bruises.
“I am ghetto,” she says then,
so faint I almost don’t hear her over the hip-hop,
which she’s cranked, as usual,
to the hundredth degree of deafening on my radio.
It’s always in the car, when I’m picking her up
or more likely dropping her back home, that she says these things.
“What?” I turn the music down.
“No, I heard you. What did you mean? You’re not
just where you came from. You can be whatever you want.”
At that she reaches right past me
without a word and turns the volume back up,
as I deserve.
OK, then, White Lady of Once a Week,
Fisher in the Flood,
Mouther of Platitudes at the Apocalypse,
wrong again. Wrong about almost everything.