My Mother 

“Don’t hide from who you are,” she said. 

The woman who would straighten my hair 

in the kitchen with one hand, and blow 

smoke rings from a joint in the other 

like some kind of cracked-up 40s movie star 

in black face. 

My mother who kept her cellphone between her breasts, 

so her heart wouldn’t feel lonely when he didn’t call. 

The woman who would thump her gum out of 

the car window, singing Diana Ross at the 

top of her lungs all the way to church. 

She’s the woman who would sit in the front pew, 

ridiculous hat and all, only to be closer to the pastor; 

to hand him water as transparent as his faith. 

Mother, who provided him his holy rag for when he’d get 

the white spit ring around his lips. Mother, 

who would later kiss that white ring 

no matter how black it made her soul, 

but how could I blame her? 

Really it’s my own fault. If I’d stayed out of grown 

people’s business, turned the tv up a little louder in 

my room. Walked away immediately when they moaned 

as loud as the hallelujah praise choir. 

But I was only a kid. A church kid who still can’t say 

“Oh, god,” without flinching.