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Editor's Note


SNR's Writers


On Crossing the Continent in the Belly of a Bird:
An Ode to White Cloud

The first leg is the easiest, small prop, the stratosphere
rolling out below like cables of cotton.
I count the first few thousand ripples,
with no break in the current,
all 944 miles.

Grandmother waits, tapping her hands together,
trapping air in small flat-handed grasps.
It’s nervous chatter, or meditation.

Travel is always strange.  Never believe it’s happened
till you land.  Destinations are far more interesting,
even if you never arrive.

Between Ghana, and Georgia, and Brooklyn,
two generations died.

In the voice of the dead, I must sing.
In the voice of the dead, I must pray.
In the semblance of the dead, I must deliver
these words laden with the birth of water,
the burden of blood,
the burden of soil uprooted.

Nana, my great grandmother, died at ninety-nine.
She could have lived past these years
but my grandfather died before her
and the will no longer remained.
New York Avenue is still a place
I remember clearly, George Washington
praying by his horse on the wall,
the Mona Lisa’s ever watchful eyes.

My great aunt retreated
into the teeming heart of Queens.
She married a second time.
She buried a second husband.
She also buried a great uncle
and retreated again,
into Brooklyn. 

She complained of the dissolve of family,
about the absence of familiar voices.
The sounds of the faceless Brooklyn streets
did not suffice though she was closer
to church.  She was also closer to the graves
of our dead, no more than a burial lot apart.

Her eighty-two years ended in
a Brooklyn hospital, her body transfigured
by the wounds of dialysis, her desire to be
unloosed ignored by physicians.  With no protector
to speak on her behalf,  she departed late,
in the same way we returned.


Mother told me
I don’t understand
anything about anything
and she’s right.

I still tie my shoes
one through the loop
style, always sitting down,
always careful to test
the limits of the string’s tension.

I still look both ways
before crossing,
a bit of OCD in me,
a bit of OCD in me.

I still check the lights
re-lock the lock
before I go outside.

My mother told me
I don’t understand
anything about anything
and she’s right.

Sometimes I drive
alone for miles
just to feel a sense
of place, going
nowhere in particular.

Sometimes I call
people I have not
known well in years,
months, sometimes

I write and think
‘they will like this;
they will think well of me
for sending it.’

I don’t think the last
card was ever read.
I know the last call
was not received.

My mother told me
I don’t understand
anything about anything
and she’s right.

Unable to climb the boulder,
the ladder a mockery
of construction,
her green army style

bikini contrasting
her pale white skin
as she looks to say
‘What’s wrong? 

I’m waiting.’
as I plod through
the shallow silt,
the water-smoothed

rocks, towards the place
where the lake
finds its depth
and work to forget

that I don’t know
how to tread water.

My mother told me
that I don’t understand
anything about anything
and she’s right.

Kamau Rucker’s poetry has been published in The Subway Chronicles, Illuminations (Evolving Editions) and The Wild Goose Poetry Review.  The New York born, former resident of Hampton Roads, Virginia, currently resides in Fairfax, Virginia, where he is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at George Mason University.  His creative ventures also include playwriting and songwriting.

Copyright 2006, Kamau Rucker ©. This work is protected under the U.S. copyright laws.
It may not be reproduced, reprinted, reused, or altered without the expressed written permission of the author.