Brother Yao



after church on Sunday
smoking a cigarette, standing
under the shadows of a tree
..........your father looks like one
of the great musicians
standing next to your mother
who is wearing a peach dress,
scarf hanging around her neck
smile breaking across
her face like some new weather.
plain and simple, of those usher
women who held flapping
flapping wings of the holy
spirit in the first aisle
in the body of the church
in Sunday's heat
.........under the fan of the funeral
home, under the fan of
Martin Luther King Jr.'s
saintly face, amen.
........could be Billie Holiday
sorrow grained into
her skin, her music
a rare form of wood
easily noticed, in Baltimore
in Mobile, in Chattanooga
women and men, faces
made out of its flesh
a certain type of people,
who are gospel and jazz
at the same time, sad and
hungry or giving birth to
new generations, new musics
.........a little boy whose suit is
too big could be John Coltrane
asking his mother why?
as though why? were the spell
that will pull the sun down
why? going out searching
beneath the clouds begins to drizzle
a touch that sends people
back inside under the steeple
or rushing towards their cars
which are now showing tiny
bubbles across their skin
as though some music
behind the scenes is erupting
making the people tremble the rain grows harder




I say your name

The spot
Where the ancestors bleed from their hands and feet
Where Bibles cannot be read, where work is an all day
All night thing, where love comes and goes slowly
Through the body of the tired, a dim glow

This family is Africa in America
A parable, a worn black boot

No longer will I sing the names
Of demons, hoisted in my head
Hanging upside down bats of despair

No longer will I sing the song
Of sorrow, though the blues
Is a season that comes and goes

And when it comes
We will open our mouths
So that the song will pour out

We looked into the sky and
Rain came down, and though
The storm shook us, we did
Not die, Amen.

And you came, a blessed
Messenger, the number
We had not counted, the deal
We had not struck, and we
Knew--we could not be blamed

Where there is thunder
And lightning God is working
Asha and Dhoruba
Asha and Dhoruba

Without shame we asked
The sky for help, took dirt
In our hands and crumbled it
Climbed the mountain, admired
Its beauty, jagged edge

Where the plans had ended
God pour through us
Another child, we do not know

Things have come to this

Your smile
Your tiny head
Your wobble
Towards the impossible




The feet of angels
Don't make footprints

..........An Obvious fact
.........Whatsup with that

A stroke
Growing in my grandfather's
Temple ten years
Before it happened


Tiny specks in the T.V.
Static snow, sleep in your eye
Growing possibilities, echo
Of a basketball bounce down
My street at 11:58 P.M.

.........Too much noise

A bible in every room
Drafts under the doors
The wind singing
Code pointless conversation

.........You know
.........What I'm talk'n bout

The orisha my grandmother
Pray to, when lightning flashes
Its silver hair across the sky
And thunder come stomp'n

.........I hear 'em talk'n
.........Outside my window

As though a corner were
A village square, and Africa
Is still caged up somewhere
In there




Black coal

City talk talking
'Round me

Flash of Sex
Racing motor
Of glamour

Walking, walk
Past the shut doors
Bolt lock teeth

Lonely flags
Searching in the wind
For their meaning

With their mouth pieces
Old rocking chair

Track by track
Step by step
I will walk

Follow the tracks
To the end
Of this country

Taking the song
Of the conqueror
Through my body

Black coal

Brother Yao is a poet living in Capitol Heights, MD with his wife and three children. He has been published in the African-American Review, Crab Orchard Review and other journals and anthologies.

Published in Volume 2, Number 4, Fall 2001.