My teacher, Ms. Nola

Her veins are rivers and streetcars,
with their lurching lungs,
wood platted seats covered in the slippery sweat of thighs.
Her song in the night sounds like saxophones,
the drunk mumbles of warm hands on my thighs;
She plays it masterfully;
it croons around the halos of angels on street corners
and tumbles beneath the feet of visitors, moving across a dance floor.
She gave me a tattoo on my left knee cap,
so that Her gravel, Her earth could stay in my skin
when I am no longer curled into Her embrace.

She tries to wash off the stench of booze and cigarettes
alone in the shower,
but they are ingrained in Her skin, in Her alleyways, and in Her hair.
people see Her for Her wild eyes,
The way they shine under moonlight, glow on the riverbed,
for Her shimmering veil of prosperity and recklessness.
they do not see the begging hands sheltered beneath streetlights
and the freeways that slope up and down Her arms.
They call Her whore, She shrugs.
How can She take offense
When She is sinking,
Her people drowning,
Her struggles masked by drunken grins?
when the shinning beads have lost their glamour
and start to knot around Her neck-
how could She be selfish in a time like this?

She cannot wipe the water from the cheeks of Her kin
when they cry for reprieve from the storm,
unrelenting for thirteen years-
She cannot look them in the eye and tell them
it will be better.
Her roads are compromised with greed and empty promises
in which She has no say.
I wish She did; wish She could grab them
by white shirt collars, rip out their cufflinks, and scream.
She is mute.

She has fed me,
taught me and held me captive beneath the expansive branches
of Her oak trees, smothered in Spanish moss,
but I know She is not my mother.
I know I was not born from the same wellspring,
the same humid haze, as Her people were.
I will never hear the melancholy music
Her children were born with already in their ears.
when She kisses me goodnight,
I pray She can escape Her glittering noose
and run barefoot back into the swamp;
where She comes from,
where She belongs.

Featured in Edition 1 of The Dilettante.