Partus sequitur ventrem A Latin phrase that stands for the principle that the children of an enslaved woman are themselves born as slaves and owned by their mother’s master. I. Morning
His knobby six-year-old knees, his anxious pace as if to keep step with the questions’ steady overflow: “Is there a giant octopus in the Bermuda Triangle?” “How is paper made?” “How do fireworks know when to explode?” No one told me black boys could burn so bright. Wait, I am wrong, the dark sky has seen their fire snuffed by white hoods’ hatred, malevolent blue eyes in bluer uniforms, white women’s screams—all have been match to their tinder wood. So I hug my son tight. Kiss the curl cropped so close it’s straight. My mother’s eye insatiable, he is dessert and I’ll always have seconds. Each morning I lick my thumb, clean him up good, wishing in vain the amniotic sac had dried to armor. II. Night
His lisp, loose, syrupy-sweet, sneaks into my ear. Feel its heat, small source more flicker than flame, flanked by arms still dreaming of muscle. He claims my squishy stomach the best pillow. If the security of our locked arms could extend beyond growth spurts, clocks, calendars, to the someone interviewing him, to the someone following him in the store, or to the someone holding my son’s life in trembling fingers poised above a phone’s keypads, let my love be a note safety-pinned to his chest —send him back alive, unharmed. As a black mother in America, I know my wails are birthright, pinned with iron, penned in ink.
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