The Holy of Holies
cousins would prostrate ourselves in play
Making believe in hushed tones
While above us two generations of uncles and aunts spun our lineage.
They were all swollen ankles, cracked heels,
trouser socks, and work boots.
Their voices would float
ethereal thick clouds of hymns rich with cigarette smoke
and guttural laughter and residue from midnight’s tears.
We would brush the hems of their garments careful
not to shake anointed threads.
They chronicled an uncle crouching behind a bush with a BB-gun
hunting a mean grandfather, who
journeyed by moonlight to Paris, TN for days at a time to visit
the family he had to leave behind.
Told of a sister whose dinners took too long to cook but appeared from bare cabinets like magic,
a sister who fought men like a man to protect her softness,
a sister who danced money out of wallets, the hip hypnotist.
They’d weave robes with golden thread for sharecroppers,
fasten blue ribbon to golden crowns for wanderers who’d lost their minds,
stitched ephods that sutured soldiers by reminding them of home.
They bestowed recipes like sacrement, and
hummed prophetic wisdom into our ears like poetry.
The griots burst with laughter that
quickened us from the floor into sukhasana and vajrasana.
As they chanted the names of the dead until they
conjured them from the walls, carpet, couch cushions, cabinets, and drapes.
Until the ancestors circled the room to the rhythm of the oscillating fan
GD Addie James
Bertha Mae Frankie
washing over us like anointing oil
while we played.