David M. Taylor

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My Blackness Still Remained

I wanted to be white like my friends Artwork by Gene McCormick
who could ask out girls and they’d say yes, 
who didn’t have to ask permission  
to walk home at night,  
or raise their hands slowly in front of cops. 

I was tired of wearing my blackness like a shadow, 
chained to the responsibility of my history 
and that my great grandfather was lynched  
on a Sunday morning walking home from church. 

During the choking heat of a summer afternoon, 
I sat on the roof of my garage
with a pumice stone in my twelve-year-old hand 
to peel my skin and expose the whiteness
from my ancestors who were raped by white men.  

I worked my hand back and forth slowly  
like sawing a soft piece of wood, 
pulling out thin hair with each pass 
until the stone ate the layers from my arm. 

I was accustomed to the pain by then-- 
the sting was only a ghost  
as I moved on to my other arm and then my face. 

Rivers flowed from my body, 
but I couldn’t scrape away my heritage 
or the stories about being strung up in a tree 
and drug from a car on a country road. 

I became baptized in my blood, 
but never found the whiteness hiding 
in the flesh that scattered on the rooftop. 

Last Night

I was going to call you last night,Artwork by Gene McCormick
tell you I published a poem about us,
that I figured your fingers would stumble
upon my words sooner or later.

I wrote about when we were together,
that I knew your brother was gay
and his lips tasted like perfection.

I said you would hide in your closet at night,
away from your father’s swollen fists
because the only thing worse
than his son being gay
was his daughter fucking a black man.

I knew we wouldn’t last,
but I asked you to marry me anyway.

And I tried to justify how everything ended,
how I slept with another woman
because I wanted to push you away.

But this was all a lie.

I never told you
your mother asked me to stay,
said you and I could make a life together
away from your father’s rage
and her addiction to him.

That we could be happy.

I was going to call you last night,
ask if you remember
you once said you loved me.

Christmas Eve

My aunt overdosed on an 8-ball
one year after I was born;
every Christmas Eve her boyfriendArtwork by Gene McCormick
would visit my grandparents.

He’d apologize for dirty needles
and cocaine nightmares,
but my family remained motionless
as he stood in the doorway,
clutched a crumpled gray hat.

That’s the Lord’s job,”
my grandfather would say,
his finger slicing the air.

Christmas Eve would come,
so would another apology
from a man who injected simple-illusions
into caramel arms of a woman I never met.

She cashed in her ticket for an easy ride
but fell silent, hidden by shadows.

My family doesn’t tell stories about her
or the bitter pain they feel each year
when the expected knock isn’t heard.

Maybe Nikki Giovanni was right,
that childhood remembrances
are always a drag if you’re Black.

All I remember is a darkened image
walking away from the house
into the fury of a winter’s night.

And the quiet look on my mother’s face
as she held me in her arms,
whispered in my ear that she loved me.

David M. Taylor teaches at a community college in St. Louis. His work has been appeared in various magazines including Trailer Park Quarterly, Milk Sugar, Anthology, and The Harrow. He also has three poetry chapbooks—M&Ms and Other Insignificant Poems, Two Cobras in a Ritual Dance, and Life’s Ramblings.