It’s not like I cussed in the white family’s house
at their dinner table, with my parents trying to be
well-mannered ghosts and twisting like fresh fall
but I still felt the sun of my mother when I answered
the house’s owner, I’m never gonna cram the night
before a test again, like my father’s coworker was
an essay I needed to ace or be encased in, either way
my mother spent the rest of the dinner cutting
me off in case I said something bestial again.
I know my history, so I know now that there was
a job my father wanted and a job that my father
didn’t get, I can assume they were the same
the way I figure that no and nah are
the same shit except for when the locks
change, like the beat in your favorite song,
to the hook where everyone knows the words.
My daughter reads two grades above her own
head and still says yo at the end of her sentences
like her father, the boy that pulled his claws out
of his pockets because he was tired of stabbing himself
in the side, and my wife tells our girl, ain’t isn’t
a word, and I always want to complete
the downswing and say, ain’t isn’t a word that
tried to kill my father, it was actually gonna,
but every time I let my clever take the wheel
I remember when my mom jabbed me under
the table for my forked tongue and I never
removed the blade so I just stay clotted
like a hung boy that has made the constant gasp
and wheeze his preferred language.
WILLIAM EVANS is a writer and instructor from Columbus, Ohio. He is a Callaloo Fellow, Sustainable Arts Awardee, and a candidate for a Masters of Fine Arts at Randolph College. He is the author of three poetry collections, including Still Can’t Do My Daughter’s Hair (Button, 2017) and the forthcoming We Inherit What the Fires Left (Simon & Schuster, 2020).