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Brown Girl Levitation, 1962-1989

(for Beulah Lenorah Butler Davenport,
supreme watermelon, cantaloupe & pansy grower)


Something sharper than any blade cuts
the heavy roped balloon cord at the end
of my wrists; ascension begins. No tingle
of warning, just the thin, rising held-breath
of a brown girl, super sudden lift, then,
the instinctive dive & grab for anything
dependable, two ton, well tethered, close:

Shaggy, heavy-bellied, near blind sheep dog.
Bulbous, well-rooted, yellow meat watermelon.
Iron held, black leather, Detroit-Buick car arm.
Steel blue, cavernous, baby brother crib roof.
Brass, honeycomb canopy, octopus jungle gym.
Mesozoic era, roots, trunk, cane field of azalea.

I could smell it inching closer to full power,
like a storm nearing from across the field of
my young life. Except, it wasn't over there,
coming. It was inside, gaining on me, blooming.
I could not grab my girl hat and run. Could not
turn my long yellow feet into brown girl spikes
and beat it home. Wherever I happened to be
when it hit—I had to hunker down.

I would lean hard into that high, elephant-lifting wind
with everything I had, carrying my girl mind & muscle
to the thing that I knew had been grandmother sent,
engineered, just for me. And there she would appear:
straw hat, cotton dress, cow boots, rabbit grass stogie
between her two front teeth, walking the dirt road back
to the old homehouse. Her humming heart in mighty step
with the bee wings of the July air. Her arms full of as many
bowling-ball headed, green-striped melons as she could manage.
The red sweet flesh, the jet-eyes, my just-in-time juicy
body weights passed from her arms to my lap,
until the great gray wind retreated & agreed
that I'd had enough & turned
me loose, disappearing back
beyond, into the indigo
heaven, until the next
lifting time.


Nikky Finney

Head Off & Split
TriQuarterly Books / Northwestern University Press


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