Between Heaven and the Most Southern Place on Earth by Aricka Foreman

99 red balloons
99 red balloons | Forrest.CC

 

for William Foreman Sr. and Emmett Till

I watch my grandfather’s morning fingers slip each button
in then out slotted cotton, sleeves starched to gleam.

Effortless magnolia of a man swaying throughout the house,
limbs bending to his own wind, pooling cologne into his palms,

blessing the edges of jaw, arch of neck, having remembered less
beautiful preparations of the body.  Delta men know how precious

it is to age into the darkness of their own wine, and when his mouth
widens around darling, I’m so surprised, it’s not the promise of

what a baptism might wash away, but what the 1955 Tallahatchie
River did not. Sometimes I forget which man lives inside my memory,

whose hands lifted me as close to the stars as his shoulders could
reach, making up constellations that didn’t ladle the night. I push

against my waking years later to him curled beneath the kitchen
table, folded over and swatting away snakes only he could see,

his howling out writhing from blows his uncle’s ghost unleashed
when he was a boy too young to understand why his shade of

gorgeous made people violently uneasy. There are no love songs
for Sunflower, Yazoo, or Money boys to sing to themselves, too few

moments to take in their reflections. They learn to make threading
ritual, pulling a string of slow breaths between buffing black

shoes until they catch every fleck of light. When my grandfather pours
into his overcoat I am young and full of possibility, not realizing the ease

in which he can return home before his musk fades from the front door.

 

aricka foreman
Aricka Foreman

See all the pieces from 29 Days of Beautiful here.

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