The Last Good Moment
The morning after that dinner, we will stand
in the kitchen and wrap our arms around each other,
my head on your chest, your chin resting
on my forehead. I’ll want to tell you
that I didn’t mean to say that I tolerated
when you sat beside me at the restaurant.
I’ll want to explain that public displays of your affection
sometimes made me feel like I’m on display
as a black woman dating a white man.
I should whisper this to your heart
but I’ll let us stand there breathing each other in.
Twenty minutes later, we’ll walk to our cars
like a normal couple readying ourselves for work:
your briefcase and button-down, my everything bag
stuffed with papers. I’ll declare the last week of August
as the end of summer, but you’ll say summer has some fight left.
We’re in the car when my mother says,
There’s your uncle. He’s dressed in a camouflage
baseball cap, white shirt, and dark pants,
lumbering down the street with two canvas bags.
She supposes he’s going to pay for his storage unit.
It’s the end of the month.
She doesn’t know where he sleeps
or who else gives him money.
The last time I came home, he stopped by
smelling sickly sweet like roses in the hospital
two days after someone died.
I pretended to be asleep.
Seeing him reminds me that I am one degree
away from wandering these streets
with a radio, a clean outfit, word puzzles,
and whatever else I can carry.
The next day, I was in a hurry to leave Queens.
There’s only so much I can take of the piles of broken
and unused things, the flowers allowed to die,
their petals—dried & brown—in untouched heaps.
I stopped at McDonald’s to get breakfast.
If I had gone through the drive-thru
I wouldn’t have seen my uncle sitting at a table
in a trance-like nod, same clothes.
Part of me wanted to take my order
and get on the road. No one
would have known except me
and my mother’s God.
I went over not for his sake, but for mine—
the karma I buy in the hopes that in 30 years
one of my nephews will pull out all the money
from his wallet and crumple the bills into my hand.
At the Tian Tan Buddha
Three women stand—eyes closed, whispering
prayers—then walk in slow counterclockwise
circles as if trying to reverse time.
My hands echo theirs, my lips want to move
but I do not know why. I wish it were that easy
to let my worries evaporate like these embers
of incense disappearing into the fog.
Buddha is focused on a point beyond the busyness—
bodies posing for photos or bending to clean
little one’s hands, the women in prayer,
the six bronze attendants and their offerings.
With his back against the north
how can Buddha see what’s to come?
PAMELA TAYLOR is a data guru by day and a poet by night. She has a doctorate in social psychology from UCLA, a MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is a Cave Canem Fellow. When she’s not dancing Argentinean tango in the Boston area, she’s working on her blog geared toward poets with non-literary careers (www.poetsdoublelife.com).