Recipe: How to Become an Immigrant and an Exile

Listen. Do you hear ghosts? Connect them to the sound of a canoe
on Indian Ocean. Listen to that tape of familiar beats that has weathered
foreign seasons. Sukus found in Salsa. Fela Kuti meets Masekela
in Appalachia. Do not inhale the coal fumes. Hold a memory.

Commit sins of transportation. Bite the past. Spit broken teeth
and colored blood that will chart global awareness. Learn
to say fuck without flinching. Seduce anarchy of the mind and try
to order schizophrenia in realms just outside the touch of your black

hand. Image coming at you. Color it in Old English and an accented
haiku and see what you win. If lucky enough, if you are one of those
lucky cigar smoking sons of bitches, play the lottery and you might win
the lady’s hand. Do not try to break the chains that bind her feet.

Hold her. Touch an image of her that is a mirage of you. Laugh
and say she is crazy to forget with you. Sip your beer gently. Light up,
let the sizzling seeds pass from your lips to hers. Watch the smoke
and its promise, it will turn you on onto possibilities of the night. Smile.

Ghosts. As a child voices sang in my sleep and then took to life. I dueled
them with screams that were hushed with threats of tranquility. I stole
Don Quixote’s sword and found a horse in my bouncing bed and would
have won the battle had it not been for the doctor who found Malaria

where there was none. Pills. Silent duels. And so when the police with guns
and big black coats came for my father, it must have been a dream I dreamt.
That night – pills with no water but morning tea still found a newspaper
damp with dew. Swords thrust, truths as righteousness of strength

bouncing horses and Marx -it all could have been a dream. Learn to stay up
late and talk of classes and footsteps. Not of classes but of labor at the nearest
Micky D’s. Dance to old rhythms and constitute common law while talking
of tradition. Find the nearest altar. Take pills without gun powder. Say

Mandela always with a smile. Miss her but call her a bitch. It will make
you feel like a man to stare her down feminism. Dust sprinkled so sparsely
and gently on your feet, stripped dress, gapped smile, black hair in rainbow

your laugh and the way your fingers curled inwards – they always smelled
of plums. I miss our evenings by the pond, that time the sun refused to set
and we had to roll it over and down the hill You never did come to say good bye
how is it I remember your smile at the airport? Stay away from New York.

Too many mirrors of yourself. Read Harlem only in your sleep. Learn
to say Puerto Rican radicals got what was coming to them and Mexico
is no man’s land. Watch birds on national geographic migrate.
Amuse yourself in the sound of wing against wind. Ignore the wail

of the middle passage. Find beauty in trees where no necks were broken
and burning flesh was not sacrificed and color it Rainbow. You see,
its all creation. Streams, your feet washing clean. Your curved elbows
sending rays back to the sun. Your militant Khaki skirt wet at the folds.

I sent you a letter. In it I enclosed photos of you as I will remember
you tomorrow. Sometimes I am waiting for you at our pond scribbling
little notes shaped like butterflies and birds that bear your name.
It’s Sunday. How did you leave church to come to me? I swear you make

me laugh. A hungry bird once in mid Indian Ocean flight, very much
weakened by hunger and scared of what lay below, measured
wing against thigh and eat its feet. And as all must come down, it landed
on its head and died. My dear, eat your memories very carefully.

*This poem originally appeared in Hurling Words at Consciousness (AWP, 2006) and Tin House Magazine (2008).