I won't be around forever, Mother said.
One day I'm going to die, so I might
as well nag you a little bit more,
while I have the chance. And when
I'm dead you'll have to rely on someone else
to tell you that it's time to change the sheets,
& I hope for your sake, that it won't
be your wife, because she's going to get
tired of doing it, & she'll start to demand that you
& her sleep on separate beds, which will mean
that pretty soon you'll have to be using separate silverware,
so she won't always have to be the one to wash them.
And before you know it, she'll want you
to live in your own house so you
won't be able to mess up hers, & divorce is more likely
to happen when you aren't living together.
When I was five years old, Father said,
I ripped the hair out of my sister's doll,
& used it as a wig. I took my violin
& a cup, & played waltzes up & down
the street. I thought people would throw me
pennies, but they threw garbage at me
from their windows, & one woman threw her old shoes.
My mother screamed at me when she got
home. And my sister tried to put the hair
back into the doll, one strand at a time,
& when she couldn't, she also threw it at me.
We went to Dan Lynch's, & listened
to White musicians pretending that they
were Black. And the people next to us jumped
up & down, pretending that they were rock stars.
And I put my hand on your knee, pretending
that I was your lover. You remained aloof. Why
did you have to be the only one who insisted on being yourself?