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Cynthia Manick: Poet of the Week

Manick Photo by Rissberger
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Mind the Gap

Little E wants a smile like mine,
teeth with a gap so wide
a corn husk and tugboat
could pull through.
Or a submarine, lost sounds
and grunts. Tiny light bulbs
if you’re careful or a string
of Christmas lights looped
through like garland.

Does she know how the world
works? How some of us
are born without 40 acres
and the weight of a mule
on their chest. Like my mother
and Monday mornings –
boarding the F train and two buses
with two children, her own negro
caravan. A sonata full of low-watt
clinics and hurling vowels
like swords. How I often waited
in those long-ass lines
and imagined myself a boy,
a whirlwind digging in the muck
where only muscles and gold matter.

My tongue tries to reason with her
ring against her want – cause
we don’t choose what haunts us.
When I was young I craved closed
spaces, bright veneers, the smile
of Rudy Huxtable or on bad days
Shirley Temple. No one notices
a mouth when Bojangles is dancing.

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