Broadside of Beast and Beauty by Vievee Francis.
He took me like a mother, drew my head toward himself,
pulled me onto his lap, wrapped his arms around me and cooed
into my hair, softly as if I was dreaming and
he didn’t want to wake me.
He sang a song that sounded like birds singing in the sycamore
then tree frogs. I wanted to leave. I stayed where I was.
He wore a lovely shirt. His hair was surprisingly kempt.
There was half a candle-piece and a rug of quarters. Tomato soup
on the stove. I thought, “What a shirt.” I prayed my breasts
would magically spill from the zipper. I wanted to feel my calloused heels
on his thighs. I wanted to linger ’til dawn. His pared nails scratched
an itch that had eluded me for years. I cried as if I were slicing onions
in his kitchen. He was a good mother. He held me, like a daughter,
as if I was just as beautiful as he believed me to be.