black. gold. and god. (for Ruby)


By Vernon Jordan, III

i. raising me

I hope was easy.

Like the Sun of a spring day,

the ease of a Fall breeze;

grandma, I remember you teaching me to wash my childish, brown hands,

my boney coal elbows,

and knees.

 

You carried your skin like

a rope of jewels ‘round neck —

with absolute pride and unforgiving self-respect.

The same skin as your parents, their enslaved parents

before them, and my own father and me —

the same skin that held together water,

blood,

bone,

and boiling human meat.

The same black which peddles Universes into being.

 

Your truth walked in heels,

painting ambition on your nails:

fingers sat to let the world kiss them…

Your hands, your hands, man

I miss them.

 

“You tore that up, huh Vern” you would remark after killing the kitchen.

Your home stood across from a graveyard,

but that never stopped you from livin’

or me from kiddin’.

 

ii. palms together. eyes closed.

 

that is how you taught me to pray.

I remember trying

and staring at the wall,

I remember trying

and staring at the wall,

I remember trying

and staring at the wall.

 

hands clutched. face searing.

 

that is what it felt like on your viewing day.

I collided with shoulders of

cousins and friends

and wondered if the clothes that covered us

were death-stained by nature:

like, of course no one buys clothing for a funeral.

 

I remember trying

and staring at the wall,

I remember trying

and staring at the wall,

I remember trying

and staring at the wall.

 

You know, i ain’t been that mad in a long time:

I wanted to smack a nigga,

hit em with straight with a left hook

for telling me i would go to hell because my love was queer,

because some people don’t feel

right or identify with the bodies they were born into,

or the stories they were assigned to follow;

I wanted to smack a nigga

because now folks are telling me

grandma can’t walk no more —

she’s flying to Heaven

and Earth only grants you wings

when you lose your body.

I wanted to smack a nigga because

 

I remember trying

and staring at the wall,

I remember trying

and staring at the wall,

I remember trying

and staring at the wall,

because

 

iii. I never believed in god, but I believed in you.

 

Her name was Ruby:

she gave me a watch,

one that once belonged to my Pop-Pop,

and when I finally got it fixed,

when the seconds, minutes, and hours of time

started to tick,

her time was up.

A little abrupt,

a little fucked up…

 

my truth is that I know what

chains the Black church

broke for us,

but I never feel free when

asked to submit to the Him you called God

even though I believe in you.

 

I believe in you,

I never believed in god,

but I always believed in You

I never believed in god,

but I always believed in You.

She was a homegirl

and her name was Ruby.

Vernon Jordan, III is a Philly-based writer and poet. You can find him on twitter @AfroJediii

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