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by Patricia Young


The fifth child was male so our mother
named him Yahweh, for he had no beginning
and no end. Stars fell on Alabama,
but in her thousand eyes he moved like jazz
in a swing coat, a swing coat dressed up
in leaves that rustled mercy, mercy. She turned
her head this way and that, trying to take him
in, her birdland boy, her lucky so-and-so,
trying to see the one who moved too fast
to be seen. While she went ja-da for our brother,
we strapped on roller skates, roared
up and down the chalky streets in pork pie
hats. Worry about our mother, why worry?
Hadn’t Yahweh stayed to feed her fags
and cold black tea? Years passed in a guilty,
sentimental mood. We misbehaved.
We got around. We forgot our mother’s
stardust tears, forgot she’d ever loved
her satin dolls, her Ipanema girls, forgot
until the night Yahweh called us home to
Dolphin Street. Those ill winds? he crooned,
don’t mean a thing, and we, such fools
(North, South, East, West), her pale and feckless
daughters, gathered like a summer storm.

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1st prize, 14th annual Poem of the Year Contest
Published in Arc 63: Winter 2010.
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