My mother sucks her teeth, comb
through the heated hour. Cursing
like her mother, pressing shame
into the scalp of her daughter,
thinking that she straightens her out.
As sure as sweat coats her face,
one week after a shooting, mourners
in their dark-tinted Almera cars
rattle my mother’s judgments with their tears
and their Fernandes Black label tributes.
They will circle our block for days.
Bullets will continue their flights from car windows,
disrupt the amnesty of some black boy’s chest.
In the hot-pressed living room,
my mother reapplies petroleum jelly
to the unfading scars on my sister’s neck.
Car Wash, Christmas Morning
The car wash owners allow the boys in the yard
to play football between pairs of Nike slippers.
On the job, bare-backed and chiseled fellers sport
brand-name boxer shorts and three-quarter pants,
gifts from foreign, to show someone in New York,
a mother or child mother cares for them still.
Men crouch, lounge over halted car bodies,
point their thumbed hoses against the stains,
polish the bonnet and rims until they shine,
throw a sweet eye to the women clients
momentarily flashing their interest,
lowering their newspapers
to keep the temperature of those connections.
Saturday, a gentle light fell on the front porch,
and the season of your eyes changed to autumn.
A sweet rain drizzled from your neck, dampened
the upper cut of your dress, and praised the body
of your youth. You spoke of Belmont,
carnivals, century-old houses, and your father.
The smoke from his pipe
filled the tiny cups of the allamanda.
There was something about you.
You overstepped the melancholic villages,
locked in fevers of tight alleys
where the devil peeped and hissed.
We were too afraid to gamble,
as your father would on horses,
knowing the rumors that stirred chaos
on the Circular Road near the silk cotton tree.
The first crush my breath braced for. I could hold you
no longer than I held a hexagon of light
when you said that you had taken up a scholarship
to study in England.
Amílcar Peter Sanatan is a doctoral candidate in cultural studies at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine. His poetry has appeared in Caribbean and international literary magazines. In 2020 he won the Bridget Jones Caribbean Arts Award for poetry, and his creative nonfiction was shortlisted for the Johnson and Amoy Achong Prize for Caribbean Writers. Sanatan has performed spoken word and coordinated open mics in Trinidad and Tobago for more than a decade.