MAMI :Ra chest for healing

my head on your chest
when i fall asleep is when you fall asleep
i’m mumbling for the both of us

mami, tell me again how
big mother is a cast-iron pan with all that chitlin grease
how the cute boys down south
with their godfearin mothers suckin on hard candies
used to call you high yellow
they spotted the indian in you

tell me how big mother would sink a rag in hot turpentine oil
& pin it to your chest for healing
how her body was an hourglass with many tired years left
how she told you to be particular &
never let a boy play in your hair
how tender headed you always were
Rain(i know you as my black hair sky)

remember how her daddy held you up to the light bulb
how he said you were born with a veil over your eyes
he saw you staring straight into the spirit world

there’s this dream i have where
big mother’s in the yard out back
teaching me about the wind
& i can’t hear the tone of her voice
so i reach up for the zipper on her cotton housecoat
but she’s really you
her face your face
her sturdy legs your somewhat skinnier legs

i do not feel big mother sitting at the foot of my bed with all our other ancestors
so forgive me as i go looking in all the earthly places
you’ve got that divine prerogative
i’m stuck at planet level
Rain(i know you as my worn-out saint)

tell me how she came to you in all your many visions afterwards
how big mother looked at you right before she passed
how her eyes crossed at the highest point on the ceiling
she saw something up there & finally caught it

India Lena González is a poet, editor, and artist. She graduated with honors from Columbia University (BA) and received her MFA from NYU’s Creative Writing program, where she was a Writers in the Public Schools fellow. Her work is published in Poets & Writers Magazine, American Chordata, The Brooklyn Review, PANK, Pigeon Pages, Lampblack, and Glass: A Journal of Poetry, among others. A three-time National Poetry Series finalist, India is also a professionally trained dancer, choreographer, and actor. Her debut poetry collection, fox woman get out!, is forthcoming from BOA Editions in fall 2023, and was chosen by Editor-at-Large Aracelis Girmay as part of the Blessing the Boats Selections. She lives in Harlem.