For Kehinde Wiley
Who are you, last born?
What did you know, lying on your mother’s chest,
A twin in the world,
Separated from mother and brother?
What flesh did you speak,
Thin paint of meat dense as clay?
And what did you orbit,
Your hands passing one over another?
Taking flowers in hand:
The magnolias are huge and pressing down,
A weight, a carriage of this child,
Heavy and pulling you toward earth.
He is, she is. They are here with you,
And men dressed like royalty.
Lotus flowers, perfect as complete.
A red, a green, a royal purple paint.
All yours, layed down in lead and oil,
Okra and goat,
And the skins kicked on a wet green field.
Standing atop the sword,
Leaning on manhood and floating in womanhood,
Men, you know your women,
And women you are held in your men.
Hands passing one over the other
And through one another’s hair, falling
Like water, from rocks to rocks,
Vines crawl up your skin, gentlemen,
Like the eyes of women who will see you.
Will they follow her?
Will she lead them to you, through you, from her heart?
Will they see you as they see her?
Will the beating train run down on you,
As softly as her? Taking you in hand,
Can you be mine, less strong, more strong,
Finally neither less nor more, but a Cyrus
Who surrenders to Maria and lets her hands run through
Those tight dark curls?
Let your head fall down, man,
A sword will not fall on your neck, while she stands by.
A New Republic, 2015