In the never-silence of a bug-hum summer,
you call to me, try to find me
atop west portico steps,
in a hotel placard in Paris,
but you cannot save me. I’m bound
by history. I am burned letters
and bathroom and parking lot at Hampton Inn.
I am broken soup tureen and snapped shears
and rusted skeleton key. I am black wench,
wench Sally, African Venus, Sarah Hemings,
and I cannot be your coalmine canary,
cannot tell you which man will be true.
Chet’la, I cannot save you. You must
find your own truth as fires ripple through you,
as you decide the nature of your landscape—
which bulbs you’ll nurse to blossom—
as you seek peace in this voice
that’s no more you than it is me.