When you hold me, will you hold only my cocoa-buttered
skin or will you hold my mother’s callous feet,
her cigarette-stained apron? Will you hold
my grandfather’s charcoal lungs?
His beer cans? When you hold me, will you hold
my mother’s rough hand, raking
nickels, food stamps from an unzipped wallet?
Will you hold her morning prayers,
her drum roll of tongues?
And when you hold me, will you hold only the stars
inked to my ankle, or will you
hold my sister’s skinny arm
when I beat it out of its socket?
Will you hold the wire hangers
in my father’s hand?
And when you hold those wire hangers,
the wooden ones,
will you hold my mother
down as my father whips her with them?
Will you hold the small boy version
of my father and hide him
in the trash can? Will you hold his father
back and put his knife
down? And when you put my grandfather’s knife
down, will you pull my father’s knife
from my pregnant mother’s chest? Will you hold her
until she sings again? Will you hold
their third miracle
daughter when she is born with her infant roar,
both knees? And when you hold me, will you hold
only the lies I told our pastor—
or will you hold the police report that tells
I hit the bathtub when he knocked me out?
And when the police knock
and when the police knock
again, and when the police knock
year after year after day afternoon—when the police knock
that afternoon, will you hold our apartment door open
and will you make me tell my father
I forgive him
because no one will hold him
until I do, nine years older, wired
with my own beer cans,
my hanging tongues.