by Mahogany L. Browne


If the mouth is a house
Then most days I am homeless

My Mama taught me              ____     
women are loved best when silent

Once I leaned into a man's shoulder blade
I haven't found my tongue ever since

I hear my father is a dream boat
It is no wonder I am afraid of the sea
Each wave carries a sound I don't have the courage to carry

If the mouth has four walls
Then is the roof a spotless wonder?

My Mama fetched her voice box for a pipe once//I've been scared of smoke ever since

No mouth no cave no casket no shadow

My mouth harbors love like a well
Except most days the well feels dry
No one told me how to replenish
I've been taught to fear large bodies of water

& boats
& men w/the collarbone of a man i can't remember but will always Shazam in the dance of my dream 

                    ^^^^^^ _______
Mommy mouth screamed at a gun twice
Each shot siren sung like an air raid or a prison break or a black man's back
I am always concerned w/my tone
San Quinetin children learn they place
In the limestone


My father got a skeleton awake & swaying
                       I'm still afraid to go home\\

I've learned to live amongst a commune of

Each ghost got a special something
& remind me of sin

                                                  ^^^^      ____
Where all the women talk real loud
Let men marry them or not
Hit them or not
Leave them then come back
Years passed and skin sagged
Locks unchained

Mouths unhinged
& swinging hello to any two-bit hustler w/swagger

No matter he arrive w/another woman's scent tucked against his collarbone 

My mommy used to sing to me
I've no prove
- but my bones are certain of this

Anytime I hear a horn scuttle across the dusty room
I think:  "this is what heartache feels like in summer" 
or               "this sound smells like my mother" 

I heard,
                  death is the best kind of sleep 

I weep well into dusk      
- my shadow bucks against the sheets
                  a good song        
The next morning    
I wake                                                            a thrashing black woman
w/a bullet lodged between my teeth