By Donika Kelly
We live in Los Angeles, California.
We have a front yard and a backyard.
My favorite things are cartwheels, salted plums,
and playing catch with my dad. I squeeze the grass
and dirt between my fingers. Eat my tongue
white. He launches every ball into orbit.
Every ball drops like an anvil, heavy
and straight into my hands. I am afraid
of riots and falling and the dark.
The sunset of flames ringing our block,
groceries and Asian-owned storefronts. No one
to catch me. Midnight walks from his room to mine.
I believe in the devil.
I have a sister and a brother
and strong headlock. We have a dog named
Spunky, fawn and black. We have an olive
tree. A black walnut tree. A fig tree.
We lie in the grass and wonder who writes
in the sky. I lie in the grass and imagine
my name, a cloud drifting. Saturday
dance parties. Everyone drunk on pink
panties, screwdrivers, and Canadian Club.
Dominoes and spades. Al Green and Mack 10.
Sometimes Mama dances with the dog.
Sometimes my dad dances with me. I am
careful not to touch. He is careful
to smile with his whole face.
Contributor’s Note: DONIKA KELLY will join poets Eve Williams, Matthew Klane and James Belflower at the first Just Buffalo Studio Series reading of the 2016-2017 season at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Just Buffalo Writing Center, 468 Washington St. (at Mohawk St.), 2nd floor. She is the author of the debut collection “Bestiary” (forthcoming in November from Graywolf Press), selected by Nikky Finney for 2015 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and recently nominated for the 2016 National Book Award in Poetry. Last month, she joined the faculty of St. Bonaventure University as an assistant professor of English. This poem originally appeared in Nashville Review.