Anand Prahlad

You Waited

i was so far away
for so long
and still you waited.

away on a pumpkin thistle
in a house of cicada.

1000 leagues below
in the belly of whales.

above the surface was the pain
i couldn’t weather.

it came for me like the chariot
to carry me home.

tumors are the grist
in the time machine
that takes you out of time

instead of backwards
or forward.

no t-model fords.
no slave or space ships.

no legacies. no heirs.
no ancestors.

you meet no one there
and should you accidentally

cross the border
you burst into tears.

you become the ghost
of flesh and bones
watching yourself
in a house on fire.

it’ll be alright
you learn to say to yourself.

and still
you brought me kale
and yams and bean pies
cold compresses

and spread your voice
over me like twilight
over a field of wild grasses

and laid beside me
long nights
that reached beyond the horizon.

in snow falls covering the fence
and silence covering the snow.

in brittle stalks and brown pods
and leaves the colors of plasma.

in streams of flooding in the yard
rain thick as sputum.

in the swollen light
tubers of pollen.

i know now that eros
is the shadow of birth
not of dying

no matter what the poets say.

death is its own shadow.

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Anand Prahlad is the author of two books of poems, Hear My Story and Other Poems, and As Good As Mango, and a memoir, The Secret Life of A Black Aspie. He has also published critical articles and books on black folklore and proverbs, including Reggae Wisdom: Proverbs in Jamaican Music and African American Proverbs in Context, and he edited the three-volume set, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Folklore. Prahlad is a professor in the English Department, at the University of Missouri, where he is the Director of the Creative Writing Program.