Before God or light. When my name was still
a riddle buzzing inside my father’s head
and rainbows only streamed thru my dreams.
There was black. Me in a black sack, in a belly,
a body, a home. Or out walking, bouncing up
and down like a beach ball in the dark.
Black hole, black hole, in an unborn soul,
even my hunger was filled with shadows,
gray shapes in the unlit bathroom where
my mother hid from our violent tenement,
sang “Rock-a-bye-baby” to keep me safe. Inside.
Black was the soft fur outside my bedroom window,
the moon sliced in half by a telephone pole,
black’s panther eye. Black, the pocket of sleep
I slipped inside to wake like a lost penny,
the dark, glittering glass four stories over
Brooklyn where my nude boy’s body turned wild.
I was the blue-black eagle, the coal-black bear,
the luminous, ice-black oak. My arms reaching out
to touch streetlights or stars became translucent branches,
my palms gathered voices like rain—Puerto Rican,
Italian, Colored, tire whines and horn barks,
steel squeals from the El grinding up King’s Highway,
sound rushing up thru the night’s roots into
my heart, beating against me like a black drum
till I opened my mouth and learned to sing.
—from Rattle #8, Winter 1997
R.G. Cantalupo: “I’m a full-time writer these days. I seem to have more desire now than ever, and am getting younger every day.”