The Journal Petra

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Daniel Woody

no time easy living

no door no floor no / roof
light from above / her eyes
large and small // these eyes
pretend i don't / see these eyes
aren't meant / to see


                                    [My great-grandmother was born
                                    the daughter of a slave. She lived,

                                    she married, she produced
                                    a large family. I am one of her

                                    nearly one hundred great-grandchildren.]


and she eases with / light
looks for me pupils / tiny
imperceptible yes / tiny
white from above i / only
notice after a bit / only
eyes flash a warning / i
understand that / i
will be better / that
it won't happen / that
i promise this / this
flash of / light


                                    [Once, I met her. I was

                                               six or seven--      told to call her
                                               Big Momma      I did not understand--

                                    For minutes, few, several, I am
                                    alone with her, Big Momma, thin,
                                    confined to a wheelchair.

                                    I think she speaks.]




            Too long ain't real, child,
            no time ain't neither.
            we laughter, we easy,
            we freedom, we a,
            we a cool breeze that last,
            a whisper in your ear,
            a secret, child
            a secret you see,
            you ain't real, child,
            you the problem;
            we there always, child.
            Hold my hand, come on.


                                                                                                                        [She sat
                                                            staring in her wheelchair, sometimes mumbling,

                                                sometimes groaning, licking her lips, drooling, scaring
                                                the hell out of me.

                                                            Maybe she said nothing.

                                    Still, I continue.]


it wasn't no problem / white folk we ain't // know them that's what i tell you

child listen / don't do it you hear / Lord imma tell this / boy imma tell him how / it been
for me the sun / burnt your eyes and your skin // we poured the salt on it / the meat
got us some jerky / no time easy living // this boy too young / but he my own my / only
chance i gotta die / to see the lord / ain't supposed to be here // momma said sing

the blues / when you happy the gospel if you ain't / i got sadness child / boy won't look
at me let me sing // what you want child what you like // that boy sit there / lord knows
he mine / how i get this old / he sit there he looking scared / i must be ugly why he scared
his own momma / grandmomma come here child / he don't even look / i just

think / i never know / i just be thinking / let me tell this boy don't be scared child / i
already dead i dead / help me with this body child


                                    [She commanded me to help her stand.

                                    She did not smile like other adults.

                                    I knew to listen.

                                    We stood in front of the wheelchair looking
                                    at the floor, me holding her steady, her resting
                                    her weight on my body.

                                                                        She told me to let go

                                    so she could fall.

                                    I hesitated.
                                    She repeated herself, boy you better listen
                                    to your grandmomma, she said.]


oh lord i used / to sing how sweet / the sound up in church / like i aint even / care
who heard i could / fly when i sang let me / sing to this child boy don't know / nothing he got

sadness he got / i can say it let me say it // jack said this child read / good god's grace
this child gone / be a doctor one my own / a doctor i hope he don't / got
no white momma who his / daddy boy who your daddy / someone tell me

who child / this is must be bill knocked up / some white woman lord help / that
boy no this jack's baby // i should be dead // how old am i // let me tell this
boy bout my momma / boy'll have nightmares // what they tellin him // he look
like jack you jack's child boy // don't know nothing get me // outta this
damn chair boy // get me outta this chair

Daniel Woody lives in Chicago, where he teaches writing and bakes bread. This piece is an excerpt from his unpublished collection, bless us (who have chosen soul). More of his work can be found in The Volta, The Opiate, Word Riot, and BOAAT.