You asked me if I thought
you were pretty.
Pretty is relative only to
everything besides oneself.
When I stare deeply into the mirror
I become confused.
There are two versions,
one always melting into
The first: a goddess,
black magic turned blue.
A garland of roses
atop my head,
pure and perfumed.
The second: relative.
A wise aunt who shares dark eyes.
A brave father who shares resilient,
You liked the idea that beauty
is ancestral and proud.
You asked how you could come to wear
a garland made of roses.
Together we looked in the mirror
and I removed my garland,
delicate as a newborn.
I let it settle on your head.
I let it bring you balance.
I didn’t taste a mango until early adulthood. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a problem of mango availability; I just didn’t like the idea of them. They were messy and sticky and watching someone eat that orange flesh was grotesque enough to put me off it entirely. Juice would dribble down their chin and then the sucking and slurping would commence. As a child, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. My mother, long and sinewy, with skin as dark as polished wood, would offer me half of her mango. Usually, this would happen when she was barefoot in our garden, patterned fabric draped over her shoulders, a look that was very unusual in our Canadian suburb. Each time she offered I would shake my head no. I would feel a pang of embarrassment in my gut, even if no one was there to see. Over the years, she persisted despite my resistance. By my teenage years, all she had to do was reach for a mango for me to dismissively utter No thanks. I now recognize the sadness that would cross her eyes each time I would refuse a piece of her fruit, requesting an apple instead. My mother loved when mangos became available in stores, they were the only product she would splurge on because they reminded her of home.
I first visited my mother’s home, Martinique, when I was in my early twenties. It was strange seeing her in her element like that. She seemed to glide across the sand, her luminous hair flecked with silvery strands, fastened with a flower. I tried to mimic her, but my feet weren’t used to the uneven terrain of sand and my hair seemed to reject every flower that tried to nestle between its curls. When I tripped for the fifth time, my mother smiled and sat down next to me. I was clearly frustrated with my lack of grace and I think my mother sensed that. We sat in silence for a moment watching the waves. My mother reached into her tote bag and extracted a mango. Carefully, she sliced it into halves. Tentatively, she offered me a half. For the first time I accepted, happy to share something with my mother.
Someone once told me not to make homes out of human beings but with you I
couldn’t help it—
your body cradled perfectly against mine,
as if we were built to rest with our limbs intertwined.
We forged space for each other where there was none to be made.
I’d feel your heart as you held my head to your chest
I wanted to merge your body with mine.
But you were indestructibly you.
You lingered in the air, irresistible.
Exquisite, as you lay back, stretching out
beneath the sunlight of your bedroom window that splayed sparkles upon your cheeks.
As you unequivocally made yourself a part of my world.