Variation 2: How to Travel
by Brenda Marie Osbey
city of palms
palms and brick
palms and live oak, cypress, pine and nànier –
city veiled in sweet olive, night jasmine, rose, mimosa
breathing azalea, camellia, oleander
city blooming straight from swamp
bamboo and black willow flat upside the
noisesome votives of human sweat, dung of pack animals –
the pound and slip and cloy of the far too many funky corner dives.
should you chance to come to my city
pray do not be taken in by the vaunted allure of the place
storied beauty of so many dark women –
men darker still –
do not tarry along the various and sundry water bodies that will seem
to rock you, coddle, contain you for a song.
at all costs, keep to outer edges of all narrow public walkways.
if you can help it, do not walk at all.
keep birth certificate, at least one passport
exactly one set of keys always among yourselves and always at the ready.
if you must drive
lock yourself snugly – always – inside your car your companion’s car the nearest taxi, any seeming suitable and available vehicle or secure building
bearing in mind that few buildings here ever are secure.
obey warnings read signs
many, though by no means all of which will read:
we cannot, will not be responsible for loss of life
nor any truer, more costly valuables.
travelers. travelers so often find themselves spat up
slim pickings from oh-so-lovely pearlescent teeth of small bands of natives
– wanton waste but true –
for lack of sufficient savor and spice
connoisseurs of known and of unknown delicacies
finger fond memories of cane liquor and sugar-tit
sweet-oil and blackest softest earth
innards and outtards gristle and bone
suffer from so great a wealth
as never to grow quite full or fat or oily enough
true. all true.
the lies you have heard about my city – thoroughly simply unmistakably true.
(we still do
go at times to lake lagoon bayou-water sea
whether by head or feet excised organ or vulnerable member
our own long-captured-tortured-most-violently-anciently
on whose behalf, it happens, i appeal to you now):
attend to your your health.
at the very least keep sanitary. keep well. travel safe. stay alive.
do not chance it.
do not tarry in this city cursed and consecrated
for all its beckon and seeming beauty
of its children
streets and street corners
ours is far too
great a hunger
we are far too many women of far too many shades of black
too lovely to be safe – and men as lovely as that
oaks and roses
tall tipsy pines
great palms and far too
many many funky dives.
Poem copyright 2020 by Brenda Marie Osbey. All rights reserved.
See more poems from Brenda Marie Osbey debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle: “Fieldwork,” and “In Memory of Katherine Foster, Free Negress, Late, of these Parts.”