If I could I would try to shield your innocence from time
I think myself to be a well, always for filling. I feel myself to be a dipper, plunging down and pulling up selves from myself.
I’d drink from my gourd to down ’94 with stones and sticks from all the years after and I’ll swallow it all, even the bleach creams.
I would reach out and touch your face and say, “Look boo-bear, look; I have to reach up to touch you. Don’t you see the stars forming a bracelet around my wrist while my fingers are barely cupping your face? You are so high boo-bear, so high.”
I would carry you with me always like I do my mother’s first kiss. I’d hold you as close to me as my father held me next to him when he danced with me at night till I fell asleep and knew the comfort and safety of a man’s arms.
I would say, “No! don’t go that way. Don’t say yes. Scream. Scream. Scream!” but if you still went in, if you still opened the door, I would kneel down and tell you, “You will be okay; it is not your fault.”
I would tell you that the black boys and the black girls lied; you are enough and Africa beats in your veins through and through; America does too; Britain does too. You are not a cookie.
I would tell you that the white boys and the white girls lied; they do not forget the African in you–they deliberately forget. They lay claim to your mind, to your voice, but they leave the body. Your body carries you through. You are not a specimen.
I would convince you that the world lies. Your skin has hypnotized every god man and woman ever created. The sky weeps for not having kept you. You are beautiful.
I would guide your hands to the stove, give them a knife and spoon, and move them over pots and pans, have cornmeal fall between your fingers, let peach juice stain your lips, allow hot chicken and greens perfume your clothes. I would show you how to take flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, butter, and milk, mix it, bake it, call it a biscuit and plate it with eggs, rice, sausages floating in brown gravy, and serve, serve it to your mother and your father, serve it to your brothers, serve it to your grandmother because you remember–ancestors taking flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, butter, and milk, mixing it, baking it in kitchens not their own and calling it work for mouths not their own. I would teach you the recipes so the man you’ll love will taste and know, so your children taste and know, so you will taste and know.
I would take you into me and wrap you with Marlon Riggs, James Baldwin, Bayard Rustin, Langston Hughes, Bruce Nugent, Essex Hemphill, and so many numerous nameless black faces with stubble kissing other black faces with stubble. I would hold you while you cried at the beauty of possibility.
I would teach you to dance with Toni Morrison, Ntozake Shange, Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, and Nella Larsen. I would help you sing for Billie, Etta, Diana, Aretha, Patti, Nina, Lauryn, Beyonce, Jennifer, Mariah, Toni, Janet, and Whitney–everyday Whitney.
I would make a garden for you and forbid you nothing.
I would kiss all of you.
I love you.
…Give you courage in a world of compromise. Yes I would…