Momma Welfare Roll
by Maya Angelou
Her arms semaphore fat triangles,
Pudgy hands bunched on layered hips
Where bones idle under years of fatback
And lima beans.
Her jowls shiver in accusation
Of crimes clichéd by
Repetition. Her children, strangers
To childhood's toys, play
Best the games of darkened doorways,
Rooftop tag, and know the slick feel of
Other people's property.
Too fat to whore,
Too mad to work,
Searches her dreams for the
Lucky sign and walks bare-handed
Into a den of bereaucrats for
'They don't give me welfare.
I take it.'
We wear the mask that grins and lies.
It shades our cheeks and hides our eyes.
This debt we pay to human guile
We, unaccustomed to courage exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
Soft grey ghosts crawl up my sleeve
to peer into my eyes
while I within deny their threats
When I think about myself,
I almost laugh myself to death,
My life has been one great big joke,
Your skin like dawn
Mine like musk
One paints the beginning
My man is Black Golden Amber Changing.
Warm mouths of Brandy Fine
Cautious sunlight on a patterned rug
That man over there say
a woman needs to be helped into carriages
and lifted over ditches
Your smile, delicate
rumor of peace.
Deafening revolutions nestle in the
Your hands easy
weight, teasing the bees
hived in my hair, your smile at the
Give me your hand
Make room for me
to lead and follow