café au lait

these cobblestone streets
are clunky beneath me.
something doesn’t sit right
but it all looks so

young brown girl’s eyes
are a microscope
peering down at
them. a species i quietly observe and after
make notes
go back to bed
and dream.

they swarm in cafes
like clusters of moths
spilling and perching
on a lightbulb
that is politics today
gender fluidity the next.
nothing that doesn’t
somehow concern

so beautiful these
young venus sculptures
in the city of lights. so creamy white
in the sunshine.
at night they seem to come to life
and gather in the cafés of paris.
they talk and talk away
at sartre
nothing that doesn’t
somehow concern

so many cigarettes
are dying at their hands.
their careless milk-
like teeth pulled back.

i know
i do not want to be them
do not want their masks
that are so light
to wear.
young brown girl grew proud
of her skin like cafe au lait,
but only because it had extra milk
i admit. i submit.
something doesn’t sit right

with their careless smoking
their laughing
into the night’s

so i do not want to be them.
and yet,
i do.
i want to matter
without trying

want them
to not only remember,
and to memorize,
like i did once in their schools,
i want them to yearn too
for my capital city
where i ran my first race
where i scraped myself
in the playground that watched me drift into another age;
they should yearn,
just like i did
for their new york, their paris.

they don’t know the smallness
of being from nowhere –
a mere capillary
in the body of relevance.

yes i want to matter
without trying
i want to forget
buying white pearl face creams in secret
and disguising my pleasure at their effects;

forget kissing fast and hot and clenching moans
young brown girl
struggling to say yes

to this much coffee
and this much milk
and this much fluidity
was never given to me in the first place.
don’t you see now why i have to dream?
before i can sit in your cafés
as blank in my brown body
as you smoke your casual cigarette

there is a woman i met
with warm black skin
like espresso
with a french passport in the shade of
she smiled nervously at me
said the french people she knew
liked their coffee with milk —
watched her throw away her cup
imagined her shouting
down the arc de triomphe
“here now, the cup is gone!”
“it’s invisible
now! i’m invisible!”
you can’t say a damn thing.

on the way back
in a dim white
metro station i hear
music with
bass so deep i feel
it anchors
young black girl
to the cobblestone streets
she was born on but

something doesn’t sit right.
like a butterfly pinned
wriggling on the wall.
it all seems just
so beautiful.


Painting by Richard Claremont, “Le Marais”

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