Oct/Nov 2019 Poetry

An Arab in Harlem, Learning

by Nur Turkmani

Image courtesy of The British Library photostream

An Arab in Harlem, Learning

It's August. A homeless woman in Morningside Avenue Park invites
a Chinese baby & his mom to her birthday barbecue in December.
Ribs & collard greens on the menu, she promises the singing is on
her. Says she's seen me in the magazine before, says I'll go far in
life. Forgot to ask her where the Harlem Hospital was, wanted a peek
at baby Baldwin, born with bulb eyes. Clouds play hide & seek & that's
fine I'm busy mesmerizing over thick braids, a plaid jacket, ankara
headwrap, sequin hoops, man in cane. A pair of shiny shoes sit still
on Malcolm X Boulevard. The air is a whiff of shea butter & red lipstick
& a beautiful man with black eyes stops Samar. Tells her the curves
we are taught to swallow in are those of a goddess. What a relief
to feel woman & whole in streets where even a bare wall is music.
How do chicken & waffle make so much sense? I drip the maple sauce
like I've done this all my life, whine my hips to afrobeats underground,
stop dumbfounded in front of Apollo Theatre. I am reborn here &
Aretha Franklin is whispering something borrowed from Langston:
don't defer the dreams. Is jazz God or what?


Previous Piece Next Piece