Mama understands the night
She tells me that the darkest nights have nothing to do with the absence of stars or the two faced moon, that some nights are so full of themselves that nothing can get through them, not starlight or a street light, that the night is as heavy as a ton of bricks, especially in New Jersey when we travel through See-Ca-Cuse and no matter how often she asks me how to pronounce Secaucus, she always says See-Ca-Cuse, and we laugh and she says “it’s so nighttime here, I don’t think the day will find its way back here especially the way they drive in Jersey”, she doesn’t hate Jersey but when we’re there she’s always looking for gardens, and she smirks, “So, where are all the gardens?”, and I say, who knows, maybe down another street.
Mama asks me if this is the darkest night or if yesterday’s night was darker than this one,
I tell her I’m not sure, that although yesterday’s night was as dark as an old man’s umbrella, this night might be the darkest. She tells me not to be silly, night isn’t an umbrella.
My Mama examines the night.
She warns me that the night goes blind at night. That’s why he inches after the sun looking for a bit of sight. A halo of light.
See how the foot of the night trips up the steps? See how he walks into stop signs? The night can’t even see his own hand and probably bites his finger when he eats a sandwich.
Mama catches me inspecting my fingers and bleeding cuticles and says “if you keep biting, you’ll grow a lump filled with nails in your stomach and then when you die after the operation, how will I find your grave at night? And you, scared, alone, and dead and all. ”
“And anyway”, Mama says, “You have sloppy hands, and messy hair, just like the night. No matter how you pull, you can’t untangle the night. You can’t braid the night”.
Mama talks to the night.
She says that everyone talks to the night, even the dogs. Sometimes she whispers cuddly words to the night, I wouldn’t mind if she kissed the night and smudged lipstick all over his shirt. Other times she screams. When Mama screams at the night, I worry. One time I saw her throw a drink in his face. Another time, she burned his neck with a cigarette. Thankfully, the night backed up until morning. Mama says it doesn’t matter what you say to the night, he’ll never recognize you tomorrow
Mama’s had it with the night.
Mama says the night is susceptible to gravity because he’s always falling and can’t get up. See how he collapses out the window, not like the standup day taking its lumps. See how the night clutches the day like a drowning man, and pulls down the sun over the horizon, then, pulls down your panties.
And even though the night apologizes until he’s royal blue in the face, Mama says the night will always be a thief, and she’s taking him to court.
Mama is jealous of the night.
“Yes!” Mama says. “Your precious night, the one you love more than me.
The one you’d jump into even though he won’t catch you.”
She watches me sleep wide awake.
She watches me keep eye contact with him.
Mama envies my daytime
but I wish I had Mama’s nighttime nose. Mama says I should be smarter because I have the goods to sniff out the bull from the truth, separate the night from the day. But even though I win the nose contest, Mama wins the beautiful feet contest. Mama says she has fancy feet, Cinderella feet, dainty feet made for pedicures and glass slippers and dancing the mambo, not like me with my plain feet and working toes whose only talent is to pick things up, daytime feet meant to be hidden in the Buster Browns with the long tongue.
Mama changes her tune about the day.
First she says you can’t trust anybody, not even the sun who carves its fingerprints into skin and slices the buildings in the neighborhood.
But then she switches her mind and says she never said that the sun has eyes in back of her head and will give you the evil eye with one of them.
Mama says one day I will sit in the dark with bandages around my head and then I’ll understand.
She teaches me the Look at My Shoes Dance, followed by the Tilt My Head Up Pose, the one where I peek when I try not to look at the thing I want most.
Brenda Morisse is a poet. She lives in the Bronx.