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In the pull-out bed with my brother
         in my grandfather's Riverton apartment
my knees and ankles throbbed from growing,
         pulsing so hard they kept me awake-
or was it the Metro North train cars
         flying past the apartment, rocking the walls,
or was it the sound of apartment front doors
         as heavy as prison doors clanging shut?
Was the Black Nation whispering to me
         from the Jet magazines stacked on the floor, or
was it my brother's unfamiliar ions
         vibrating, humming in his easeful sleep?
Tomorrow, as always, Grandfather will rise
         to the Spanish-Town cock's crow deep in his head
and perform his usual ablutions,
         and prepare the apartment for the day,
and peel fruit for us, and prepare a hot meal
         that can take us anywhere, and onward.
Did sleep elude me because I could feel
         the heft of unuttered love in his tending
our small bodies, love a silent, mammoth thing
         that overwhelmed me, that kept me awake
as my growing bones did, growing larger
         than anything else I would know?

Written by Elizabeth Alexander


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