At sixty-six, my mother can’t retire. Most of her life
she saw risk as God’s blessing. Married over and over,
moved here, there, and back. Back in the day,
she was power, afro swag, wearing platform boots.
Today, she wears a uniform, helps “important people”
enter buildings. She complains she doesn’t have much.
I remind her she is rich in other ways. I’m not my mother.
My only risk is flying; I revel in that feeling after the fasten
seatbelt sign is off, the exhaling after unbuckling, the stretch
of legs, the sway of hips up and down the aisle, a freedom
fear strangles on land. Is it possible to feel blessed and broken?
Some of us hold onto safety like deeply planted roots hold onto soil.
My 80s-loving friend says high altitude makes hearts
strong like Rambo. To my friend, it makes sense to always be alert,
always protecting self. He understands the need to fortify during
peacetime, to prepare, to build a fortress. We build forts
around each other sometimes, send Morse code distress signals
at “first blood.” Most times, we exchange pleasantries,
then disappear. In another life, we would’ve been lovers
planting landmines for anyone unlucky enough to find
our refuge. But risk? At sea-level loneliness is an anchor.
My mother never hesitates to “put God to the test.”
Some of us are trees trying to retire trunk heavy.
Kateema Lee is a Washington D.C. native. Her recent work has been published in print and online journals such as Beltway Poetry Quarterly, African American Review, Gargoyle, Baltimore Review, and others. Her new chapbook, Musings of a Netflix Binge Viewer, is forthcoming. She is a Cave Canem Graduate Fellow, a Callaloo fellow, and a participant of The Home School and Community of Writers at Squaw Valley.