Love does not want this body
swelled as a June-split mango,
bruised as all tree fruit pre-fall,
sitting atop tufts of dead grass
and snakeskin. This body been
baked for hours in the sun, has
stung the fence and leaves sweet
and untouchable. The branches,
bare and brown, been pulled down
like the arms of hopeless mothers.
Each pulp-stained head, a shade
of summer we call red. One ripe
stone-fruit, firm on one side, half-
eaten, brown or bruised on the other.
The pulp darkened in the heat, sap
lost all color overnight, and where
the mango sat rotting, a face-like
indent marked the once-alive grass.
Three months of fruit gathered
beneath the tree, brown, bodies.
The leaves gave up their green
as witness, were blown apart
by the constant fall. The tree takes
the shape of my mother, bending
to collect a basket-full of mangoes,
each one she names. The sound
of tree-fruit, thumping to the ground,
is an ever-growing toll. Sounds
like skin hitting skin, like dead weight,
My father dragged the television out
to the patio, so he could watch the news
and wade in the pool. His stereo played
bluegrass folk from the Florida room.
I was gathering bulbs while he lay.
When the news rung out, I stilled
my hand. When daddy said not another
one, I bent down again. A brown boy
grown ripe in the sun, while a garden
snake began shedding at my feet.
The snake wound like a tongue,
wrung itself free of the dead skin;
as I picked up a half-eaten mango
it calmed. Black, it sat, with splotches
of red, looking moist beneath a dry shell.
A black widow twitched on a leaf. It, too,
is black and red. Across the yard my father
swims laps. The television has yet to pick
up the boy on the ground. In the house,
mother is making jam, calling for my brothers.
Christell Victoria Roach is a writer born and raised in Miami, Florida. She is currently double majoring in Creative Writing & African American Studies at Emory University. She writes to advocate for awareness, for social justice efforts, and to create representation for the voices of her people. Christell was a 2015 National YoungArts Foundation Winner in Poetry, and has traveled the country performing spoken word with Tigertail WordSpeak and YouthSpeaks’ Brave New Voices. She has received awards in Carnegie Hall, and recently performed poetry in the Kennedy Center. A finalist in poetry & playwriting for the Agnes Scott Writer's Festival, she carries a quote within her: “Passion overrides talent.” It pushes her to own the presence in the art she carries.