Maya James / "Snapshots" [ode]

{ exclusive feature}
{image via Flickr}

Maya is a long-time Liberator contributing poet and short story writer. Her latest short story, "Memories in Blue," was featured in Liberator 9.1.

by Maya James (Contributing Writer, The Liberator Magazine)

i don't know if it is the smell
or her story drawing
the water from my eyes
her desperation squeezing
the last bit of fresh air
from the bus
each bump in the street
sends shards of her life flying
into my brain
a piece of her winter shawl is treks a
path for the window,
snatching a bead of august made
sweat from my nose
i grab the tattered kite and pass it back
our hands graze
I could plant seeds in the dirt under her nails
this urban nomadic priestess
wraps the purple woolen magic around her head
and begins preaching
to her demons

cape verde circa: timeless
a rickety bus, almost as old
as the road it’s traveling rattles
off the postcard and into my hand
two women look into me from
the glassless window
both have the granules
of hard living mapping
the lines on their faces
one smiling for her life
caught in the eye of the camera
her cheekbones pressing high
into corners of her eyes
the other, tears sealed in her ducts
too stubborn to let them fall
a violet scarf trying to escape
her neck, trails the bus
lips pursed, ready to shout
her truth at the photographer,
the djin she sees dancing in the road,

on rainy baltimore days
we sit in front of the window
and “watch god do her work”
you wrap your purple quilt
around me as i sit in the soft
sea of your legs, buoyed by
coffee support hose rolled to
knobby ankles
you would grease my scalp
with blue magic, bergamont, and
the quiet love of a southern queen
transmitting grandmother prayers
from your slippery fingertips
while you braid a crown for me

i miss my stop watching
the woman on the bus
she is leading a ring shout with
the demons, the lady of cape verde,
and my grandmother's ghost
i can see them weaving their arms
through one another,
shielding me from their struggles
stomping burdens from their limbs
through the floorboards of the bus
their sadness becoming fossils
in the tar of georgia avenue