sunday at mutha’s

Boy, don’t you kick that ball in tha garden. If you kick that
ball in tha garden one mo time, imma tan yo’ little brown hiney!
                                                Anna “Mutha” Lawrence 


we could hardly wait for crusty ol’ reverend
jenkins’ final Amen so the real sunday
afternoon could commence. 

fried chicken and fresh catfish.
aunt maudell’s potato salad.
aunt bonnell’s cakes. 

fresh corn on the cob and green
beans from mutha’s garden. 

more than a plot of plowed soil, this was
community center, where her children worked
sad earth, where her grandkids destroyed it fifty yards away. 

she sat on the sagging porch, lifted
by four high cinder blocks, to watch the sabbath unfold. 

almost unholy how worship affects
young black appetites but my cousins and me
were squirming in choir pews for one reason.
wasn’t the holy spirit or soul food 

it was kickball. no game ever completed. always
some form of tragedy – pam skinning up her knee,
chucky throwing the ball hard upside rae’s head 

or losing skipper to the kitchen. he ate
everything. all the time. once he made a salad
dressing sandwich on white bread. 

man, that’s some nasty stuff.
you a samwich eatin’ meathead emptyshoe!

another time in the kitchen two nieces
and a nephew were covered from head
to toe in chocolate. it was ex-lax. 

fear upon entering mutha’s bathroom.
sometimes the light chain stuck.
pulling, trying to hit the stool, because
you knew a whuppin’ was coming
if you missed. an old maple traced the window. 

the inside of your pants warm and sticky.

when mutha joined the ancestors
jaybird moved into her house
front porch supported by the same
cement squares. cousins jaybird, chucky and i
sitting around chilling. it didn’t feel right.
but i wasn’t afraid to use the toilet.

The author of twenty books of poetry, nonfiction, and children’s literature, Quraysh Ali Lansana is currently a Tulsa Artist Fellow as well as writer in residence, adjunct professor, and acting director of the Center for Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation at Oklahoma State University–Tulsa. He is executive producer of KOSU radio’s Focus: Black Oklahoma, and his forthcoming titles include Those Who Stayed: Life in 1921 Tulsa after the Massacre. He is a member of Tri-City Collective.