after I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

The breaking and entering
of an eight year old
in yellow afternoon sun
sudden as love or hate.
Scimitar sundering
through the eye of a needle
blinded by nothing
it could name.
The terrible redundancy
in his face
still shackling your tongue
long after slick-suited uncles
left him for dead.
Later lashing you.
Seeing sullenness in silence
sent you back
to a grandmother in Stamps.

You liked her store best at dawn
waiting in slatted light
to be opened
like a tabernacle or a heart.
Mute mornings strung
with pearls of promise
till doors unwrapped
the red dirt yard
you raked at night
drawing moons
and stars and solar winds
in Arkansas soil.

Cinnamon constellations
circling a chinaberry tree
pledging shade to barbers
with glinting scissors
scraping cut-throats
troubadours plucking juice harps
twanging cigar-box guitars
cotton pickers come
to buy canned sardines
sody crackers and peanut paddies.
You soundlessly serving
haloed in gold from a coal-oil lamp.

Layered nacreous shell shielding
that small sense of self
brittle body armour
polished the day
she came with a name
spilling apple blossom
and Queen Anne lace.
Teacher telling you
flat words flush
with page were half dead.
Reading poets old and new
aloud only for you
chamois voice coloured
azure and amethyst
each letter enweaved
syllables shelled words unfurled.
What could you say
when she asked you to speak?
Black lark rising from mother-of-pearl.