Hakeem looked in the mirror and frowned. His right cheek dropped low, sliding off his face. He caught it with one brown hand. He stared at his reflection, studying the fault lines that zigzagged across his face. They created tectonic plates of skin and flesh, and he knew those lines well.
The cheek plate that fell revealed the bone and muscles and whatever else
underneath. His empty hand traced the boundaries of the hole left in his face. He slid the plate in his hand into place, grimacing some as he heard and felt the skin and flesh reconnecting. It didn’t hurt, at least not enough to bother Hakeem. Not anymore.
Hakeem’s grandfather, an old geezer of a seer, warned him at a young age that his condition would reduce him to ash by the age of thirty. That he only had three decades to enjoy life before he would be rendered only a pile of human particles, unable to be rejoined or reformed into a man. His grandfather pressed upon him the urgency of enjoying his life while he still could before he was reduced to unburnt ash. And Hakeem listened.
Now at the age of thirty-six, the broken pieces of Hakeem’s body remained large puzzles of continents, not the particles of dust his grandfather predicted. He had lived a full life, had crossed off every item on his bucket list, and had since entered a state of depression. What else was there for him to do? Expecting to die relatively young, Hakeem did not plan any long-term goals.
Surviving on a monthly disability check, Hakeem’s life was a cycle of watching his face fall apart and placing back the broken pieces.
Black child, speak/ loud; make your voice heard/ over the din/ of white noise.// Black child, live/ loud; juke/ in solo rhythm/ adorn yourself/ in ancestral lore.// Black child, beautiful./ Black child, rebellious./ Black child, reticent/ with adults who/ seek to sew shut/ your mouth, silence/ your voice,/ ignore the stories/ you’ve lived, question/ the sunrises you’ve seen, doubt/ the sunsets you’ve cried.// Black child, you/ are sol & luna,/ plant & seed; rise/ & grow strong.
Rhythm + Blues
Person. Storyteller. Work-in-progress. Antoine J. Hayes @ajh_books is a writer of poetry, fiction and the occasional essay living in Baltimore, MD. Recent and forthcoming writing appears in Skelter, Charm City Stories, and The Deaf Poets Society. Website: www.ajhayes.com
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