I look in the mirror and dissect myself. The darkness of my skin. The shape of my nose. My too close together eyes. My nearsightedness. My eyelashes sparse, but long. My collarbones. The goldfish birthmark. My curly, frizzy hair. My long fingernails. I see myself as a mosaic of you, my cousins, my aunties and uncles, my grandparents, my greats, my great greats, five generations away.
Beauty was discovering you, here, in my own image, here, in the language I crafted to celebrate you.
No sound is more powerful than the names we give each other. We die with two names, the one we said to the world and the one said at barbecues.
I have sat on stoops, on stairways between the grown folks and children and listened. Listened and learned how to speak with love.
Our love language is laughter. We laugh our way to healing.
To the white teacher who called my mother ugly. To the white mother who called my uncle a nigger. To the white cops who beat my uncles : your grandchildren and great grands will read about my beautiful black family and love them the way you were afraid to. They will know them by name and the cartography of their imagination will have a space occupied by my black mother. By my black uncles. By my black grandmother.
Our love is defiance. In spite of everything love. Until it hurts love. Until it makes us angry. Until we are happy again.
I cannot remember the sweetness of the peppermint and Pepsi my auntie put in my mouth when I was knee high to a church pew, but I remember the sweetness of her laugh, rich with smoke and ruby red lipstick that sometimes got caught on her teeth.
I cannot remember my grandmother holding my infant body, cradling me close to her heart, but I remember our last hug, her tiny chest pressed into my developing one, the smile in her eyes magnified behind her glasses.
I still feel her laugh in my bones.