The Love Letters Of Helen Pitts Douglass

By Michael S. Harper

When I stood behind his desk chair
and when he sat, on rare occasions,
on the porch, “sage of Anacostia,”
they called him, I smelled his mane
glorious, and as a hand saddle
the aroma of hair took me to neckline
and below. In Egypt, long after
Napoleon had shot off the face
of the Sphinx, I thought of this
man, and the cusp of his palms
on my shoulder blades;
as always he was carrying the mail
of gender, his touch immaculate
in the true blend of the cortex,
and of the complex, risen on a pulpit,
and after the hot air, wintry parlance,
the syllables of my name in his ear,
when he touched me, as he had touched
me then.
I had my suspicions of English
ladies, actresses, ghosts of the Thames,
concubines, as we had been into this next
century. And they had their wiles with him.

I do not feel forbidden; the cameo ring
he gave me, recession of his maleness
all I need, and highlights of my dark
profile, any children we might have
had buried in architecture,
and the hate of his daughter Rosetta,
who I have spoken to over the grate.

The sun rises and sets in our neighborhood:
I WILL BURN THESE. But when I place my fingers
in that mane it is to the saddle he will come.

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