as kin rise to pray in the deepest shade
before each dawn, i ask: what is it about
          a seed shedding itself into
          a seed reborn that makes it
its name? still i wait, as though there is
          no time for question through the
          tired feast we become in this
moonlight before the fast. mama speaks:

كل كل يللا خذ خذ
eat, eat. go on. take, take.
          and i take
          after my father
who used to pull crabapples
          ripe off the trees
          steady-fencing this
morbid crackle of roads

that will never belong
to us. as my mother runs
          her wet fingertips into dates
          beneath the rinse, my father would
say: americans are
         too busy watching good fruit
         wither away.
too busy wrapping their teeth

around the skin of other things
in the evening hours. meanwhile,
          we just gnaw through that. he and i
          take all of our time—
it is the only thing our women ask of us.
          and, again, i ask:
          what makes a brown boy his
name? when does he become

a feast of yes,
a game of eat, eat. take, take. a riddle:
          what color of boy doesn’t eat
          what his mother makes him?
what being could leap
          out of a seed and walk
          upright just long enough
to inhale the dirt that will see him 

a man? here, we get tired of this
script, muddled
          film of hardened juice, and thickened
          erasure; the shedding of
flesh into soil. O how much
          easier can we be to take? 
          another generation passes
into the wake, and mama prays in the moonlight 

before the fast. this is where i come
to learn why a mother gives
          her kin a name that lingers, a name
          that only we can pronounce.

This poem first appeared in Up The Staircase Quarterly on February 2nd, 2017. To view the poem as it originally appeared, visit the publication here. Audio is available in the "Listen" section of the site.