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Taproot

By Aurora Masum-Javed

                         for all my beloveds, especially Sasha 

I run my hand over the heartwood—oldest growth 
refusing decay—dark, dense, strong. & now, sawed 
& sanded, center of my kitchen. I imagine you 
at this table, salted locs cascading 
to the small of your back, silver chains tangled 
& stacked, palm tattoos flickering 
as you gesture to sky, each inked line 
guiding us here—this house, this table, this someday— 
your child (how long you waited) weaving between 
our legs, cerulean crayon tucked behind ear, a seer 
from the day he arrived, like you. I imagine us 
cackling ourselves to the floor, you looping truth 
into truth, giddy at my giddiness. I peed myself 
in a Wendy’s parking lot, washed my crocs 
& kept on driving. Remember? you ask. Sometimes 
you have to keep on driving. Through time’s unhinged 
longing, we’ve become kin, & this house which is my home 
is also yours. Every winter, when the Chicago snow 
leaks in through the window’s cracked sealant, you 
come here. This year, your mother too, frying up 
plantains in the kitchen, & my own small child 
cooing in her crib. Soon, Lisa & Jei will clamor 
through the swollen pine door, too many bags 
for a weekend, so they’ll stay 
longer, all of us bowing to survival’s irreverent 
prayer. We’ll walk side by side like this 
through tide & miscarriage & madness & decade. 
I dream this house now because I am alone, 
because I have been alone most of my life. I dream 
this house because I will love you until I am ash. 
How many years I’ve spent half-dead, buried 
by fear’s carnivorous demand, my heart’s 
tepid scarcity. I don’t know how to unlearn it. So I do 
what I can. I pick up the phone. You play us a song, 
some old Britney remix born again, & in our faraway 
homes, we dance the way we did once in that strange, 
white, hippy town, the club PBR-stained, half-empty, 
& full of grace. The church that is midnight & 
bass. How we twerked against the wall 
every Saturday in December until we couldn’t stand, 
until we dragged our sore thighs home, sweaty, spent, 
& a little less depressed. We may never live 
in the same city again, but we will be a family, 
whatever shape that takes. We will eat & fight & weep. 
We will grow into the give-no-fucks crones 
we’ve always wanted to be. I see us now—ninety 
on a porch, smoking cloves, howling 
into the spark-studded night, 
brazen, ancient, alive. 

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