“My arm is so brown and so beautiful,” is a thought I have
as I’m about to turn off the lamp and go to sleep.
I look at it a moment in the soft glow, and see it, briefly,
as though it belonged to someone else. A reddish
kind of brown, like a toasted almond, only flecked
with the fine, gold hairs of summer. And it occurs to me,
that I have always loved the brownness of my skin,
The way, just now, I stopped to admire my own thigh,
its deeper tone against the crisp white of my cotton robe.
As a girl, I wanted to be dark as my mother, whose skin
shone against crimson, malachite, plum. I loved the way
that gold gleamed against her neck, the way dark skin
forgives the accumulation of our years and griefs—and still
goes on, pliant and smooth and new. It made sense to me
that others slathered their limbs with oil, with unguent,
laid themselves out on roofs, on decks, on banks of sand,
gave themselves to the mercy of the sun. Though when
I seek a synonym for dark, I find dim, nefarious, gloomy,
threatening, impure. Is the world still so afraid of shadows?
Of the dark face of the earth, falling across the moon?
The dark earth, from which we’ve sprung, to which
we shall return? What we do not know lies in darkness.
The way the unsayable rests at the back of the tongue.
So let us sing of it—for the earth is a dark loam
and the night sky an unfathomable darkness.
And it is darkness I now praise. The dark at the exact
center of the eye. Dark in the bell’s small cave.
The secret cavity of the nucleus. The quark.
How hidden is the sacred, quickening in the dark
behind the visible world. O Yaweh, O Jehovah,
henceforth I will name you: Inkwell, Ear of Jaguar,
Skin of the Fig, Black Jade, Our Lady of Onyx. That
which I cannot fathom. In whose image I am made.