When my Mama calls, you listen.
That’s the way she raised us and-
That’s the way it’s gonna be.
That telephone rings, boy
You’re over to the table with that pen and paper.
You don’t let no answering machine do your work for you boy.
And that day, well- we listen reeeeeal good.
We listen so good to that message when the operator said “out of” and “service” and “collections”
We took every word down.
I even spelled out the words to my sister, Maybella, she said it was so crystal clear on that phone.
She told me it was right what I wrote.
We spelled the words once out loud- I spelled it again twice in my head.
I let the words roll over me.
Ain’t nobody gon’ say we got lazy that day.
The day mama called for us-
When she called-
Halfway down the steps, I was already halfway down.
She called us down to the kitchen.
So proud of me. I thought she’d be so proud.
I handed her the note-
A big grin on my face.
I stood there in front of her.
Mama read the note- once, twice, three times.
I watched her mouth form the words she was gon’ say.
The corners of her mouth turned, I watched the wrinkles.
Mama had a lot of wrinkles.
More since Henry had come to stay.
Impolite to stare.
That’s what mama always said to me.
I looked away, at the icebox, the window.
White fog staring at me.
Drops of water- they always raced.
At least I thought they did.
Paper in her fist.
Give me some words.
Stuck somehow- maybe they were stuck-
Maybe they were in there-
In that paper-