This was the winter mother told time by my heart
ticking like a frayed fan belt in my chest.
This was the fifties & we were living on nothing
& what of her, the black girl, my own black nurse,
what of her who arrived on Greyhound in the heart
of so dramatic a storm it froze the sleeves at her wrists
& each nostril was rimed with white like salt on a glass,
what of her who came up the dark stair on the limp of her
own bad ticker, weary, arrogant, thin, her suitcase noosed
with rope, in the grip of a rage she came, a black woman,
into our white lives, like a splinter, & stayed. Charming
& brilliantly condescending, she leaned down to kiss “the baby,”
& hissed my little princess & hushed the Jordan & set the chariots
on the golden streets & Mother, I cried to her, & went out like a light.