Family Trauma in the Form of Litany
(After Gabrielle Calvocoressi)
by Robalu Gibsun
The wood got carved and the drum is beating.
A goat got skinned and the drum is beating.
Skin dried and tightened and the drum is beating.
Mother barely paid rent and the drum is beating.
Father pay to stay bent and the drum is beating.
I graduate and pack for college; the son is leaving—
Night moves in—dark, and the drum is beating.
End of summer gets red hot and the drum is beating.
Bucket drummer’s on the block and his drum is beating.
I watch; dollars get tossed so the drum keeps beating.
Scrubs and chickenheads flock and the club is beating.
Party ends at 3 o’ clock and the clubs are bleeding.
We ain’t got time for jobs so we ain’t sleeping.
We clock-in on city corners and the drum is beating.
Poor mothers try to warn us that “The drum is beating!”
Too black for blue light’s to ignore us, the drum is beating.
Crown Vic bass line drops; the drum is beating.
Thunder over machine gun pops; ‘ sure the drum is beating?
Flash! Gasp! Drummer boy got shot, body went into shock,
tightened up like drum skin, his drum is bleeding.
Black girl cries “HELP—the drummer is wheezing!”
Blue lights ignore us, the drummer ain’t breathing.
Winter walks heavy, a new drum is beating.
Streets crack like levies and the drum is beating.
Father smokes crack, Mother can’t get a break,
Father’s lips cracked, Father comes home late—
Scheming’ asking for money, Mother ain’t got that;
crackhead Father cracks Mother’s piggy bank.
Feet drum down the stairs, Father is leaving.
son comes back—home to a familiar, broken
place. I steps over shards. Mother changed the locks;
Overtime work is her gauze ‘cause her love is bleeding.
For three days Father was gone, now the door is beating.
The door is beating. Like an offbeat heart, the fuckin’ door
is beating. His voice is peaking. Neighbors are peeking.
Out of fear, I pretend to not hear or see him—
Mother says she’ll call the cops, Father is leaving.
Mother got another job and the drum is beating.
Mother can’t get a break, Mother’s back ‘bout to break,
Mother’s back at the bank and the drum is beating.
Her father, my grandfather’s kidneys are shot—
He calls, says he sees dark blood when he’s peeing,
phone drops, not enough time on the watch in his heart,
his heart, the drum, is barely beating. Father God,
my Father’s father died, and now my Father’s lost.
Only got one left, I can’t take another loss—
the drum is beating. Our hearts dance the fastest,
“Hurry! Don’t care how high the ambulance is!
The drum is beating!”
Family’s been pricing caskets, the drum is beating
us out of our home. Rent went up, Mother broke down
and took out a loan; the drum is beating.
My bible pages flip; in the valley of the book,
I see the shadow of death—come in creeping.
Floorboards are creaking. Room’s dark. I’m not sleeping.
Three-three-three on the clock;
my heart, the drum, is beating.
I squeeze my eyes and pray the Lord
to deliver us from our stress,
but the Landlord can’t afford the mercy
to forgive us our debts.