The Emperor's Socks

Around his ankles the color of static twists.
No arches for caterpillars, grasshoppers to shelter
when his foot comes down. He tells me—my mother and siblings
gone off to Disney World—I walked barefoot when I a boy in Jamaica.
Brown sugar caramelizes to soot, the first step
to preparing oxtails. We had no money, he adds.
Tosses salt over his shoulder before serving it to the meat.

We meet in daylight for the first time in years
outside the tunnels of the railroad apartment.
I throw salt from my skin, drop my heart to shatter.
His socks in my mouth make thoughts lose frequency.
A sparse alphabet of gray hairs repeats on his jaw,
he's an architecture of salt and pepper.
On bodega awnings, his eyes flit on what shoes pass us by.
I shift my tuning, adjust a hello,
his accent stutters in sunlight.

Curious and barefoot, he's a boy
in his mother's den—the foot is schooled:
smashes daylights like peenie wallies,
touches backyard and skull.
He says the sorry nesting in his eyes.

I know the hook in the eye
we wear to be proper. I was silent—
the last female in the house he beat before I left.
On the first day of college, I unzipped
my luggage and his socks made it with me.
How do I shape this foot to carry
a leaning spine and his apology?

Arisa White is a Cave Canem fellow and holds a MFA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Factory Hollow Press published her chapbook Disposition for Shininess in late 2008. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in jubilat, Third Coast, The Drunken Boat and She is featured on the cd, WORD, with the Jessica Jones Quartet. She lives in Oakland, California by the lake. You'll be able to visit her online at in the near future. (

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761