A Portrait of Hattie May Parris by Andres Amitai Wilson

Hattie May Parris wears the white
dress of silent screens, her eyes
implode event horizons, her skin
gleams the Smith and Wessons
of dueling suitors in unknown

In the one picture we have
of her—faded and revered like
a wedding dress from another century, Hattie May Parris
holds the pink roses of posterity
without a vase to contain them. The hand-painted
flowers are the only color here,
overflowing like twins in a womb
within this shot of black
and white, as distinct and unutterable
as the Tao.

Hattie May Parris smiles
with my grandmother’s honey
face—or is it my mother’s?—
the long, dark-amber jaw of the bald
monk who knows her own face
before her grandparents were
born, but Hattie May Parris’
own hair has been burned straight
by lye, its rich black
webs enshroud the dark orb like
the perfumed flesh of some
Pharaoh’s consort.

Hattie May Parris poses before the coop
where Nana learned to chop the heads
off chickens and cried immediately after
as the dumb birds hopped their last Lindy Hop
into feathered nothingness.

Why did Hattie May Parris venture
here from the Fundy Bay—doused
in Micmac blood, clothed in African
nightmares—back to the shaded
and Puritanical land where I
doubt she was ever

Contributor Notes

Andrés Amitai Wilson was named after the Spanish guru of classical guitar, Andrés Segovia. Coincidentally, the younger Andrés trained as a guitarist at the Berklee College of Music. Although he is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Andrés teaches writing, literature, and continues to play music in the Boston area. Over one hundred years ago, Andrés’s maternal ancestors, who inspired the poem that appears in the current edition of Kweli, came down from Nova Scotia, Canada, and were the first African Americans to settle in what was then a tiny country town with a trolley twenty miles north of Boston; his mother still resides in that town today, which has become a sprawling suburb. Andrés’s poetry and prose have appeared widely in print and on the web. As a sideman and recording artist, Andrés has played music throughout the contiguous United States, Canada, Europe, and even in Israel. When not reading, writing, or playing music, chances are quite good that you can find him on an adventure with his elfin children, Eden and Liam, cycling up some mountain, or breathing deeply atop his yoga mat. ww.andreswilson.com