A follower of Dick Gregory in the seventies,
Dad bought a copy of his Natural Diet for Folks Who Eat.
On days off, he juiced carrots, celery, and apples.
Poured us equally full glasses.
I gulped olive-colored liquid dutifully.
Laughed when Donna sneaked to the bathroom to spit it out.
No more pork, lamb chops, liver with fried onions,
roast beef, or hamburgers.
Dad took us with him to the health food store on White Plains Road
to buy multi-vitamins and herbs like goldenseal.
Its bitter tea was sweet with raw honey when we were sick.
Donna and I fell in love with carob and Tiger’s Milk bars.
Dad sold Dick Gregory’s Bahamian Diet in the eighties.
Even mixed in orange juice, it tasted like chalk,
but I was proud of my path to good health.
When I was seventeen, I read Gregory’s book.
Became a vegetarian.
Happily went along when Dad drove to Sundial on Boston Road.
Took Woodroot tonic to keep from getting colds.
In college, I avoided shepherd’s pie and fried chicken,
ate fried okra and sweet potatoes until I had money for the West End.
Soul Vegetarian’s chili and ginger juice by the half-gallon.
Bean pies from the Muslim brothers when I wanted something sweet.
I point at my pregnant belly and look at Dad.
My baby will have the best.
He drives me to Sundial.
Their herbalist sits across from me,
tells me to take a spoonful of olive oil each day.
Omega 3s to strengthen my baby’s brain and heart.
I will breastfeed.
Have a natural childbirth.
With a doula or midwife at a birthing center.
But when you are poor,
when you ask,
the doctor scoffs,
Worse Than Sticks and Stones
A childhood friend tells me,
Now you’re just another statistic.
That phrase, an earworm.
Swindles me out of new mom pride
Shame prevents a fist to her face
When I go to a Mommy and Me group
the meeting is full of married women
They complain about what it costs
two-parent families to pay for child care
Fearful they will sum me up if I tell my story–
young, black, unemployed,
my son one of the 70 percent of black children
growing up in a single-parent household–
I sit with my son in my arms
Never say a word
With Good Fortune
My son’s eyes are half-open as he sleeps.
When we visit Cousin James and Cousin Vivien,
Cousin Vivien asks,
Was he born with a caul?
Down South, they called it a veil.
Those children can see and speak to ghosts.
Tell the future.
“There is no way I can know,” I say.
Cousin Vivien shakes her head, says,
And it wouldn’t it be just like them
to see a black child born with magic,
keep it a secret
from its half-asleep mother who is
flat on her back
and can’t see what is happening past her belly?
Since he is alive, the caul was not torn.
I worry about its whereabouts.
Did they sell it?
To whom? For how much?
The caul gone, my son might see
but cannot speak to the ancestors
who might disguise themselves as haints,
and have a message for the rest of us.
I look down at my sleeping child.
What does he see?
Why has he chosen me?
Carla M. Cherry is a veteran high school English teacher. She earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing at the City College of New York in the Spring 2022. Her poetry has appeared in Random Sample Review, MemoryHouse, Bop Dead City, Anti-Heroin Chic, 433, Raising Mothers and has been nominated for Best of the Net. Her five books of poetry, Gnat Feathers and Butterfly Wings, Thirty Dollars and a Bowl of Soup, Honeysuckle Me, These Pearls Are Real, and Stardust and Skin are available via iiPublishing.