Child of the Sun

 

Great Great Aunt Aida
trained her lapdog
to attack dark-skinned men.
A shake of her high-yaller head
and a suck on her ivory teeth,
and the Scottish terrier slipped
through the fence pickets
to nip at a tar baby’s ankles.

Somewhere in her heaven,
Aunt Aida fusses today:
the lightest Haley yet,
naked to the waist
in a plastic lawn chair,
I’m a line cook browning
limbs in a skillet’s thick oil,
a tanner of calf hide
curing skin in the sun.

Aida dreamed the family
would fade into a whiteness
of table manners and book learning,
and with me she came close.
But Mom must have eaten
a pig’s foot when she was pregnant,
or dialed up the volume on those
Aretha records. Or I took it too hard,
that time in the grocery store

when a woman confused Mom
for my nanny–I bronze in the yard
all afternoon, hoping to blind
my eyes with scales and molt
like a sidewinder, to leave behind
a trail of skin, brittle, flaking, and white,
cracking and split in the sun.

 

 

 

 

 

About Iain Haley Pollock

(Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths)

Iain Haley Pollock’s first collection of poems, Spit Back a Boy, won the 2010 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. He lives in Philadelphia and teaches at Springside Chesnut Hill Academy, where he is the Cyrus H. Nathan ’30 Distinguished Faculty Chair for English.

 
In the January/February 2012 issue of Poet’s and Writers, Pollock says that he finds inspiration for his work from “Stories of family, friends, and neighbors; the high murder rate in Philadelphia; the early Chicago electric blues; the Catholic Mass; the endurance of slavery; autumn; the jazz of Miles Davis and Charles Mingus; Jewish mourning rituals; the painter Barkley Hendricks; the trees on the Schuylkill River walk and at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy; Philadelphians’ eccentricities; lake-effect snow; and, of course, the beautiful woman with whom I live.”

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“Child of the Sun” © Iain Haley Pollock. The poem appears in Pollock’s debut collection Spit Back a Boy and was reprinted with permission from the author.