Who You Want to See

Tara Betts

Who You Want to See

My cousin’s slight freckles
are no camouflage against
our likeness. Her husband
relishes the same samples
of bass & steam release
loops in hip hop chorus
recited by women named
after kitchen spice shakers.

We banter on Ellison & Brooks
then we discuss Chicago, home
that kisses me hard every day,
and we laugh about my fellow
poet-writer-scholar-friends, all
dipped in the dyes that compel
us to Howard’s green campus
steeped in Brown, Clifton,
Morrison and Baraka. This is
lineage too. They were all there,
except me.

My cousin shares drinks with them,
sees them as my kin in varied sepias,
says you must know her, meaning me.
They ask my name, stand silent, cock heads
like question marks trapped in their quiet
ellipses. My cousin, closer to paper’s tone
than ink’s, recounts all. She asks me,
Have they seen you? I want to fill
my pause with an answer I know well.
People see what they want, not tangled
bloodlines that tell on all of us often.
No, they don’t see me sometimes.