A-za-zi-ah by Khalilah Asaka

Beneath the brim of a worn Fedora,

placed limp on the frame of a brown face

pinched by dimples,

overshining gloom

The feather tucked in red ribbon

bobbed back and forth at the edge of the kitchen table

and I squinted,

irritable at my sight playing

tricks on me

Dark brown pupils which

drowned in the whites around it

suddenly bulged

and searched the figure

towering over


I watched her study the papers


tucked in my plaid button up

and bags dropped at my toes

The hat tumbled to the floor,

pushed out of place

and afro puffs

smelling of my lavender shampoo

clipped by blue barrettes

spring back,

into their natural state


was a sound that tickled my tongue,

a song I’ve never sung



in thought of the baby girl

that belonged to that name

She hobbled away

like a weeble wobble toy

and later I regretted

chuckling at a fear

so immense

and dark

swelling deep inside a body

that didn’t understand being

the refuge from an abusive man,

a father

It was a big step

for an outsider so


if it weren’t for the leap

into the arms of a woman

whose stare


looked straight through me

as if transparent

Had her eyes not watered


whether hands were used

to slap,

            to beat bruised back

or to hug

Nothing could be simple if she thought I was him

and I pulled her up far

higher than me

where ivy parted in windows

for sunshine to sneak through,

for blue jays to chirp messages

and so

he could again believe

that the plush middle of

Mr. Cuddles was his grizzly bear


The beads strung on wire bars

which could be flicked

from one end to the next

were zooming rockets

And that frisky cats

with yellow eyes

gathered around teacups

for a sip of Red Zinger

She brought life to puppet strings,

making wooden jokers

dance out of their drawers

Seeing younger fingers,

turning the knobs

I hadn’t touched in years

frightened me


When I saved her, she saved me

            from forgetting.