Michael Kleber-Diggs, author of Wordly Things, published by Milkweed Editions in June 2021. (Credit: Ayanna Muata)
I Love My Neighbors As I Love Myself
I drive around admonishing strangers.
Hurry up! I tell them. Or, Wear a helmet!
Kids needing parental guidance get it from me.
Teens in black clothes at midnight, sensed
but not seen like owls, receive my words as care.
When I spy an elderly woman with her coat worn loose,
I don’t hesitate to yell: Button up! I want the best
for her. I learned of love in harsh commands, curt
rebukes and tired, ravenous hands. The rearview
holds ancestral eyes, ravaged, not mine; the hard
hand sending the window down isn’t mine—its
mine. Love is history plus desire. Love is dominion.
It is supposed to attack you. When you send it out,
it stings you back like a slap of cold air.
Sometimes it arrives in the form of a man,
driving away, shouting.
Come to my funeral dressed as you
would for an autumn walk in the woods.
Arrive on your schedule; I give you permission
to be late, even without good cause.
If my day arrives when you had other plans, please
proceed with them instead. Celebrate me
there—keep dancing. Tend your gardens. Live
well. Don’t stop. Think of me forever assigned
to a period, a place, a people. Remember me
in stories—not the first time we met, not the last,
a time in between. Our moment here is small.
I am too—a worldly thing among worldly things—
one part per seven billion. Make me smaller still.
Repurpose my body. Mix me with soil and seed,
compost for a sapling. Make my remains useful,
wondrous. Let me bloom and recede, grow
and decay, let me be lovely yet
temporal, like memories, like mahogany.
From Worldly Things by Michael Kleber-Diggs (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2021). Copyright © 2021 by Michael Kleber-Diggs. Reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions. milkweed.org.
Read Michael Kleber-Diggs’s essay about writing Worldly Things in the November/December 2021 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.