Cherene Sherrard

Oracle at Venice Beach 1995

Seeking an ancestral cipher against the grim statistics
of racial math, we bypassed the palm-reader seated
under the adjacent tent. I want to say that her dreadlocks,
studded with the cowries she would cast for us, brushed
the ground like a cape. She knew your baby brother
would turn vegan then baker; that I would travel
to a colder coast and be caught between two men:
one would take my virginity & the other would be
my ride-or-die, but only if I kept quiet and discerned
the one to love from the one to leave. There must have
been more mundane news: birth or death, money &
romance—the predictable tithes of life. I forgot until
you told me— we hadn’t spoken for a year—that it
was aggressive and genetic; that she had warned you
of female trouble; to not wait if you wanted offspring.
Now in the undercommons between girlhood & matronage,
I absorb her patois, sense the cowries warming in my fist.
She refused our money.  She was not wrong.
What else—remember—did she say?     

Cherene Sherrard is author of the poetry collection Vixen (Autumn House Press) and a chapbook Mistress, Reclining (Finishing Line Press). A Cave Canem fellow, her fiction and poetry have recently appeared in New York Times Magazine, Obsidian III, Verse Daily, Tidal Basin Review, and Los Angeles Review. She teaches in the English Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.