Tupelo Honey

JoAnne is one tough broad,
Italian Irish descent
from the Northeast Bronx
Through sacrifice and dedication
JoAnne is now a nurse at
Presbyterian Medical Center

This is her story
bout a methadone baby  
    born addicted  
        on JoAnne’s ward
This boy had tupelo
    honey colored skin,
and hazel brown,
    almond eyes
Birth mama’s blond and curly haired
    A blue eyed Nuyorican
Daddy is a dark skinned African

Mama named the baby Shonequon
The nurses called him “Sweet”
Sweet’s a boarder baby who
lived on the ward
for 2 and a half months
BCW tryin to decide
what to do with that tiny
methadone addicted baby

Now me amiga esta sin ninos
she has no children
e quiere uno mucho
she wants one very badly
so she fell in love with Sweet
talked about him constantly

JoAnne said,
Sweet is cryin all the time
He holds his body rigid
his cryin is so fitful
Kindled by the pain
cause Sweet’s addicted to meth
and this is how he sounds

Sweet’s tiny fists    
    are always clenched
his spindly arms crossing
    his scrawny chest
This baby can’t relax!
He’s got a monkey on his back     
Sweet’s addicted to meth

The Doctor confides  
he wishes he could
keep Sweet tranquilized
cause he’s screamin so fretfully

JoAnne loves to nurture Sweet
She embraces him reverently
    comforts him with  
    the rhythm of her heart
she whispers soothing sounds      

her voice falls like soft waves     
    caresses tender hollows
    of his frail anatomy
her soft warm breath
    glides down his velvet neck
Sweet responds with purring sounds  

JoAnne’s gentle devotions
    linger on
like a mango blossom’s scent
    fragrant on a breeze
Sweet watches her giddily
    clinging with his
        tightly gripped fists

Yesterday Sweet smiled for the      
    very first time
JoAnne bragged
    as though he were her own
Sweet, my boarder baby  
    is delayed in his response
and yesterday was the     
    first time
God graced me with his smile

Her eyes rimmed with blurring droplets
Dewdrops silhouette     
    I love him, she said
        I want him to be mine
Even though he’s HIV
    and surely won’t survive  
        I want him to be mine

Child Welfare lets his Mama visit
    she hardly came at all
Daddy was there
    mostly every day  
    but he was always drunk

Today they let her come and
take my Sweet away
Honey, JoAnne said,
This baby’s in a lot of pain     
he suffers from anxiety

You don’t have to hold him  
    24 and 7,
but you need to let him  
    see your face
        smiling, talking  
    into his

Sweet’s Mama answered
I know mucho more than you do  
    let me tell you somethin’
You don’t know what I been through  
    All my kids are born on meth
and that’s the way it’s always been

The baby started fussin’ then
his spindly arms
clenched across
his scrawny chest

Sweet opened up his eyes
and focused on JoAnne
reaching out his scrawny arms

But Mama reached the baby first
and took him from his crib     
    Esta te quieto, nino  
she said as she rocked him     
        to her methadone beat
    Esta te quieto, nino
It’s gonna be okay Mama said
Grandma said she’s gonna help,
She’s carin’ for my other five
My oldest girl’s gonna be there too
And like I told ya,
All my kids are born on meth
And that’s the way it’s always been,
but we know how to get by.