Black feminist poetry at its best. Love, race, gender and glimpses of the tripartite oppression unique to the Black woman who writes yet overcomes it all.
Dr. Niama L. Williams
Chris Abani. Barry Manilow. Wynton Marsalis. Jerry Quickley. Jody Kuykendall. The already famous and the one on her way up. Articles in the newspaper, paparazzi bait, sought out for the alumni newsletter, for international halls of fame, for Pulitzers, Emmys, Grammys; recipients of some, winners of many. But what of the poet, toiling away in her room, alone, who watches, understands, yet never feels a part of their world? What of the poet who watches their performances, sees beneath their words, their music, imagines the pain that created the art, uses her understanding to convince herself to, yes, live one more day, but that one day, that particular day, makes another choice?
an enslaved African shaman speaks:
dust across mississippi corn fields
heat arching across our brows
mosquitoes big as dog-size
as the hunger dancing before our faces
fury in our bellies
an’ we got to work in midst of all this
under overseer whip and growl.
enough to make you see injun red
lace across missus’ throat
we got one we call missus
named her so myself
we hope her blood stain sheets
of overseer grandson grandson
we want that boy to love her so bad
he lose his mind and marry her
risk his entire fortune
outcast his own family
we a careful, patient people
learned, wise folk
we know how to plan a vengeance.
we an honorable people
we haven’t forgotten how we enslaved nations
fell victim ourselves.
stripped of jujus and fetishes,
leakage of our magic leading to outlaw,
we fell back on common knowledge
forged bonds with generational enemies
when faced with a cruelty we never foresaw.
we know the only cure is love.
so we sow it
make him want the forbidden.
she will explain to herself her passion
always feel a sense of loss about it.
i will not tell you more
loose lips cost us our jujus and fetishes
the rape and ruin of our drums.
we feed her the truth in bits and pieces
slow and unsteady
we don’t want her stomach to turn at the sight of him
we want our juju to work.
for at the dawn of the next millennium
we want her to choose him willingly
to side with her offspring
to not look back
but with a calculated nod of the head
touch of the tip of the finger
seal his fate permanently to her own
ensure what we now insist on having:
this, never again.
for a jabari or an asberry, according to your taste
the thing about cream is
it rises to the top
no pushing, no shoving,
no crushing of toes
no mashing of fingers
no dissing of the lesser molecules.
cream has a grace
makes one think of chocolate
hot water cornbread and mustard greens
Mr. Woody's hot links in bbq sauce
sweet potato cheesecake
on a soft puffy cloud
with a lemon and honey scented fork.
the thing about butter is
it got a hell of a bad rap.
we forgot for a moment
in our desperation
our often fruitless toil
that we smirked when the overseer's back was turned
when Mistress lifted a hip to pull up a dress
when the white eye was turned
and we could breathe
for a fraction of a second
we forgot that indulgence stolen from the master's plate
once we could buy it at Ralph's
we forgot "small doses, small doses"
we thought it the palliative
for having to use
the thing about women
is they all wish they were black.
we are a profoundment and a mystery to our sisters.
after birthing the homo sapien,
and not sending back the white one,
we came out of the cruelest system for humankind
whatever we are placed beside
in any fashion layout
the eye travels to us.
the thing about an asberry or a jabari
is the memory
the pervading blackness
makes you at home, barefoot
your top off
getting your first massage.
berrys and bars bring us back to ourselves
give us a hand up when we strugglin
remind us to lay down when we tired.
these the kind of women
put "nut" and "butter" together in George's mind
then whispered, "you got work to do."
eat a berry
touch a bar
succor never felt
for chris abani
someone’s been cooking words.
the scent of brownie wafts through the room
i am tempted as never before
by a dark man speaking of love.
understanding what a woman needs
he causes me, survivor,
and then there were the beatings,
to open that part of myself
only white men had seen before.
there is hollywood
the onslaught of perfect and white and ideal
but the real secret to my crossed legs:
wounds ripe, open, seeping.
a lack of desire
no brown man permitted.
guilt sometimes, but not often
the abused child accepts things as they are.
i heard him, this brown man,
and began to look askance at my dreams:
mixed up children with straight hair.
and then him:
words of love, anger,
a nuanced understanding of the ways both can exist in the same heart,
the same quarter of a violent room,
words of passion, of fable, the tale of his parents’ meeting,
and this man
this heavyset black man
nothing i have ever wanted
parts my legs
crushes my disdain
helps me entertain
for the first time
a black penis
healing impossibly simultaneous.
fantasies of white men persist,
white men never willingly give up hold of a black woman’s mind,
but they are pushed back by wonder:
is there another black man out there
with whom i can consummate this new,
wet and yearning,