i still shiver
when fingers touch my neck without forewarning.
if a man tries to whisper in my ear,
my body freezes
like the temperature just dropped.
this body used to be
raw honey for black tea,
good music for a weary soul.
my voice used to sing simple songs
about my day or foods i like.
but this tongue grew numb
and i still get nervous
when the weight i purposely gained
i’m still suspicious of strangers;
plot escape plans
when i walk in alleys alone:
if i’m wearing heels,
i practice in my head
how i’ll stab a crazy man in the eye;
if wearing boots,
i plan to knock him down, stomp, and run;
if any other shoes,
then knee must be used.
all this preparation for a woman
who’s never been attacked by someone she didn’t know;
all these thoughts of violence for a woman
who thought love conquered all.
but i had one failure,
trusted when i should’ve been cautious,
stayed when i should have left,
entertained when i should have ignored…
and sometimes i still
what are my chirren’s names?
i done had so many,
seen lives blow through wind like ragweed, mm hmm.
my woman-parts at one time were like
a train station–
men whistlin’, comin’ and leavin’.
i never loved the ones who came,
but the ones who left?
they carry pieces of my heart with them in their pockets,
pull me out of their wallets like crisp dollar bills at the liquor sto’
and roll me and smoke me in their funny cigarettes.
baby, i am like ash,
black and grayish-white,
once on fire
but lookin closer to death than life.
if a woman cries rape and police don’t respond,
does the crime make a sound?
a drum beat,
a rushed “Psssttttt!”
a ghetto “Ay yooooooooo!”
a catching of breath,
or leaky faucet “drip-drop”?
does the clock even let out a “tick-tock”
or does time just stop
when a woman’s rights are denied?
with no batteries changed in the watch,
the year could be 5 B.C., 1964, or 2011.
does an angel cry in heaven?
does God send down thunder and rain,
or does he console her quietly through her pain?
is there even a sigh,
a Holy Ghost-filled prayer,
an explosion of violence?
or just silence?
i wish i could retract
every cold shoulder,
sly sarcastic word
and any other instance
of angry black woman-ness
and replace it with
pure cane sugariness
sucked on and dripped down
the corners of your smile
in a tropical land we’ve never been
i wanna give you
agave nectar for your agape love
and stir it into a shining glass
of joy that comes naturally:
times i watch you in awe;
times i imagine the future without you
and see nothing at all;
times i remember my pain before you
and quietly know i’d jump through
the same hoops of fire
if you were on the other side.
you are like water
i drink in greedily to cool my insides.
i hope that i quench your thirst
as deeply as you do for me.
i know i can be bitter-tasting,
and for that, i’m sorry—
being sweet is new territory.
but for you, i will try
now that my midsection is no longer concave
and my abs have relaxed and settled into a belly,
i find my reflection less appealing.
i used to take pride in mirror glances
and secret naked dances,
but now i change the subject quickly
after catching a glimpse of my nude body
after showers or other clothe-less activity.
sometimes i still cry for the old me
and i feel guilty cuz
the new me is
but i miss the old me’s extremes–
blind faith and concrete
black and white ideals
until evil jet black pushed into petrified pink
suffering isn’t ideal.
neither are tears and grief
for a version of myself
mummified by cries that came so often
that when tears ran out,
a new woman appeared:
deeper melancholy buried in
soft soil of smiles
and brutal honesty.
she is beauty all while
confused at her existence:
a newborn baby
with a 25-year-old body.
i’m a woman but
you got me giggling like a little girl.
i can be hard but
i have softened,
silly putty in your hands.
how profound that i got so used to my own,
forgot the sensation of fingertips
meeting the identity maps of others.
i am honored.
i am giggling girl-woman-baby
no longer pursuing