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
hardened as i may try to be,
i can’t run away from the fact
that i am in fact,
i am strong without a doubt,
able to do whatever i set my mind to,
but inside i am soft as tissue,
sensitive like scarred skin,
delicate as seraphim and cherubim
and spend my energy cherishing
everyone around me.
sometimes the weather gets cloudy
and i forget my anatomy,
think i have pecs instead of breasts,
a mustache above my lips,
and a voice deep and rich as chocolate.
but i am not this basic idea or definition.
i am the kiss on your forehead when your confidence is missing.
i am the gentle touch when trouble gets to be too much
and the loving ear that will always be there.
i am the mirror on the wall that tells you all,
the pep in your step to take you from one success to the next.
i am a woman,
mother of creation,
removed from your rib so that your stomach is a little empty
so that when you get hungry, you’ll know that you need me.
i am the appetizer, main course, and dessert,
the one that you love but still tend to hurt,
the one who loves you but still likes to search
for herself outside of your help.
i am not the same as you.
we complement each other like orange and blue,
like honey and dew,
sweet and tickling.
oh, what a feeling
to stop pretending
and start claiming
is it me…or did the boys not really notice me
until i woke up one day
and had a big ol’ booty?
this booty redefined me,
took on a personality all her own,
had me thinkin i was grown
from all the words thrown at me
as a result of my popular anomaly.
once, a man “hee-hawed” as he walked behind me
until i used my small hands to cover up my “donkey”.
often called “phat” even though i was skinny
had me feeling like i was living a double life–
sexy on the outside, shy on the inside;
woman with curves that seduce and scream “Sex me!”
when really, i was just a little girl whispering:
“Protect me…Respect me…That’s not me.”
but this booty
has expanded to be more than just a distant relative.
i have grown to love her,
the sister i got from my Nigerian mother.
now both of us smile when necks turn to admire us
or when girls ask if we know any butt exercises
or when every pair of jeans we try on that fits our waist
can’t make it past all of this
because blessed we are
and forever we will be–
me, the young woman,
and my sister–
creature with natural mother and father
thinks that she ought a discover
the outside world before she looks in the mirror
and sees she’s no longer
a girl, but a woman with wrinkles
and not enough experience
to call herself such.
she could have advanced farther,
but she takes risks too much,
throws 100 percent into the basket
like she’s strong rum,
fell in love hard but discovered
he was the wrong one.
or maybe she was just dumb
and if that’s the truth to be told,
where’s the dunce hat that won’t fit over her afro?
people ask her what’s wrong
and why her eyes shine,
but really she don’t know,
she’s unaware of what got her here,
as if pain gagged and blindfolded her,
walked her to the car and made her sit in the rear
and took a long drive
to a place far away and unknown
but traveling is needed to survive
and growth keeps a woman beautiful.
“are we there yet?” she asks
when she sees her heart break;
“are we there yet?” she wonders
when risks turn to mistakes.
“are we there yet?” she yells
when her frustration is replaced by hate
and “are we there yet?” she thinks
when she’s cold inside and outside.
hold your head high
cuz you’re still alive.
your eyes reveal as you look down at me
that with your shy politeness,
you could give me
my “yes” back.
my “no” has been ignored in the past,
pushed down so far that screams turned into gasps
and fight melted into surrender,
but for some reason,
i don’t feel like fighting when i see you.
i feel like saying “yes”
and enjoying the way it comes off of my tongue,
how the middle of it raises to the roof of my mouth
to make the “y” sound
and how i have to open my teeth
and let a piece of you in for the “e”
and how my “s” turns to a smile
when you’re around.
i may let you in and
the spark in my eye was born when i saw you
maybe one day i’ll whisper sweet somethings in your ear
i might be silly and imagining that a connection is even here
for you to even ask a question
that would require a positive affirmation
but just in case you do,
my breath, my mouth and my soul
will be ready.
to be a woman.
i will not swoon from being called “beautiful.”
all i need to do is look in the mirror and it shows.
tell me something i don’t know.
i resolve to be a woman,
to let my “yes” be yes
and my “no” be no
and my “no” be “hell no”
if the hearer doesn’t show
thst they hear me
because i’ll be
not a girl who acts without thinking
and who speaks without listening.
i resolve to be a woman,
one with estrogen and ovaries,
but i resolve
to grow a pair of balls,
both heavy and hairy
so that i will not choose to sit still
just because the future is scary.
i resolve to be a woman,
to be myself,
to be honest,
to be genuine,
to laugh loudly,
to cry fully,
to live with my suffering
because it’s part of being the woman
i resolve to be.
God, please make me skinny.
remember when i was little girl
and i had long limbs like Twiggy?
well now i got a big ol’ booty, wide hips and overpowering titties
and i just wanna be skinny.
remember when i was younger
and i had long limbs like Twiggy?
and i asked you for some sexy, my period and titties?
well i take that back–
just make me skinny
so i can walk without the guilt of curves,
the memories built in to the angles of my hips
that remember hands that sat there and lips that kissed
and arms that grabbed and hearts that beat as one
and the fun i used to have watching my womanhood blossom.
now i wish i could be a little girl again,
pre-pubescent so i can start over again
with the knowledge of today wrapped around my head
like bandages to control the bleeding
from lies i’ve been fed
like “growing up is fun”
and “you should try everything at least once.”
God, please be kind and rewind
and remember the time
when i had long limbs like Twiggy
and make me skinny.
i am a troubled woman.
tears flow from things that should make me smile
and i’m enamored with that which causes me pain.
i have a sadomasochistic brain
and my body feeds off of the punishment
inflicted by mistakes.
the heartache reminds me that i am alive
and though i double over at times because of it,
my mind can’t stop doing this.
i run away from love
and chase after infatuation cakes covered with lust frosting
and like it off my fingers late at night like a guilty pleasure
and watch as the number of inches around my loins measure
to be something greater than i can count.
i recount all the calories and grams of fat consumed
by situations i should have left sooner,
“NO”s i should have said with certainty
and people who i have allowed to hurt me,
those who entered my life like
there was a green light on my forehead
and i didn’t have the sense to put up a yellow
so at least they would slow
on the narrow, winding lanes of my heart’s road.
i wish it was not so–
glutton for dessert and hurt;
if pain was a designer,
i’d own the t-shirt
and walk down runways called my day,
strutting my stuff for all to see.
become the premiere spokesmodel who doesn’t need
make-up and glamor to illustrate me–
completely confused, conceived baby
pushing through the birth canal of life
like a newborn who chooses to arrive feet-first.
my life hurts
but there aren’t band-aids large enough,
no peroxide bottle big enough,
no doctor smart enough,
no evidence strong enough,
no love deep enough,
no tears salty enough,
no laughs long enough
to sustain the pain.
so i remain
a troubled woman.
he wants to unwrap me like
because my skin reminds him
of a dessert kind of like
luxurious, smooth texture
and expensive enough
that not everyone can afford
the opportunity to touch.
just what is it about me
that causes him to look so longingly?
why does he desire me?
maybe it’s the mystery,
not knowing what surprises lie inside–
if i’m smooth and sticky-sweet like caramel
or rough and nutty like the lover from hell.
only time will tell
as he stares so hard at my wrapper
that i start to melt
and i have to remind myself
that i am the desired
and even though his sweet tooth feels like it requires
a taste, i must maintain
my posture as a sweet delicacy,
wrapped in a shiny teasing wrapper of celibacy
but still quietly
Hi everyone! Here is another video of me performing. This is my poem, “Exotic Beauty” (click here to read the poem) at an event in Washington, D.C. I did last week called “Women, Words, and Power!” (done in association with The Essential Theatre). I was one of nine female spoken word artists who performed.
I’ll warn you that the video quality isn’t great, but hey… 🙂 Enjoy!
she told her friend that she liked him a lot
but she was scared because
he’s kinda rough and once told her that
he’d fight for anything,
after a few months,
the next scene cuts
to her banging on her friend’s door late at night
with blackened eyes and a bruised face
and she’s crying hard,
scared for her life
and begging her friend to let her in
but her knocks go unanswered.
she sits on the front steps with a cigarette
on the right side of her mouth
and a blunt on the left,
hoping that smoking both at the same time
will fill her lungs, blacken them
and quicken her death.
she closes her eyes and remembers happy times–
of when she and her boyfriend first met
and recalls the first incident of violence
with pangs of regret.
the phrase, “this is my fault”
is a bullet shot from the back of her brain
that ricochets painfully, driving her insane
and she contemplates the different ways
she can end her life
and then looks up and sees headlights
and a window that rolls down
and the driver is a scared man-child
who wears tears of his own and a frown
and he stares–
watching the young lady he says he loves
pick the shattered pieces of herself up,
walk to the car and get in.
and then they drive off.
as i close my eyes and imagine an age
that seems so far away
(which in actuality
is not so),
i realize that my youthful thoughts
fail to hold
all the meaning and significance
wrinkles are evidence of freedom
because they show that the wearer of them
broke down heavy barriers and walls, saw
many rainy nights and wind-whipping days,
but survived all of them
like war-heroes who wear medals of age
on their faces and skin.
i pray i will make it to that time
and that i will celebrate when my smile lines
sink in to the corners of my eyes
and when the veins in my hands rise
like mountains to show my strength.
i’ve almost died so many times
that life almost seems too unkind
to allow me to see look into my future
without hope being jaded and blind.
i equate age with loneliness
because as i have grown older,
i’ve looked to my left and my right
and find that old friends have dropped by the wayside
and this is when i’m in my prime!
so when i’m just an odd number
that can be divided into many factors,
i wonder what amount of so-called compadres
will remember my birthday;
how many will be there to rejoice in my victories
and to console me when all i have
is tears to wash over me.
it’s a scary and curious thing,
and in my age of questioning,
i can’t help but wonder and appreciate
a wrinkly old woman who has changed
shown me that there’s more than one route
to approaching life
and that there is value
in the poems i write.
there’s joy in being pursued.
the prey doesn’t have to convince the predator
that she is food.
i’m a fine plate
so all who are hungry
better get their minds and their lives straight
before they think about dining on me.
besides, i have too many calories
for those on intelligence diets,
am way too rich for ulcer-ridden men
to stomach me
and too damn sweet
for weak ones with cavities.
i stalk the earth,
or rather walk it simply
and my natural scent attracts
the brave ones to me.
but they can’t get too close too fast
or make too much noise,
for i’ll run off before they even muster up the voice
to express interest.
or if i stay, chances are
i’ll lose interest.
i am flighty to say the least
in this forest of wild beasts,
loving the attention fully,
but still doing me…
i am beautiful prey parading past predator’s territory
without getting painfully pounced upon
until that wild, brave one
who is strong and smart enough
finds his target in just enough
time to conquer me.
he will enjoy this dish mightily.
all of what is me.
my booty holds the power
in this butt-clenching society.
in a world that is straight and narrow,
my backside is characterized by curves.
it stays full even when i am empty,
keeps me conscious of what’s behind me
as i move forward.
this big ol’ booty of mine,
a source of self-consciousness at one time,
is now where i hold my pride.
each cheek is a container for my accomplishments.
i am woman all the way
as this convex cavern of flesh sits heavily
between the stretch of my hips.
oh the miles we have seen
as we traveled one step at a time
and sometimes sprinted
on journeys of discovery:
stopping to rest on sex
and then rising on beauty,
making trips again and again
to find and redefine my identity.
today this version of me
loves her big ol’ booty.
i embrace it in all of its round glory
and know that i don’t need
affirmation or compliments
to be content.
even when i want to be stiff, it shakes
causing an earthquake that makes heads turn
in the aftershock of my presence.
i used to call it a curse
but now unwrap it like a present.
God put His foot in it when He made me
sweeter than molasses and thick as an oak tree.
each curve on me
represents the hurdles i complete.
one day all women
will turn their necks to look
at what rests between their backs and their legs
and re-awaken that section
that we all at one time
allowed to be dead.
there is power in resurrection
and in the connection to my beautiful body–
my skin, my smile, my hair,
my breasts, my eyes, my hips
and even my belly
but most of all
this big ol’ booty.
there’s something freeing about admitting
that what you’re doing
even if there’s no solution in sight
and it feels uncomfortable like
your shoes are too tight,
like this environment is too narrow
for your dreams,
which like toenails,
can grow too long with neglect.
i object to being constricted by these shoes,
by these rules that dictate what i can’t and should do.
maybe i’ll start breaking them and then i’d be free–
only then could i untie
these laces that hold me.
i’ll walk around with bare feet
and ignore the rules of society
cuz my soul and heart have been ripped apart
with callouses and corns
from trying to squeeze myself
into maintaining the norm.
to hell with these shoes–
the right is on my left foot
and the left one is on my right.
to hell with this boring, mediocre life
that really doesn’t fit me.
i don’t want to resist me:
the actress who prefers to be on stage
than in a cubicle during the day,
the poet who has learned to write her pain away,
the woman who is declaring that today,
it’s time to stop delaying her plans
and allow her feet to be
as naked as her hands.
can i be the cause
of the corners of your mouth rising?
my body feels like hiding
while my heart feels like seeking
and my mind feels like peeking
into the pandora’s box of possibilities.
allow me to reintroduce myself…
not as scared girl but brave woman,
lady of strength without having to build walls,
image of femininity,
beautiful love child,
possessor of the ability to make you smile.
stick around for a while and see what comes next–
if i can move from your facial expression
to where you tell me to go.
for now, i diminish my obsession
to control the past and i’ll hold on to the future
without anticipating disappointment.
where will the smiles go?
only God knows…
so i’ll trust and be me happily ever after
and glow from the laughter
and simple words all the while
being the cause
of your smile.
i live vicariously through her
without the burdens I carry.
as she moves her limbs
in bare skin,
as the day she was born
matured to a point where she’s
soul months away
from being confidence years old
in a world where age has no
is her expression,
but what is mine?
what sequence of bodily actions
can i do to be free like you?
what motions will carry me
to a place
where I can be vulnerable,
without the fear that now relentlessly pursues
each time i stand nude?
until I find that land,
i’ll just watch and pretend
that her dance
is coming from me
as I sit and live
handsome white guy
with the nice smile and brown eyes–
oh how you surprised me
when you told me
you liked my my body.
you explained to me how you’d
never been with a black girl sexually
and asked if you could get down with me
and i was like…
you want me
not for me
but what i represent:
so after our conversation
(which ended abruptly after your sexual solicitation),
i wondered what would have become of our relations
if i would have succumbed to your fantasy
and thought for a moment that it’d be kind of fun to become
what it is you want of me.
i am your exotic beauty.
my eyes are precious stones for you to appraise
with the magnifying glass of your mind.
lose yourself in the kinks of my hair
as you try to count the innumerable strands.
then take your hands
and trace the contours of my cheekbones,
moving inward to the peak of my nose
and down to the lusciousness of my lips.
close your eyes and wish for an exotic kiss
from yours truly,
your exotic beauty.
tickle my brown skin softly with the tips of your fingers,
grazing my flesh slowly and allowing your touch to linger
on the abundance of my breasts, the wideness
of my hips, the roundness
of my behind, the thickness
of my thighs
and experience the fullness of my foreignness.
just stop and stare for a while until i
get uncomfortable because i have never been looked at
never been put on display
in such a way.
i’m used to being an around-the-way girl
and to you, i am something special,
someone to be desired and pursued secretly,
an exotic beauty.
request dances from me
and i’ll sashay my sexy silhouette your way
and spread my smile and my legs with flexibility.
take me, love me,
touch me, see me,
i am yours–an exotic beauty.
i am no longer human, but property,
a resident in your world of fantasy
that you carefully consider making a reality
just so you can really see how it would be
to conquer me.
my blackness is dangerous and exciting,
scary yet inviting you to
request a piece of my dark meat,
to be honest with me about your curiosity
to the point that in your effort to confess,
you devalue me–
simplifying my existence to mere ideas and notions
and taking for granted that i am a woman,
i have a brain,
i have intelligent thoughts and words to relay
and that my body is not the defining factor
but to you,
i am only
an exotic beauty.