Running

White skinned women, who parade about in their workout gear all day

But never seem to break a sweat

Like to cross the road when they see us coming.

For the record, I want to be intimidating to women too posh

to know the difference between Mexican and Puerto Rican

Too segregated in their white picket neighborhoods to recognize

They live in a different world than me.

I would like them to second guess themselves when they see me coming.

I mumble prayers under my breath they won’t try to touch my hair

Drunk sorority girls won’t ask me where to find black dick.

Bitch don’t you see me walking here, living without you.

Let me continue in peace.

But nobody should treat my little round rescue like she escaped death row.

My pitbull has never tried to intimidate a person in her life

And yet she is so much more adept at it than me.

And it shouldn’t bother me. Not as much as it does

That these women I don’t want to come near us

Pretend they don’t see us on the street. Or worse.

When one day I let my womb swell up and give birth to babies as brown as this earth

I better not see one white woman consider crossing the street away from us.

I hope for their sake, they never think they can avoid dealing with our existence

It would be a terrible mistake.

I can’t imagine ever finding the words to teach my children

How to step out of white women’s way

To hold their heads low like they’ve nothing but shame

So no stray person walking thinks they are plotting some evil.

I want my children to grow as children.

To play in their neighborhood without fear of the weapons carried by scared white men

Why are people so afraid

Based on what they’ve seen on tv shows written by them, for them, starring them, featuring us:

robbing, killing, stealing, beating raping

Each other.

White skinned women, who think the playing field is even

Even as they pretend their movements in fear of us are unconscious.

You are the evil my children will fear all their lives.

The embarrassment of being feared for nothing

Of being cast dangerous for nothing.

Of your husbands returning to threaten them for NOTHING.

So if you see my baby and me walking and think of crossing the street

Don’t worry we can together help you work up a sweat,

bitch you better start running.

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Father

Shutter stutter step, prance halfway in the room.

You are Rudolph. Your nose is bright red, scheming silent guidance in a room for just us.

Be purposeful. Speak your words with strength.

Pretend you know the answers until you have to concede to google.

You are encyclopedias of perfection. You know how many syllables are in onomatopoeia off the top of your head.

You know six synonyms for the word love.

But you know that none measure up to the feeling of the word “love”.

Carry them on your back, even when you’re tired.

Let them suck away every bit of your excitement and build it back up anyways.

Give all your hope over to them, let them swallow all that you are whole.

They are the moons reflect your shining existence.

You are God to them. You are God to me.

For A Man Who Would Love Me

I don’t want your fire to overpower mine.

But sometimes, I quiet crystallize it, capture it in stone. Vow to come back and erupt. Never do.

Your fire takes precedence. It burns white hot and no one ever taught you how to hold it-yourself still.

You don’t even want to know.

No one ever taught you to put me first.

I don’t want to live in your shadow.

But sometimes, I shrink down miniscule water droplets, turn gray black shade,

Pretend I am made of porcelain, precious magic to protect. Ego nursing.

I want to be so big that sometimes you can’t even fit in the house without

Honey I shrunk the Kids-ing yourself.

I want to take up more space than sometimes kept in cages, in thoughts,

Dipped in batter and swallowed whole.

I am made of flexible material. Both crystal and steel, yet silk and feathers. Too light, too pure to fight beside.

Compare me to the builds of horses, of fast moving cars, the softness of baby’s skin, warmth of sunshine,

How clingy your woman is-

How she clings to you as if she cannot live without you inside of her.

I don’t want to be a person you can fold: Laundried bones, skin like tarps, heart collapsible like convenient toys.

I don’t like being a voice in the back of the head of children & men.

I want to be heard, voice expanding the space in the room, the house so effected,

I add rings to already dead trees, wood in our floors.

And sometimes, you will have to learn to shrink-to crystallize your fire and let mine wash you over.

Find comfort in my burning rays, tingling through to your fingertips, toes alive for the white hot fury I send into the atmosphere.

Because I am not like you-all stone and fire, no silk.

I have been trained to make myself disappear, so tiny, you will lose me.

And your world will be made worse for the loss.

Dragons

I am calling upon my ancestors, sitting upon the tip of a razor blade.

My eyes are open.

My limbs are shaking, but they hold themselves still.

I have fire in my left hand.

I focus on my breathing, begging ancient mothers to straighten my back.

Here is where I live.

I have called upon Buddha before, for meditation

I have straightened my back and fell forward for Allah

I have bowed my head for Moses

But I dare not call on your God

I am calling upon my ancestors, sitting atop the tip of a razor blade.

My skin is brown.

My eyes are focused, but I am afraid.

I have fire in both hands.

I focus on their movement, begging ancient mothers to guide my arms.

Down there, I can see the waves of injustice pushing at us,

Us cocooned atop razor blades, afraid to move

But I have been seeing the strength of those who proceeded us

And I can stand atop the razor blade.

I have called upon my ancestors, standing atop the tip of this razor blade

My eyes are open.

My limbs are strong. Sturdy but tired.

I have fire shooting forth from my lungs, my hands.

Bring forth us dragons

The fight must begin again.  

Blood Lines

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[My father is]

Malcolm Little, Detroit Red

Brother X, and

El Hajj Malik el Shabazz.

Only he isn’t. He is Halvor James

Son of Hugh and Asta James.

He sings songs that Malcolm does not know

But would approve of.

[Curtains]

I told my father I was going to marry Malcolm X and

He didn’t smile.

They killed him, remember,

Right in front of his pretty brown daughters.

This makes my father want to cry.

He shakes with anger, thinking of the bloody holes they blew into his fine
suit

Before his most important people.

[Solid]

My Malcolm will die a violent death as well. And I

Will live my life in fear that today will be the day it all ends.

And he will not tell me otherwise.

He will not promise to live forever.

But he will hold onto me as if I can ground him to the earth

And hold him back from heaven

One more day.

[Embers]

My father will hate him. He has tried so hard not to be

Malcolm

So his daughters will not grow up to inject

And smoke themselves

Into nothingness

To forget the memory of his death.

All this effort will be in vain.

I have inherited my father’s fire. This burning spirit that

Flies into fits of rage, setting even the air around us

Into flame.

[Ana Asif]

Once, my father knocked a man out cold

Then shook him awake to hit him again.

We deserve to take out our anger, we deserve

To finish our fights on our terms.

[Arkansas]

I hated the world when I was 8.

It was my father’s birthday. We were on the highway to Arkansas

But this man cut us off on the highway. And when

My father honked the horn, he yelled a word that even

Set my eight year old blood

Boiling

[Cake]

My father’s anger is quiet and transformative

It builds on top of slowly boiling blood

His eyes can’t unfocus. It silences everyone around,

Even us few in the van,

Still cubs, waiting for the all clear signal

[Candles]

This man who dared to hurt him on his birthday

Pulled off the highway, challenging.

Every one of us in that car wanted that man to die. But when

My father’s long legs stepped out of the car,

That undead man sped away.

But not before, he called my father

A “nigger” again.

[Let the Chickens come home]

I followed him at the party, trying to hold his rough hands.

I had all the words he didn’t. I looked up at him,

He scarcely looked back down at me. All the love I had

For him could not quiet his anger. It burned

Me.

[Burn Baby]

Any of us, all of us,

Would have killed that man. I wanted to rewind time

Find lioness claws and jaws to rip

Apart this empty feeling he had infected us with so easily. We were

Not disciples of MLK. We were Huey’s cats, Selassie’s soldiers

Garvey’s guard.

[Looting]

I hated the whole world when I was 8. I still

Dream of Lioness paws with which I could rip off the heads of

Everyone who hurt our family

And wear their blood.

Perhaps they are right about us.

Maybe we are more animal than man.

[Blood Lines]

My father speaks breath into ancestors,

Asta, who I knew only for so long,

His mother, and his very most favorite person

Whose eyes I inherited from him, from her, from blood.

Consuela, before her, whose hands I have, that he does not,

Who worked for her family, her descendants

If I needed, Consuela would rise out of the muddy ground

To save the great greats she never met

[Lioness]

Asta who fought everyone who tried to stop her or slow her down,

My father uses her to explain what I can be,

That I can be Malcolm too,

The guardian of the children, protector ,

And Deadly

Too

[Bob Marley]

I am the descendant of Three Queens. We set

The sugar cane crops aflame.

I cry for the death of Nat Turner and am infuriated

At his portrayal as a heretic.

We are revolutionaries too.

[Betty]

Even as I seek a man who can command a room of strangers

As my partner, my father hates the idea.

He wants me to have MLK, Cornel West, John Hope Franklin

I love them, I tell him gently

But I am bound to Malcolm. I am

The claws and jaws that feed him,

I hold his fears for him.

[Rebirth]

I am carrying within me a fire that has been passed down

And never extinguished

A fire that leveled cane crops,

That burns away enemies,

That darkens flesh to brown

I am Malcolm

I am Halvor

I am Asta and Consuela

And I carry their fire in my eyes,

My hands,

My heart.

Women Tell Me

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Women tell me I am biting but men always tell me they don’t bite.

I bite.

I shouldn’t have to explain this: I have teeth. Biting is a requirement to eat.

I eat souls. Scavenge pieces broken and swallow them whole.

How many licks to the center of an orgasm?

I have yet to meet a man who knows.

 

Women tell me I am biting. Men say that’s okay.

I want to be a woman who takes her time.  Who chews things into pieces.

I master tastebuds. I master faceplants. I only black girl dance.

How many questions to the center of the truth?

I have yet to ask enough.

 

Women tell me I am biting. Men are worse.

They smile when they say words like “lady”

I don’t wanna be a lady, I wanna be a woman marked with color

I wanna be a woman made of stone.

I don’t mind being called hard.

I bite.

 

Women tell me I am biting. Men avoid me like the plague.

Am I supposed to remember the names of men I only laughed with once?

Am I supposed to follow all of them on twitter and instagram?

Why should I have to respond to LinkedIn messages about the taste of my cum?

How many job offers do you hide in your profile?

Don’t ask me about mines.

 

Women tell me I am biting.

I hope that I am.

Safe Place

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I was walking my mother’s dog when she found me.

I was spread thickly across my world. Enough of me everywhere.
I was about to be too thin.

She had too blue eyes filled with sadness and longing.

I thought I had nothing to give her- only to learn I was wrong as she laid herself in my lap,
Appreciative for a safe place to rest.

I want to be her safe place.

Her bones were sticking out of her skin-protruding. Her pads were bare, almost raw.

I figured- at the very least, I could feed her.

I called my brother, scooped her into the back of my father’s truck and held onto her tight.

I want to be her safe place.

She didn’t make a single sound, hours having passed until I brought her to the pound and

As if she knew her fate- she wailed.

I went home crying only to awake the next day-

I need to be her safe place.

I spent my last dollar on her, swearing I’d find someone to adopt her, after the pound said they were gonna put her down.

Nobody will adopt a pitbull who just had pups that skinny. So I did.

It took weeks before the eyes of strangers on the streets where I walked her stopped accusing me

Before she had a living form again.

She was patient.

And now that I am resigned to my fate, to be forever her place to rest within a storm-

Or when people yell too loud, or they play the drums, or when the villains die in the movies we watch.

She knows that I am her safe place, that I am her home.

This is the Woman who Killed Her Lover

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This is the woman who killed her lover.

Look at her. Her tears made of plastic like her lips and her boobs.

Her truth painted the same transparent blonde as her hair.

How dare she sit there with a face made of stone.

How dare she cry when her sentence is passed down.

This woman who killed her man.

 

This is the woman who killed her lover.

He was in her apartment, with their children. He had reached into her pants when she tried to run away.

His fist landed on her cheek, leaving bruises across her face before she found a knife nearby.

Before she killed him in front of her children.

 

Look at how she makes headlines for dyeing her hair back brown. How they accuse her of sickness.

His hands left wounds on her body for years before the courts sent orders to protect her.

No one mentions that they didn’t.

No one mentions that his hands were still around her neck when police came.

 

This is the woman who killed her lover.

Out of cold blood. Of sickness. Of jealousy because he found someone new.

Even though she left him months ago. Even though she still wakes up screaming dreaming of him

She dreams of him still.

 

She sits there, hard. Furious.

His life is worth fifteen years of hers. Fifteen years. Her children will be in their twenties when she’s released. They will grow up with their mother in jail. When she gets out they won’t want to see her.

This is the woman who killed her lover.

 

She reads in her cell.

She has learned hard facts about her case from newspapers.

How police believe she’d been lying about where her bruises came from.

How she instigated it by refusing to leave him

LOOK WHAT HAPPENED WHEN SHE LEFT HIM.

 

This is the woman who killed her lover.

And she’d do it aagain-kids watching again.

Because she deserved peace she still didn’t have.

Because womens’ lives are only worth 3 years of mens’.

But she will serve 15.

And she sits, hard. furious.

My Body is Not A Wonderland

I would like to quickly clarify something.

My body is not a wonderland.

Alice has never seen the insides of my skin, she hasn’t chased a rabbit through me-

And while my insides may be crazy-I have never met the Mad Hatter here.

 

My body is the scale that tests a man’s soul at the gate of the underworld.

Is your soul lighter than a feather?

Then, you may enter.

Souls dragged down by weights of bodies cannot find their way here. Those who leave marks on souls too vibrant to be erased will have no chance of being weighed.

My body is not a wonderland.

 

My body does not house amusement parks, games nor restaurants.

No one is having tea inside of me.

My body is a stairway. Sixteen steps, the longest you’ll ever climb. Lucky numbers.

Broken bottles, smashed up picture frames, roses growing between the cracks.

Careful at the sound of your feet on my back,

my body is not a wonderland.

 

The scars on my legs from falling down in my roller blades,

stretch marks on my thighs, dirty fingernails, chipped toe nail polish,

sore muscles and  exhausted lungs.

They cannot see what you are.

 

I will not respond to calls for wonderment. Whispers of rumors of maybe her body is likes

I am walking when you are leaning, when you are yelling, when you are scheming.

I will not be moved to tears by the claims of what my body can do and for how much

A man might be willing to do for it.

You cannot purchase admission.

My body is not a wonderland.

 

I am not the ice cream reward at the end of a chase after the truck they sell it off of.

If I ignore you, you should fuck off.

My body is not a wonderland.

It is the scale.

At the gate of the underworld-

To test a man’s soul.

Is your soul lighter than a feather?

Carbon

I am learning now that screams are chills up or down the spine actualized with sound we all can’t make.

I am seeing now that there are moments we reach for others when we should wait.. see who reaches for us

I am learning I am too often screaming in silence, reaching out for someone to tell them, to beg them bare witness to my fears, afraid they won’t notice me without hands outstretched.

I am learning now there are more than 2 paths I can take, that options are more plentiful than this or that and yet all can be equally nauseating.

I am seeing now that sometimes you get on your knees to beg for someone else to make a choice for you.

I am learning I am a coward, living my heart in wishes and dreams and pretending this will give life to my reality. I am watching myself refuse to try out of fear of fantasy realized.

I am learning now that shadows are not almosts or might have beens, they are scorch marks on souls of choices we made that follow us, that remind us we are imperfect, we are too much we are too little we are too weak we push too hard we frighten too easy we chase away love we fly too close to the sun.

I am seeing now that people are made of carbon like sand is, like bombs are like air is. That hearts are made of backwards knobs of doors, that hands are claws of birds, that breasts are not peaks, but valleys to lie in, that feet are glass in the sand after lightning.

I am learning that I am only two steps from the dreams I harbor under covers into ears of lovers, painted on the walls of my existence, molding my face into temples, body made of carbon like air like fire, like trees like lava. But I am also only two steps from the nightmares I know, the fear of hands of steel, of cast iron emptiness, of marauders of people, of death by soulessness.

I am learning now that babies, like humans, cry both out of necessity and desire to hear themselves outside of their own heads. A person’s need to exist for everyone else too, to be seen as more than the parts and pieces and curves and lines of their form, to have a voice against the black walls, the sea shores, a wish to swim among the sharks and ride dolphins and have our smiles blanketed across the planet like a mark that we existed.

I am seeing now that people are made of dreams, like ridges on a cliff, or burrs on a porcupine, like blue in the sky, life in the oceans, moisture in clouds. That dreams are what motivates legs and arms to move, to push forward, that encourages hearts to love, children to dream of what life is like as a grown up, parents to push children into ballet, or basketball or baseball or piano.

I am learning that the emptiness I sometimes feel is a lack of dreams I believe in. The space between the things I want and my faith in myself to accomplish them, a gap of fear that leaves me with space between my head and arms and legs that don’t know why they must move, why they must take me forward when it seems I don’t even know how to get there.

I am learning now it is simpler to be silent, to fade into the black walls of the boxes we live in. That there are no lines drawn in the sand one is bound to respect, that fears are chains that bind us, that let us run treadmills and never see what is in the world surrounding us.

I am seeing now that elephants never forget the chains they bore as babies because souls can be broken, because spirits are not impossible creatures, they are us. They are glimpses of reality laid bare in a form we fantasize. They are elephant babies chained to walls, that fight to escape until strings can keep them, until they forget they are elephants at all.

I have learned that humans are made of carbon. Like lions, like zebras, like killer whales, like mountains, like lava, like fire, like air. Haunted by the recycled existences we carry like burdens of dreams on backs of slaves chained in the mud.

But most importantly, I have come to know that what is broken can never be the same but the world does not create waste. Souls can be molded to new dreams, voices can grow louder, sometimes even oceans scream for comfort against salty shores because everything is made of carbon, because dreams and nightmares are made of carbon too.