Before Making Love
–Toi DerricotteI move my hands over your face,
the cheek bones, broadly spaced,
the wide thick nostrils of the African,
the forehead whose bones push
forward at both sides as if the horns
of new fallen angels lie just under,
the chin that juts forward with pride.
I think of the delicate skull of the Taung child—
earliest of human beings
emerged from darkness—whose geometry
brings word of a small town of dignity
that all the bloody kingdoms rest on.
Black Women for Beginners Pt 1
Every time a hot comb simmers
we dread. We get hurt so often
we think it’s a nickname.
When we say we remember
we mean hurricane, hunt,
meadow, lust, duty, escape,
settle, mourn, birch, baptism,
tithe, kneel, Sphinx, throat,
offering, animal, deadwood.
We get hurt so often we never
run. Every time we lick our lips
the day obeys and repents.
Glory glory hallelujah.
Hot comb on the stove.
Train tracks in the weeds.
Almost Like They Wanted It
–Camille T. DungyBecause she’d heard him laugh through new moon darknessand she knew he’d fallen and she knew, before she turned,he’d be crawling, like a crawdad, rock to loam—because she tried to love the straight back and neckhe’d erected to recollect the man he’d beenbefore—because she found herself adding up his usefulnesslike some kind of auctioneer—she showed himthe dark coils areoling both her breasts and all the waysshe bent and lifted, bent and lifted, steady, strong.She let him believe he was past due for a harvestand her hands were the right ones, now, to hold onto the scythe.
•She made quick work of pleasure. The boysmile bunked downin his eyes, she claimed. Her tongue found the place in his mouthwhere the teeth were gone—where he’d hold his corncakesuntil they grew soft enough to chew. History had bedded himin all of this—his own history and failures not his own.Before he’d tramped in she’d watched another man—a man she’d thoughtshe’d hated—watched his body opened, opened, opened untilblood had married brine. She’d watch that man be whipped into somethinggood for nothing more than fertilizing clay and she’d thoughtbuckshot would have been a brand of kindness if sprayed into himjust then. But even after his hard going, she did not miss him very much.•Anyone she chose could be shucked like surplus property tomorrow,but that hadn’t been enough to warn her off of picking him that night.Because she knew if she set her sight on nothing she’d get nothingin return, she’d walked with him. But because the night progressed so—because there were some clouds—no stars—no moon—he’d trippedover the branch of a dead and down tree. In all that darkness,there, without a moon, even then, she had not fallen. She thoughtto say so, but she did not say so. She did nothingbut say she was sorry for him. She did not use her mouthto say this. Could he not listen to her hands? They spoke softly,articulating her condolences, to his torn and bleeding skin.
Not a perfect image to go with the poem, but I loved this one when I discovered it.
Harlem Night Song
Let us roam the night together
I love you.
The Harlem roof-tops
Moon is shining.
Night sky is blue.
Stars are great drops
Of golden dew.
Down the street
A band is playing.
I love you.
Let us roam the night together
Coherence in Consequence
Imagine them in black, the morning heat losing
within this day that floats. And always there is the
being, and the not-seeing on their way to—
The days they approach and their sharpest aches
will wrap experience until knowledge is translucent,
the frost on which they find themselves slipping.
Never mind the loose mindless grip of their forms
reflected in the eye-watering hues of the surface,
these two will survive in their capacity to meet, to
hold the other beneath the plummeting, in the
depths below each step full of avoidance. What
they create will be held up, will resume: the
appetite is bigger than joy. indestructible. for never
was it independent from who they are. who will be.
Were we ever to arrive at knowing the other as the
same pulsing compassion would break the most orthodox heart.
Gather your mistakes,
rinse them with honesty
let dry until you
can see every choice
and the regret
that you are human
and this too
is a gift.
The Split Rock Prays to Whatever Broke It
Rage is not to be avoided, diminished, belittled. Rage is God. Better believe my rage is seeped in love.” -Shira Erlichman
Let my anger be warm and ripe with love.
Let it reek of car crashes that we have all survived.
Let it breathe. Let it dance in my fists.
Let it collapse drunk and merry
across my knees, my bedspread.
Let my anger be a thick, bubbling bath
and the cool towel by the windowsill.
Let my anger stretch into a generous wingspan.
Let it be a split rock, a steady hammer,
a plank of wood that still remembers the whole tree.
Let it sweeten the milk, turn the mug steaming
hot against the freezing chatter in my teeth.
Let it be thick thick as a St. Louis summer.
Let it be thick and just as full of memory
and just as full of arched backs stretching the tired
out of their spines, and just as full of black,
and just as full of blues.
Let my anger be the city of St. Louis, fresh-faced,
looking in the mirror at all its pimples and stretch marks,
looking at all its hard beauty that belongs to itself only,
calling up Detroit, calling up Philly and all those cities saying,
Baby, let’s all go dancing. Let’s roll our windows down and sing.
Bring all your busted windows and overgrown lawns
and new coffee shops we can’t afford and the schools
closing or not and the baked empty lots and cellulite sidewalks
and bring all your dead musicians and we’ll make a night of it.
Let my anger be the celebration we were never
supposed to have because we were never
supposed to know we had anything
Won’t You Celebrate with Me?
won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.