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Hood: Index 3

You just want to be the baddest bitch in a pair of two dollar pair Beauty Mart chancletas, rocking a fresh tip set and a perfectly combed doobie. You want to fit into the hood easy: no designer nothing, all Conway everything, with attitude that could sail your ass back to the island your family ran from. No matter how many hip hugging pants you buy, you always end up with your ass-crack out. You wish that your hips would spread like those coke bottle women. Instead, you are straight like a fucking pencil and your family calls you maaaauger and blaaaack and you wonder why they hang on to the a so long.

No mind, you just want to be bad. You want to be sexy even though you don’t like sex. When it was explained to you, in detail in a middle school bathroom, you retreated into a sadness you are just now escaping.

You want to be hard. Badness is hard. Like concrete hard. Like slamming into a brick wall hard. Like never having full access to your mother because her silence is too loud hard. Like losing your love in a man who promises to stay but doesn’t know how to keep his feet still hard.  Like the floor is never too far for a fall hard. Like pushing every stone of life up a hill hard. 

You do not know how those who achieve the best levels of badness can be glass carafes and hide all of their hairline cracks.

At night, when all is quiet, the hood sleeps. You sit outside with your feet bare and your ass-crack visible to anyone who chooses to look. You get loud and you cuss out all the motherfuckers who laughed at you when your glasses slipped down your nose and off your face because, after reading a particularly resonant chapter of a meaningful book, you cried. You feel like the only people who see and understand you are dead. You are still learning and it hurts the same way having learned does. And you cuss and cuss. Didn’t know curse words could descend on your heart like obeah. Didn’t know the island was in you enough to know what obeah was. But here you are, alone in the hood— ugly— unable to perceive your own hurt as beauty, buying into so much bullshit of how you should look that you remember wearing long sleeved shirts on your head and letting the sleeves dangle by your ears just so that you could be that Pantene girl once. Just once. Just once you want to have someone look at your spaced and bucked teeth, held together by cement and wires, and say, “Girl, them gaps tell stories. Will you share them?”

Let’s say that throughout the universe there are innumerable versions of you. Let’s say that you can be you can be you can be you can be you. All of those yous are ever so slightly different. And let’s say in one universe, Hood: Index 3, there is a version of you that popped the chicken pill and your ass is thick and your hair is laid and Conway is the only store with elastic pants stretchy enough to fit over your curves. Let’s say, in Hood: Index 3, your family does not break into the lower middle class and the braces you eventually got here, in Universe Prime, are not even a consideration. So you, version Hood: Index 3, have gaps in your teeth with no chance to bridge them with cement and wires. Buck toothed and apologetic, still, even though you in Hood: Index 3 are so much more of what you in Universe Prime wants to be. But you both are essentially the same person: your hands are clumsy, your heart murmurs, your expanse of emotions red circle around words like ashamed and embarrassed and fearful. Same person: you. Anyway, with all them gaps, you, in Hood: Index 3, smile even less than Universe Prime you does. Them gaps are so wide, when you part your lips, your friends say the distance between your two front teeth requires an airplane. Diaspora teeth. That’s what it is: diaspora gaps, teeth of travel. 

The thing is, in Hood: Index 3, when your glasses do slip down your nose and off your face, because after reading a particularly resonant chapter of a meaningful book, you realize that you haven’t heard your glasses hit the floor of the school bus and someone has their hand outstretched. They catch your glasses and your tears land on the plastic bridge. That someone looks at you with a smile. They have diaspora gaps of their own. You smile too. They say, “Where did your family run from for you to get gaps like that?”

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Porus, Jamaica, WI

when they ask where are you from?

what they mean is

where were you raped?

how hot was it?

in the morning?

after tea and a long belch?

behind the sugar cane?

or was it a bale of cotton?

which history book are you cited in? which reference section?

did the rape happen more than once?

have you been back to the scene of the shortcoming?

you’re so lucky

my family loves to winter in Montego Bay

lol jerk is so spicy 

list the names of every one of your fathers

cuz your mother’s body was just a tool

to create you

a bastard carcass

them men never considered a viable option…

 

when you say Cuba, Jamaica and Guyana—“but I was born here”

what you mean is

Grandma, Cuban, became Jamaican

Mama, Jamaican, became American.

My father never stayed (and)

I, American, don’t know what I can be yet.

 

somehow

where are you from?

executes as both SHU and escape

depends on who’s asking, you know?

like, for example, if a person

who has never experienced foundational trauma

is asking

they just throwing up bars because they got them shits on deck.

but, for example, if a person

who was born without grounds to petition

who had to learn how to make air taste like breakfast

is asking

we’re sharing roadmaps

marked with different circuits

to some mutually nondescript place we both have marked h-o-m-e.

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On Me Too

I wasn’t going to participate in this. It felt too much like a wave and not enough like an opportunity to bear witness. I was disparaging and afraid. No hashtag could paint anything I hadn’t attended in life, with others, and in imagination. I inhabit a certain body and this body carries certain truths and my choice in survival relies on knowing the depths of those truths. Many of the truths are terrifying— jagged and drooling, clawing and intending on death.

Why are silence and inaction still able to contend with reason? That’s where I stop. What is reasonable is to tell the truth. Telling the truth is an option available to me. It wasn’t always so and it might not always be so. But it is right now.

Here is one.

I have been rubbed against, groped, pushed, flashed, coerced, grabbed, undressed, abused, sat upon, laid upon, humiliated, manipulated, threatened, frightened, untucked, forced into, and stolen. They have happened often, some more than others. Some are calcified tumors collecting in my gut. Some are disassociated flashes. Some assemble on my lips and instruct me on how to smile. All have been committed by the hands of men.

I am so afraid of accusation. It has kept me silent. To point my finger away from myself and finally identify the men who have tried to rob me of my place on this Earth. My body is worth space. I’m not about to lie on myself. Not again. Men have been the culprits, are the culprits, are the daemons of this iniquity.

I am afraid to name names— men I’ve known, men I know, and men that make me a target. They have histories— always awarded that multiplicity. My attackers are men and Men. Common and explosive.

Because my attackers are men… because I am a woman, and because I am young, and because I am sick, and because I am Black…my testimony, my recollection is not of much value. My identities assemble into a potent invisible potion— a frame and a voice, separate and different. Frames like mine aren’t born to be believed. Voices like mine are only admitted purpose by way of Man’s discretion— to service, to remit, to keep secret, to assume shapes, to use. Bodies like mine are lived through.

When men complete their wants through the flesh of someone else, they are praying to their destroyer of worlds. Men cannot tell the difference between prayer and chaos.

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sunday wrap pt. 1 (8-27-17)

for Sahbabii’s Pull Up Wit Ah Stick

It is dark and I hear my neighbors cheering. They are airing the Mayweather fight in their backyard. I see two bobbing bodies. Men. They are holding glass bottles. If those bodies holding bottles move down the driveway and to the street, they are illegal.

In the background, blocks away, I hear the wallop of police sirens. Are they hungry for Black glass breaking? Do they want to pull shards of glass from their gums? Do they lick the shards hoping to taste blood’s sweetness?

The cheers now sound like cries. An upset; in which direction? Mayweather won. Even if he didn’t, the purse justified the circus. Although he should, he doesn’t have shit to worry about.

The police are quiet, hoping to dissolve into the night. I know this because sometimes I see their lights flash and hear their yowl clear. I do not move. Then they turn everything off. A cruel warning. It doesn’t matter because some people have an unaccountable sense for the police. A preternatural aerial view. Like birds. That’s why some gangs chirp.

The match is over and the neighbors are laughing. A gathering where the fight is scheduled and money the only chip to bargain is what some would call an easy party.

Above, a police helicopter passes. The searchlights are on but the helicopter doesn’t sound very close to the ground. Not low enough to disrupt any ordinary, long silence. Not low enough to make the air beneath the helicopter hard to breathe and the ground stir, and move.

The gathering has thinned. It’s cold, or too cold for now, and tonight begs to marry a blanket. My hands are stiff and my toes are numb. It is August.

The helicopter is gone. It flew in the direction of Queens. What’s funny is there have been times I’ve endangered people by pledging my allegiance to the police. Having these officers around. Having these officers around makes me feel deeply guilty.

The block wears light well. The block is decked out with streetlights emitting a warm orange glow. It’s beautiful for New York. Old. A neighborhood both remote and under surveillance.

There’s a ghost house down the block. It’s a ghost house because no one lives there but someone did. We don’t know where the people went (another subsidized house of the city most likely) but the boarded up windows and brown cracked grass remind us they are, in truth, gone. Gone. What a funny word. Final but perpetual. And the agony tied to accepting an ending. The heart aches, wondering if there is any way to work around final, just to buy time. To figure out the best goodbye, and never being able to come up with one. Always settling on ”later”. Gone. I told you it’s a ghost house. The windows are boarded up because there was fire. The side of the house is burned, the protective outer layer singed and dangling. The stories about the house might be bigger than what it really was but here is the one I know. The occupants were loud and Jamaican. Their front yard was the receptacle for all the candy wrappers and cigarette butts that blew in from the street.

I don’t know what the backyard looked like.

They were careless. Once K- leaped from her seat, on my verandah, and sprinted into the street to grab the round waist of a barefooted toddler who had run out into it. Once a fight broke out between two men, one squat and bowlegged, and they threw garbage cans at each other. The bowlegged man, father of the barefoot baby, was always caught in the web of some farce. And his mother, a rotund woman with lips always pried open with insult, sat on the cement stairs with her legs spread wide and ankle length skirt hiked up; ready and vexed. Those are the only three I remember. Everyone else? The people that regularly came and went? Faceless. 

The story really is the house caught fire because of an unattended cigarette. The story really is the floors were covered in worn and soiled mattresses– even in the kitchen. The story really is drugs were found hidden in a wall. All of those faceless people came and went to mine the wall’s ore. That’s the story I know.

It is dark and it is quiet. Every so often a car rolls past. The party is over. The police haunt and hide. It is early Sunday morning.

introduction

for white boys who love my body but think my mind is immoral

You can’t keep running in and out of my life. – The Gap Band

I want to be angry. I want my rage to carry me like it hasn’t before — to break glass, and split stones with my hands. To let loose the little girl who always wanted to be a cannon. Then I remember that I am Black. Then I remember I am sick and I am a woman. Then I remember how I’ve crafted my silence into an identity I cannot accurately name. That I have relied upon my silence as an incomplete sewing kit.

#

When white boys tell me that I am beautiful, they really mean they must sever my spine in order to hoist my body in the air for themselves. White boys cannot assess without theft. They’ve learned how to seize the world and not live in it.

Too many white boys have attempted to love me. They think if they can fuck me, I will understand some part of their tenderness. They think if they fuck me, I can become human like them. And I have let it happen. I have witnessed to my own death and written my own eulogy.

Here rests a woman who scared her way into heaven. Will god throw her away too?

When white boys tell me I am beautiful, they are saying I need to be tamed, that I am growing too freely. My freedom used to be called savage but modern parlance doesn’t like to allow such glaring insights into others’ feelings. Now we twist our words not realizing time can undo any bend. And white boys know they can’t safely time travel. Time traveling will reveal who they are, but I cannot be seduced by the present because I am Black and sick and a woman.

The days when I rest from stitching the torn parts of my body are the days when they call me immoral. White boys love to tell me exactly where I have fallen. They always notice when I have stopped working. When I tell them that they are cruel for noticing my movement but not my creation, they clap back and say I am mouthy. If only white boys knew how many words Black women swallow. If only they knew the lifetime’s worth of undetonated bombs that reside in our intestines. If only they knew “being Black and alive and a woman is a metaphysical dilemma” are words we can barely comprehend no less conquer. If only they considered how many times Black women have considered suicide because it’s impossible to live and choke through every moment lived.

I am choking and they have the audacity to say they love my body. Take your hands off my neck, white boy. Learn who you are and, maybe, you can help put air back into my lungs.

#

I want to be angry. I want to throw the topple-the-universe tantrum I was always told not to throw because my mama said the white folks would stare. They’d stare and I’d be embarrassing us all. They’d stare and their eyes would beget all of the hatred we knew they sheltered. I want to be mad. I want to ask white boys, How dare you show up at my funeral and use the program as a fan? You haven’t earned that right. I want my body to detonate so that they can feel the fallout of 28 years of sacrifice.

My birthday is the 43rd anniversary of Hiroshima. England held all of my mothers in Its grip. I cannot willingly trust any power but my own.

I want to do it all but then remember I am Black and I am sick and I am a woman and I’ve got so much to sew together.

 

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for girls with no game

i feel you.

it started on the playground
of course
dodgeball met your face
and that already loose baby tooth
unrooted, dropped
into your hand and you wondered
if you pricked the loose nerve end
with your nail bitten fingers
would the pulse of pain
strike you in your cheek?

in gym class
you count the dots
on the basketball
never try to dunk
and pass the ball whenever it is handed to you.

the first boy i loved
was a nimble six year old
with a toothless baby smile
and a name so silly
my mouth can not repeat it.
when he saw me with a basketball
he told me to throw it
and i told him
i’d counted 450 dots already
and wasn’t that cool?

it always goes that way.
he asks you for the salt
and you talk about salt mines
and salt flats
and the salt your mother
would throw over her shoulder
whenever daddy came home late.

you are gameless
and i feel you.

and sometimes, i think,
if i’d learned how to dribble
or understood strategy
i wouldn’t be playing hot potato with a phone
running through
all the different ways to say
Hello
but mean so much more than
Salutations
i want to say,
Boy the way you are is beautiful
Can you feel me?

i do not know
if gameless girls
like us
even talk like that.

and you think
Aight, aight
I got this
you say that he is nice
you smile softly enough
that even if he rejects you
you will be able to land
on the cushion of your own lips.

you are so nice
so good
so girl
and somewhere,
in a spot you cannot name,
in an undottable place,
you feel like that will not be enough

he tells you the same
that you are nice
so good
so easy
and already this is complicated.

his lips do the same,
you both are looking to
fall into safety

he recognizes
that you recognize
game ain’t shit you have in common
no one is playing
this is dangerous

you say
Skin is our largest organ
he says
I feel you

Solid.