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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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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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this is a move [impressions of people we love]

1.

Your hand, unattainable, is next to me. Grit underneath your fingernails, the joints of your fingers practicing scales on your knee. I played piano once. My teacher, who left, told me I had the shape but not the understanding. I took that to mean I had already achieved something I didn’t deserve. But your fingers are right there: nervous, bearded, ever-touching fingers. I remember how they felt that time you pushed me up against a wall and tried to shove your hands up my skirt. That was the first impassioned kiss I’d had in months – no teeth or calls to stop – just mouths probing each other for a peek into the darkness of our bodies always knowing it would be impossible to swallow each other. We could have said that we were lonely; we could have said a lot of things like we were drunk and didn’t know better.

We didn’t know better.

And we didn’t know better again when we watched videos in bed and awkwardly wanted to see if our mouths had grown wider, if one person’s insides could consume the other.

Now you are all fingers and knee taps; I am all half glances and feet pointed with concerted effort.

 2.

I am spatially uncoordinated. Physics, calculus, planes, dimensions, lengths, depths, time: all foreign. Sometimes I speak and my tense doesn’t acknowledge the proper time or my words lack depth or some other aspect of myself is painfully incongruent to the point that I am always floating somewhere near here and you are always there. See, the inability to master spatial coordination has me falling in love with people who never occupy the same space as me. At first, I thought it was a fluke, that I was unobservant and desperate. Even selfishly self-sacrificial: to pine endlessly for people I could never come to have. But I am not the only one to do the beholding. People  give me signals, innumerable variables, equations of what they want and each of those signals is miscalculated by me. I wonder how many people I’ve lost because I couldn’t properly interpret the coordinates of their system. And all of the men I have loved from distances that cannot be traversed. Distances inscribed along the lines of constellations I try to trace with an outstretched finger touching nothing but air.

I am always quadrant four, bleeding off the page. You look like a parabola dipping into quadrant one, exiting in quadrant two. Sweeping, sloping, infinite, gentle, fanning yourself over graph paper into creation.

I am a series of dots with no lines, pencil etchings so tenuous the shadow of the eraser is the only mark that will stay.