here is my heart to place under yours.
you are slow breaths
all that strength you made fom your blood.
a whole nation of black pain.
you carried in your spine.
a jail cell. made from your mother’s island.
i return some to you.
ninety four years
is many bones to go through.
many hearts to shed.
many stars of joy to comb through your hair.
a lot of time
let us hold you now.
let us warm the water for your skin.
let our youth be your comfort.
we have seen how your feet danced
that we have commited
you. to memory.
all hope and fresh mourning.
we know what the ancestors sound like
when they come.
they are ready for you.
if you have done
you came to do.
are finished transcribing your soul into humanity.
have our cloth ready.
our flowers ready.
our songs in our mouths ready.
our feet and all the drums ready.
letters my mother never sends
i am not a task and you
should have never left me half done
it was my fault for being so accommodating
for making my skin negotiable
and, turning my bones liquid for you
that traitor heart and those
obedient feet never looked good on you
the inside of my thighs aren’t a wast-yard
for all of your evils
i didn’t leave my country for this
for you to use the shores of my eyelids as
an illegal dumping ground for you to toss your knuckles
how did i fall in love with a silhouette
i didn’t leave my mother for this
how did i let a hologram hurt me
i didn’t leave the woman that i was for this
you are nothing but a rear-view memory
a backwards glance
a shadow of a man
you can paint my
skin as many shades of plum as
but i will never call you artist
Do not write poems about him
The one who finds shovel and presses it to your collar bone
It is empty there and beautiful now because he has scooped the lonliness out
And you want to gift fruit for his work and cool his frame for as long as he wishes
But that is not what you are here for
You hold whistling hollows near that haunting trunk
Your neck branching out into life
Your mouth a nest of trouble though
It bee coves and honey drips
It is wet sweet and stinging nettle
And queen means things they couldn’t imagine
And all the while you buzz for him
And he sits reading at your base
Holding at your hand
Humming back your tune
But he is not yours
And maybe that would be fine
Save the fact that you know where he belongs
And that you are striped yellow and black for a reason
All hazard light
You may cause him to swell
But do not revel in being the cause for the effect
It is dangerous
And might close his throat
Never to sing sweet songs again
You know that your green limbs are forcing themselves to grow around him when your natural affinity is to grow towards the sun
And that he, he must return to the lilac tree
With the purple flowers in its tresses
And the familiar smell in its petals
For that tree has softened to mould a hollow shaped exactly for him in its bark
And has sturdied its branches for him and all that is theirs
So do not whistle poems for him through your leaves
Let him go
Floating off on the winds that brought him here
Do not say,
'For what?’, he left you
But whisper thank you to the sky all the while
For what he left you
A For Colored Girls Piece
I understand why Sonia Sanchez gather’s up each sound you left behind and stretch them on our bed. Each night I breathe you and become high.
And I have calculated why my hips swing the way they do, and why my cheeks are the first to grab your attention…
There is honesty in my smile, confidence in my stride and a true essence of what form beauty may come in.
And I think I may have figured out why colored girls do the things that they do…
Because we are in search of finding ourselves in the midst of, Life’s love stories, heart aches, comedy sketches, dramas and horror stories of what we think love will look like when we meet him.
- Candace Sewell
how to communicate with strangers (in nursing uniforms)
say you, mean i. be too afraid to identify with burning buildings. say i was born in muqdisho, mean i was born on the flee over the border. say hospital, mean tree. say midwife, mean blind woman also fleeing. say birthday, mean papers. mean have none. say grew up in kenya, mean refugee camp. mean ifo. say we moved here in the late nineties, mean exodus. mean resettlement. say my family lives in atlanta, mean public housing. mean gentrification. say ivy league,mean infiltration. mean subversion. say creative writing, meantaking back tongue. say poetry, mean gabey. mean buranbur.
“would you like a sleeping aid tonight?”
say no thanks, mean please. say i’m fine, mean listen. mean help. say women, say madness. mean qamar. mean nimco. say PTSD, mean jinn. mean exorcism. mean calamity, mean death. mean your mother. meanyou.
“in the past twenty-four hours have you had thoughts of harming yourself or others?”
say no. mean if i tell you will you punish me? mean sometimes the river begs to swallow me whole. mean one day i will quench the river’s thirst. say good night, mean don’t go. beg with eyes, beg with eyes. watch as the room darkens. begin anew in the morning.
is how lies
became an acquired taste.
you remember the smell of earth and
lose your mind.
all those souls sleeping in a core
you call them dead
when it’s really you who is the corpse.
tell me a secret, you beg the ocean.
and when it doesn’t answer
you trace the weeping bark of every tree
asking for the name that lost itself
to a marriage with the noose.
you had an auntie once.
the distant kind.
who wore a smile brighter than her light skin
that her husband wounded every night.
you quickly learnt the art of keeping
your mouth shut.
christened it with your dolls: An Alternative Womanhood.
at age 10 your favourite uncle
brought you sapphires from south africa.
the gems —- they called you a queen
so of course you smiled your gratitude
because screaming happily was for princesses.
some time in the present leukosphere
that the only times your parents beat you
was to save them from themselves.
so you bathe their wounds in a mint forgiveness.
i remember the smell of earth
from the dusty heated ground of my palms
with my motorway teeth
and my scabby knees
before the day i learnt what it is
to be dead.
and the today i learnt
of the life in forgiveness.
i know so little
My body is not a plum,
though red. Juicy. Soft.
Rounded where you want it.
A plum is not my sum
when we are in the mood.
My body is not an apple,
though red. Loud. Hard.
You can’t fit me in a pocket.
In sleep, I am
within your reach; awake,
a nightmare that is teasing.
My body is an orchard where
the weeding is optional;
a biosphere reserve
the government can’t police;
a planet untied to the sun.
And I don’t bleed blue,
no matter what the ads say.