Letter to a Black Girl from her Great, Great Grandmother / Such Strange Fruit / Africa
Letter to a Black Girl from her Great, Great Grandmother
Once in a famine, I dropped
all my children into the soil
to replenish the garden.
Women always choose
survival over sadness. The story
of our constant lack goes like this:
in a land, some land, any land, men
stole the beans & rice, fed our bodies
to the war, any war. They built china cabinets
to protect the things they loved
& cages to display their women
beginning a cycle of captive thought.
How many times can a woman be
ravished before survival self replicates
in her blood? I sold myself to a man
for black eyed peas once. Gutted out
their tiny eyes and gave them back
to my daughters. Even seeds mistake
the soil for safety, the farmer’s shovel
for God. I raised you like the Mississippi
outrunning her shores. I tended you
at the bosom of hunger and rain
outsourced from an unfamiliar sky.
I taught you to butcher a man’s bones
and use them to till then grow
before he spreads you and plants
you and then eats you alive.
Treat every man like a weapon
but don’t be his ammunition
lest you be spent to kill his
enemies and your skin left
littering a ground you’re not
thought equal enough to set foot on.
I braided gun smoke into your hair
so you would never forget how they leave
us burning in the wake of history.
Take my words nightly
like a pill & remember not to
knot your tongue for him.
Alphabetize my warnings
and sleep with my sacrifices
under your pillow so your dreams
will drift far, far away from my hunger &
never grieve that your eyes are black lest
everything I surrendered be in vain.
Such Strange Fruit
we have been folded into
the foliage of this oak like
night folds itself into day
recesses of royal indigo tinge
the sky between the leaves
just above our charcoal crowns
tillandsia arms hang down, now small,
but still strong like the last
smoldering embers of a cross fire
heads tilt at reverent angles, ashen
chins pressed against blackened
torsos, frozen in that last moment
of homage, preserved in the position
of communion with our ancestors
in hopes that we came from and
will return to somewhere important
when at last our ripened bodies
fall, burst, and return to the ground
pelvis, calyx, and seeds, offered by fire
on an altar to a strange god
did our flesh drift up like a sweet
smelling aroma, or did our legs
limit the flight of our praise as
our muscles contorted with the flames
forever capturing our souls and
our limbs in a new kind of shackle?
Was it beautiful to make us ripe
before our season? Did the countenance
of the sky change as our stems
and pits dissolved into the leaves?
Will you leave us to be picked by
your children, when on an indigo day
much like this one, they stumble
upon us hanging still from the branches
of America’s honorable aftermath? Or will
you gather us in caskets, gently wash
away our ashes, peel, cut, and
sugarcoat our meat? What kind of pie
will you make of such strange fruit?
East of Eden
in an era
that has now faded
into the recesses.
In that space
where Pishon amputates
we have not eaten
I am Mother.
To sons and daughters,
created in turbulent oceans,
with skin and words
of the breaths
I will forever
give to them.
I am Mother.
I made you
of the elements
and carried you
until you could
stand on your own.
Now you are
the very back
that bore you.
Devouring the one
who had already
of her womb.
I crafted you
and now wear
you like a cyclone,
tear me open
Yet I cannot
The proverbs say,
a mother must
always be ready
to let go
of her children.
But with closed
and opened eyes,
I see you
in my night
and daytime dreams.
I cannot walk away.
you write “Non-Applicable”
and draw a line
across my name,
I am Mother.