I.

my lover is a woman
& when i hold her
feel her warmth
     i feel good
     feel safe

then—i never think of
my family’s voices
never hear my sisters say
bulldaggers, queers, funny
     come see us, but don’t
     bring your friends
          it’s ok with us,
          but don’t tell mama
          it’d break her heart
never feel my father
turn in his grave
never hear my mother cry
Lord, what kind of child is this?

 

II.

my lover’s hair is blonde
& when it rubs across my face
it feels soft
     feels like a thousand fingers
     touch my skin & hold me
          and i feel good

then—i never think of the little boy
who spat & called me nigger
never think of the policemen
who kicked my body & said crawl
never think of Black bodies
hanging in trees or filled
with bullet holes
never hear my sisters say
white folks hair stinks
don’t trust any of them
never feel my father
turn in his grave
never hear my mother talk
of her backache after scrubbing floors
never hear her cry
Lord, what kind of child is this?

 

III. 

my lover's eyes are blue
& when she looks at me
i float in a warm lake
     feel my muscles go weak with want
          feel good
          feel safe

then—i never think of the blue
eyes that have glared at me
moved three stools away from me
in a bar
never hear my sisters rage
of syphilitic Black men as
guinea pigs
     rage of sterilized children
          watch them just stop in an
          intersection to scare the old
          white bitch
never feel my father turn
in his grave
never remember my mother
teaching me the yes sirs & ma'ams
to keep me alive
never hear my mother cry
Lord, what kind of child is this?

 

IV.

& when we go to a gay bar
& my people shun me because i crossed
the line
& her people look to see what's
wrong with her
     what defect
     drove her to me

& when we walk the streets
of this city
     forget and touch
     or hold hands
          & the people
          stare, glare, frown, & taunt
               at those queers

i remember
     every word taught me
     every word said to me
     every deed done to me
          & then i hate
i look at my lover
& for an instant
     doubt

then—i hold her hand tighter
     & i can hear my mother cry.
     Lord, what kind of child is this?

"My Lover Is a Woman" by Pat Parker © Anastasia Dunham-Parker-Brady, used with permission.

And when we are finished, I ask
            if she thinks us grotesque,
two plain monsters basking
            in our blood—our liquid plaque.

We celebrate the art of
            our unmaking. She spirals my body
into a single drop, ambrosia
            spoiled by the Gods. I copy

the signature of her sin-
            ged moan, grind it down
until it becomes my own dim
            map. Even the Gods fuck. Crown

themselves in gardens pastored
            by snakes. I am crying. Not out of shame
but out of tradition. To have mastered
            this want, only to carve for it a lock, a name

as queer as unholy. How queer it fits
            inside the mouth, how queer is my woman
and the sweat she makes of me, a sweet trick
            of her tongue. Don’t we deserve a hand-

made altar. Don’t we deserve a crowd
            of worshipers to carry our bed. And yes
please to the beads, the sacred
            wars, the body ornaments, the vain-eyed

statues pulsing deep with our flood.
            Yes to the orchestrated violence, a quiver
licked down my spine. May our love blood
            the skies like a storm of Gods high off terror.

O Zeus. O Oshun. O Ra. O Kali. O Me. O Her. O Gods—God? 
            Yes. Gods. Don’t act like you don’t know our names’ roar.
Whispered. Sweet and savage inside your temples.
            Preserved behind velvet doors.

Copyright © 2023 by Crystal Valentine. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 23, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

What whispers suckle, tugs
spines upright, name god.

Acolytes—mice sniffing
a wet breeze, blouse milksoaked

at an infant's cry,
universe ever expanding.

Oh cosmic through line,
teach the weaker sex your

bruising grip. May we find
statements heavy as stones

in throats, stay hands that
push away plates, backs

arched only to provoke
a conclusion. Instead, let

what's clenched uncoil,
pulse under the tongue.

At dawn, we'll rise to tuck
ribs into the smoker's belly.

Copyright © 2018 Luiza Flynn-Goodlett. “Prayer for Appetite” originally appeared in Colorado Review. Used with permission of the author.