Black Credit

Lord—
Your good daughter I have been
my whole life.

I’ve kept your house
clean as sucked bone,

starved myself of everything
your other children have told me is sin.

I’ve sharpened my teeth on the slate
of your Word for your work’s sake.

Bridled the glint of my tongue
so men will feel strong

and not be seen trembling
under the soft of it.

I’ve behaved

and for what
do I hunger, myself growing slight
on tomorrow’s meat:

words, words, your words
as valued here as Black credit
at an all-American bank.

They say, Lord, piety is speaking to you,
but madness is hearing you

speak back. And under this,
like all good jokes lies
the truth: no one

in this equation seems to be listening
anyway. To you, to our own damned selves.
Tell me

how many Black girls
does it take to change a mind,
or a home           or a block
or a scale            or a heart
or a course          or a country?

You, Lord, as you have
with your other minor prophets,
have dragged—or is it called us

up the mountain, where in the thin air
there are those who got here
long before I ever dreamed of it,

still waiting on you
to finally cash this check.

Related Poems

Answers

They ask what I believe in—
Sour milk: the curdle & butter of it
Baby’s breath ragged with phlegm
The green sheen clinging to her skin like algae
The bone & teeth of us mossy and alive with DNA

But what’s your religion, they’re after—
What gods do you pray to?
The frilly curtains of her laughter
remodeling alla my pain
Oh, how she adorns this house of mine

So god’s a woman? (hands on they hips)
How water ain’t a woman
the way she make your thirst
her temperamental breasts
& everywhere everything everyone everywhichway—water

Well, who your altars honor?
The ghosts that inhabit us
& all the evidence of them:
double vision—floaters flecking
our periphery when we look away

from the light—all the mouths
at the bottom of our stomach—
Ever wonder why we eat two plates
& still hungry?        Or how our anger
multiplies in seconds like a kitchen

of negro roaches?         Yes, even the roaches
have melanin      black/brown with the spirits
of wayward witches        I burn candles
& pour brown liquor out for my bitches
& they glorious golden auras

To what churches do you tithe?
Our Lady of Ladled Magnificence
God of Ghetto Grace Incorporated
Our Mother Who Art in Harlem
House of Regurgitated Resurrections

Have you ever been possessed?
We ain’t never not been owned
not with all that restless bone
sediment at the bottom of the Atlantic
wonder why we frantic with personalities

How we sing with three throats
bending notes weeping willow
What are trees if not spirits
weeping & dancing simultaneous?
How we dipped our nooses in gold

& hung crosses from them
& wore them like shiny portable altars
How is there not a church in our chests?
How our breasts leak gospel truth
How our teeth ache with the blood of Jesus

Who, then, is your muse?
(pointing) ain’t she a muse        amusing     
a  maze           amazing      amazon
of our dreams         prisms that fracture
into auras & auras that fragment dimensions

Isn’t mourning a religion, then?
Like how all these feelings grow
muscles & flex & jerk inside of me
Like how they can’t kill us even when
they hands scream bloody murder

Like how we show up wearing white
just to spite them—spit at the pulpit
of bullshit & Babylon        How we eat
bibles for breakfast      Leviticus & grits   
Our souls sizzling in the skillet like gizzards

What is the geography of your grief?
Everywhere they are        & ain’t
painting the block milk white & sickly
a tricky bluish tint    (think: veins under skin)    
a sticky blues     a blush       blood—bluing the block       black

From the language of ash

The translator undresses. Tries on the shape of the work she translates. Stuffs her new belly with his engorged sex. Tries not to re-write his words tries to give her self over to his syntax. In the end, she wears her same nakedness.

volcano spews ash
thick clouds that touch the heavens
cover her body

transient—passing by or away from one place to another.

her thick fingers
trees damaged by a hard storm
downed power lines

rendering something written or spoken in different but equivalent form or state to a different place, office, or sphere by which information in messenger RNA directs the sequence

from the language of ash: the women in her family are beautiful and alone.

yellow park flower
its petals its leaves
brown

Half Girl, Then Elegy

Having fallen while no one was looking
Having borne what fell through
Having fallen early
/
Having barely fallen through myself
My luck, so close to catching,
Having caught the worst of it
/
Having fallen from the sky, and then
Through it. Having landed to realize
I had been part
/
Having parted the late sky, partly
Sky where I am delicate, I took
A tumble through the night bloom
/
I took the night with me as I tumbled,
Delicate with the infinite,
Which swells from the tallest branch
/
Having grown swollen
As low-hanging fruit, I tell Nadra,
I couldn’t help it—
/
The fresh heave of new breast
Thick switch of hip: a group
Of unnamed gifts is called a steal
/
She says, fruit you can reach is still
Precious. Her name means rare: her lean
Thins towards the unusual.
/
In Lagos, we name our girls
Darling, Sincere, Precious, because
A name is a stake in the grave
/
Having grieved and taken and taken
On the way to Eros, Thanatos
Having arrived late to my own bloom:
 
 
Halve me like a walnut
Pry the part of me that is hollow
From the part that yields fruit.