This Body

This Body

1. Sensitive. Dry
See Dove soap, Oil of Olay, shea butter.
See middle school pimples plumping up 
the night before picture day.
Always on the chin or nose.

2. Dark. See Slave. See Negro.
See age 7. See yourself
playing on the playground
when a white girl says,
you must eat a lot of chocolate
since your skin so brown.

1. See assimilation.
See smoke from the hot comb crocheting the air,
burning a sacred incense.
See your momma parting your hair, brining iron to nap,
“Hold your ear baby,” she tells you.
So she can press Africa out.
When Black girls ask, “Is it real?” Say yes.
When white girls ask, “Can I touch it?” Say no.

2. See natural. Reference Angela Davis,
Dorothy Pitman Hughes.
Comb yours out. Twist yours like black licorice,
like the lynching rope
used on your ancestors’ necks.
Let it hang

1. Reference Lucille Clifton and every other big girl
who knows how to work a Hula-Hoop.
See Beyoncé. Dance like her in the mirror.
Do not be afraid of all your powers.

2. You will not fit in
most places. Do not
bend, squeeze, contort yourself.
Be big, brown girl.
Big wide smile.
Big wild hair.
Big wondrous hips.
Brown girl, be.

This Body II

My body is
perfect and
imperfect and
Black and
girl and
big and
thick hair and
short legs and
scraped knee and
healed scar and
heart beating and
hands that hold and
voice that bellows and
feet that dance and
arms that embrace and
my momma’s eyes and
my daddy’s smile and
my grandma’s hope and

my body is masterpiece and
my body is mine.

Black Girls Rising

Our Black bodies, sacred.
Our Black bodies, holy.

Our bodies, our own.
Every smile a protest.
Every laugh a miracle.

Piece by piece we stitch ourselves back together.
This Black girl body
that gets dragged out of school desk, slammed onto floor,
tossed about at pool side, pulled over and pushed onto grass,
arrested, never to return home,
shot on doorsteps, on sofas while sleeping 
and dreaming of our next day.

Our bodies, a quilt that tells the story of the middle passage.
Of roots yanked and replanted.

Our bodies, a mosaic of languages forgotten,
of freedom songs and moaned prayers.

Our bodies no longer
disregarded, objectified, scrutinized.

Our bodies, our own.
Every smile a protest.
Every laugh a miracle.

Our bodies rising. 
Our feet marching, legs dancing, our bellies birthing, hands raising, 
our hearts healing, voices speaking up.

Our bodies.
So Black, so beautiful.

Here, still.
Rising, rising.

A Psalm for Emmett Till

The brutal abduction and murder of 14-year-old
African American Emmett Till 
in Mississippi on August 28, 1955, 
galvanized the emerging Civil Rights Movement.
Martin Luther King, Jr. called his murder 
“one of the most brutal and inhumane crimes 
of the 20th century.”  –Biography

But what I don’t know is your favorite color, or
your favorite bubble gum flavor. I don’t know if
you liked winter days, if you ever left the imprint of
your body in the snow to make an angel. And I want
to know the song that you couldn’t stop listening to,
singing it in your head, over and over. What was the
song? I want to know the games you liked to play, if
you ever climbed a tree, swam in a lake, looked up
at the night sky and made a wish. And I want to
know who you thought you might become. Your
mother told us you were good at science, that you
loved art. I wonder if you had lived, would your
masterpieces be in a gallery or maybe you would
have kept them to yourself—hidden treasures in a
notebook, or maybe you would have been an art
teacher. Or maybe you would have been a baseball
player. I am told you were good at that, too. So
many talents, raw and pliable. There is a tale told of
you baking a cake for your mother and you were
young and boy and not good at baking, but still, you
loved your mother, so you tried. The cake did not
taste good at all, and that became a family joke. Had
you lived, you might have gotten better at baking.
And maybe you would have become a renowned
pastry chef and every time you’d be interviewed,
you’d tell the story of the horrible cake and you’d
look back at how far you’d come, at how much
you’d grown. Maybe. These are things I do not
know. But I do know you were not just a Chicago
boy meeting Mississippi, not just a whistling boy, a
kidnapped boy, a brutalized boy, a bloated boy with
a ring on his finger, not just a boy in an open casket,
not just a buried boy, a gone boy. You were a boy
with a favorite dessert, a favorite place to play, a
favorite joke to tell. You were a boy with a favorite
song—a song that you couldn’t stop listening to,
couldn’t stop singing it in your head, over and over.
What was the song? Had you kept living, maybe
you would sing us that song, teaching us the
original version. By now the song would be
remixed, new verses added, but still the same.

And the record keeps spinning, scratched and stuck
on the chorus. So many verses etched in the vinyl.
So many unfinished songs.

Your name, the refrain: Emmett Till. Medgar Evers,
Martin Luther King, Jr., Henry Dumas, Fred
Hampton, Mulugeta Seraw, Amadou Diallo, Sean
Bell, Aiyana Jones, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin,
Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride, Michael Brown,
Eric Garner, Michelle Cusseaux, Akai Gurley,
Tanisha Anderson, Tamir Rice, Tanisha Fonville,
Ezell Ford, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Sandra
Bland, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Stephon
Clark, Botham Jean, Aura Rosser, Atatiana
Jefferson, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George
Floyd, Rayshard Brooks

and this is to say, since you were taken away from
us, so much has changed and everything is the
same. But always, your name is spoken. Like a holy
chant, a rally cry, a prayer. We cannot, will not
forget you. You are the song stuck in our hearts.
And the record keeps spinning, spinning.