I tore from a limb fruit that had lost its green. My hands were warmed by the heat of an apple Fire red and humming. I bit sweet power to the core. How can I say what it was like? The taste! The taste undid my eyes And led me far from the gardens planted for a child To wildernesses deeper than any master’s call.
Now these cool hands guide what they once caressed; Lips forget what they have kissed. My eyes now pool their light Better the summit to see.
I would do it all over again: Be the harbor and set the sail, Loose the breeze and harness the gale, Cherish the harvest of what I have been. Better the summit to scale. Better the summit to be.
From Five Poems (Rainmaker Editions, 2002) by Toni Morrison with silhouettes by Kara Walker. Used with permission from The Believer Magazine.
They call me Eve I was never given a last name This was only the first case of identity theft
I know what you’ve heard about me, That I was carved out of the ribcage of a man only as an afterthought. And they told you I’d look differently
Make no mistake, they have burned down my libraries and tried their best to scorch my memory but I remember well. The sweetness of God’s breath on my neck when She whispered me into existence She told me I’d be the first of this new species she was experimenting with
There was no talk of dominion, but She did teach me a certain harmony with Lady Gaia and told me to embody her beauty so I walked tall
Wide hips and extra weight to nourish the children I would carry. And as they grew, I taught them.
Taught the young, small, weak taught them plenty. They came to my crown and asked me how to run their nations Aristotle, Plato, Socrates sucked from the supple breast of my knowledge.
Little did I know when I turned my back they’d whip slave ships into it and create this Bible that blames me for the expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
There was a snake that tempted me to leave the promise land I’m pretty sure those was your chains, guns and aggression. So was it fruit, or the middle passage that closed Eden’s gates.
This Bible that tells me childbirth is a curse and that I am the cause. Well I am sorry, Sorry that I broke my back to carry your children but if you ever dared to ask me, I’d call you the curse I’ve been called temptress, but it was you who stripped me naked. Called me slut and made me hit my knees until I knew what forbidden fruit really tasted like.
The abuse didn’t stop after Lincoln it was just heavily disguised as the media, tossing me a pair of booty shorts and tell me to sway my hips to the rhythm of lynched ancestors because it reminds racists of a better time.
They never look me in the eyes because they want me to forget I have them.
I know why they do it. They see Her image in me and fear my power. They sold me as commodity so I would forget what I was worth,
But you should have smashed my mirrors first. Did you think I couldn’t see? I am the beauty of gold embodied.
Black skin as beautiful as the galaxies they stole from my libraries but NOT from my eyes. You can keep your idealistic paintings of me But you will never bleach my skin or straighten my hair.
Forbid the drums of my native tongue But you will never quiet the lavish language of my dance I will never lose my kinks, my fight, my fire. Save your cat calls for those deserving Because I do not play with rats. You will call me Goddess or will not address me at all
Wearing nothing but snakeskin boots, I blazed a footpath, the first radical road out of that old kingdom toward a new unknown. When I came to those great flaming gates of burning gold, I stood alone in terror at the threshold between Paradise and Earth. There I heard a mysterious echo: my own voice singing to me from across the forbidden side. I shook awake— at once alive in a blaze of green fire.