Nigra Sum

Nigra sum, nigra sum sed Formosa

I am that opal colored onyx stone. Black bone soul
jones in the midnight dreary.
My soul is a weary kind of blues; and you know me
for my ebony hues. Nigra sum.

Like Solomon, the wisest king, with a pigment from
the descent of a chocolate crescent beam. I am the depth of Africa’s dream do
you see me gleam shining a fluid monsoon. Nigra sum.

I am bellowing coal smoky soul. Young and old,
just depending on the century you first got a glimpse of me. The obscured
regions of earth foretold my destiny. I grew from the continent of Mahogany in
full bloom. Nigra sum.

Just mention me to Cairo sands. Echo the song of the
motherland, walking hand in hand with Pharaohs and Abraham. I stand by Cush and
push the seeds of Noah in the land. Water them with the words from my lips. I
am the darkness of every solar eclipse from January ‘til June. Nigra sum.

Do you presume to know my fable? Sit with me at
the Passover table. I was able to break bread with the unleavened. I kissed the
lamb of heaven just before he was betrayed in Gethsemane that day. When the sky
turned pitch from gray, I was the one who sprayed the firmament with my tears.
It was the color of fears and doom. Nigra sum.

Like the daughters of Jerusalem gathering to be
concubines, veiling brown eyes for the wise one, scorched by the sun, double
coated in sable with prose sweeter than molasses and rum maple. I am hune like
their groom. Nigra sum.

Like the inside of tombs, like iron and fumes,
like licorice perfume, like the bottom of a lagoon, I am black, but comely.
Nigra sum.

My skin is baked and burnt melanin versed with the
ink of my pen. I am in the abyss of every woman, waiting to be birthed as life
from her womb. From the den of each uterus I am exhumed, consumed in the
richness of raven shades. Vamp clay made the frame of my being. I am the
blanket overseeing the night as it dances across the expanses of the
hemisphere. It is clear that I too have been touched by the sun so much that I
can absorb the breath of the moon. Nigra sum.
For we must learn to love the skin God put us in
even when the world would condition us to hate it.

From Pariahs (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2016) by Andrea Sanderson. Copyright © 2016 by Andrea Sanderson. Used with the permission of the author.