sonnet for the long second act

your body is still a miracle    thirst
quenched    with water across dry tongue and lips 
    or cocoa butter    ashy legs immersed
till shine seen    sheen    the mind too    cups and dips
from its favorite rivers    figures and facts
    slant stories of orbiting      protests or
protons    around daughters or suns  ::  it backs
up or opens wide to joy’s gush    downpour 
    the floods the heart pumps    hip hop    doo wop    dub
    veins mining the mud for poetry’s o
cell after cell drinks    ringgold colors       mulled 
    cool cascades of calla lilies  ::  swallow
and bathe    breathe    believe    through drought you survive 
    like the passage schooled you    till rains arrive

                        —after alexis pauline gumbs

More by Evie Shockley

canvas and mirror

self-portrait with cats, with purple, with stacks
      of half-read books adorning my desk, with coffee,

                  with mug, with yesterday's mug. self-portrait
            with guilt, with fear, with thick-banded silver ring,

      painted toes, and no make-up on my face. self-
            portrait with twins, with giggles, with sister at

                  last, with epistrophy, with crepescule with nellie,
with my favorite things. self-portrait with hard

head, with soft light, with raised eyebrow. self-
      portrait voo-doo, self-portrait hijinks, self-portrait

                  surprise. self-portrait with patience, with political
            protest, with poetry, with papers to grade. self-

      portrait as thaumaturgic lass, self-portrait as luna
            larva, self-portrait as your mama. self-portrait

                  with self at sixteen. self-portrait with shit-kickers,
with hip-huggers, with crimson silk, with wild

mushroom risotto and a glass of malbec. self-
      portrait with partial disclosure, self-portrait with

                  half-truths, self-portrait with demi-monde. self-
            portrait with a night at the beach, with a view

      overlooking the lake, with cancelled flight. self-
            portrait with a real future, with a slight chance of

                  sours, with glasses, with cream, with fries, with
a way with words, with a propositional phrase.

the fare-well letters [excerpt]

dear ink jet,


          black fast. greasy lightning.
won't smear. won't rub off.
          defense: a visual screen: ask
an octopus (bioaquadooloop).
          footprints faster than a speed-
ing bully, tracking dirt all
          over the page. make every
word count. one. two. iamb.
          octoroon. half-breed. mutt.
mulatto. why are there so few
          hybrids on the road? because
they can't reproduce. trochee
          choking okay mocha. ebony,
by contrast, says so much.

effect shrewd preferences

the screed seen here blesses
        the sweet, the meek, the gentle,
                the serene. let eyes ensembled
peep the news sheets: ere
        december descends, we'll elect
                the next pres, reps, etc. when
we welter, cede the wheel,
        we let greed-questers enter
                (well-dressed jerks!). they send
themselves the green we need,
        help themselves fleece the sheep
                we be. we're the perfect prey!
the press sleeps the sleep we
        deserve, then bleeds berserk
                text between celeb tweets. we'd
best reject the mess, steer
        the fleet between these repellent
                hells. veer! swerve! reverse!
here's the pledge: we'll expect
        better press. elect the decent
                men, the keenest shes. revere
sense. never feed spleen lest
        we weep endless weeks, red-
                eyed, bereft. let excellent pens
represent the experts' ken, help
        peeps remember key elements.
                let's select well. we'll revel yet.

Related Poems

Black Womxn Version II

Black womxn,
You night sky,
You starless galaxy
You
stars for eyes.

You
are so full of empty
of womb
of creation

You
balance of holy fire
You misunderstanding
You
misunderstood
You
so beautiful
so lawless
so… dark

They branded you that, you know?
“dark”, ”black”, “demon”

You
all reclamation
all “yin”, “rebirth”,

You
beaten spine still straight
you clawed teeth
you rip them apart with rhetoric
and discourse.

You
all community,
all let’s talk this through
all “What is ailing you, my love?”

Them
tired of hearing about how black you are,
How straight your hair is not
Wishing
you'd just blend in
Wishing you'd stop being all bold colored font

You
all redefining black as beautiful
nappy as galaxy

You all proud
them all scared
You not running
them all shaking.

You
You
You
stand tall against the wind
You recognize your skin as baobab tree

You all deeply rooted

You
wondering about your roots
on a land that feels like sand

You clinging onto the depths of empty
You know empty
You've claimed it
made it friend

You know what happens here,
in a starless night,
in a planet-less galaxy
in the largest womb ever known.

Here
is where you have always
created best

Social Death, an Address

I write to you from the predicament of Blackness.

You see, I’ve been here all my life and found,

on the atomic level, it’s impossible to walk through

most doorways. I can, however, move through

walls. I write to you from the empty seat that isn’t

empty. I write to you when a feel is copped.

I write myself out of bed. I write to you as the spook

who sat by the door. I write to you from Olivia

Pope’s apolitical mouth. I am here because I could

never get the hang of body death, though it has been

presented to me like one would offer a roofied cocktail

or high-interest loan. I am only here because I started

eating again. I am only here because I am ineligible

to exist otherwise. I’m only here because I left and

returned through an Atlantic wormhole. I write to you as

the American version of me. In the American version,

Orpheus’ lyre is a gun. Eurydice thinks of doctors,

or, rather a cold hand. It feels like one is sliding its sterile

nails over the curtains of her womb. Once, a healer’s hands

passed through my flesh, and I went on trial for stealing

ten fingers. When my spoon scrapes the bottom of a bowl

it sounds like a choir of siblings naming stars after their favorite

meals. Physicists are classifying new matters and energies

every day. Dark matter, Black flesh are in high demand,

and we never see a penny. I urge you. If you see a sister

walk through walls or survive the un-survivable, sip your

drink and learn to forget or love the taxed apparition before you.

Twerk Villanelle

For Valentine

my girl positioned for a twerk session-
             knees bent, hands below the thigh, tongue out, head
turned to look at her body’s precession. 

she in tune. breath in. breasts hang. hips freshen. 
            she slow-wine. pulse waistline to a beat bled
for her, un-guilt the knees for the session.

fair saint of vertebrae- backbone blessing,
            her pop- in innate. her pop- out self- bred,
head locked into her holied procession. 

dance is proof she loves herself, no questions-
            no music required, no crowd needed. 
she arched into a gateway, protecting-

this dance is proof she loves me, no guessing. 
            a bronx bedroom, we hip-to-hip threaded. 
she turn to me, tranced by her possessin’. 

she coils herself to, calls forth a legend-
round bodied booty, bounce a praise ballad.
she break hold, turn whole in a twerk session. 
body charmed, spell-bent, toward progressing.