women’s voting rights at one hundred (but who’s counting?)

eenie meenie minie moe
catch a voter by her toe
if she hollers then you know
got yourself a real jane crow

* * *

one vote is an opinion
with a quiet legal force ::
a barely audible beep
in the local traffic, & just
a plashless drop of mercury
in the national thermometer.
but a collectivity of votes
/ a flock of votes, a pride of votes,
a murder of votes / can really make
some noise. 

* * *

one vote begets another
if you make a habit of it.
my mother started taking me to
the polls with her when i was
seven :: small, thrilled
to step in the booth, pull
the drab curtain hush-shut
behind us, & flip the levers
beside each name she pointed
to, the Xs clicking into view.
there, she called the shots.

* * *

rich gal, poor gal
hired girl, thief
teacher, journalist
vote your grief 

* * *

one vote’s as good as another
:: still, in 1913, illinois’s gentle
suffragists, hearing southern
women would resent spotting
mrs. ida b. wells-barnett amidst
whites marchers, gently kicked
their sister to the curb. but when
he march kicked off, ida got
right into formation, as planned.
the tribune’s photo showed
her present & accounted for.

* * *

one vote can be hard to keep
an eye on :: but several /a
colony of votes/ can’t scuttle
away unnoticed so easily. my
mother, veteran registrar for
our majority black election
district, once found—after
much searching—two bags
of ballots /a litter of votes/
stuffed in a janitorial closet.

* * *

one-mississippi
two-mississippis 

* * *

one vote was all fannie lou
hamer wanted. in 1962, when
her constitutional right was
over forty years old, she tried
to register. all she got for her
trouble was literacy tested, poll
taxed, fired, evicted, & shot
at. a year of grassroots activism
nearly planted her mississippi
freedom democratic party
in the national convention.

* * *

one vote per eligible voter
was all stacy abrams needed.
she nearly won the georgia
governor’s race in 2018 :: lost by
50,000 /an unkindness of votes/
to the man whose job was purg
maintaining the voter rolls.
days later, she rolled out plans
for getting voters a fair fight.
it’s been two years—& counting.

 

January 4, 2020

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.

playing with fire

something is always burning, passion,
                        pride, envy, desire, the internal organs 
        going chokingly up in smoke, as some-
                thing outside the body exerts a pull
that drags us like a match across sand-
                        paper. something is always burning, 
        london, paris, detroit, l.a., the neighbor-

                hoods no one outside seems to see until 
they're backlit by flames, when the out-
                        siders, peering through dense, acrid,
        black-&-orange-rimmed fumes, mis-
                take their dark reflections for savages 
altogether alien. how hot are the london
                        riots for west end pearls? how hot in tot-

        tenham? if one bead of cream rolls down 
        one precious neck, heads will roll in brix-
ton: the science of sociology. the mark
                        duggan principle of cause and effect: 
        under conditions of sufficient pressure—
                measured roughly in years + lead ÷ £s—
black blood is highly combustible.