Published on Academy of American Poets (


They ask what I believe in—
Sour milk: the curdle & butter of it
Baby’s breath ragged with phlegm 
The green sheen clinging to her skin like algae
The bone & teeth of us mossy and alive with DNA

But what’s your religion, they’re after—
What gods do you pray to?
The frilly curtains of her laughter
remodeling alla my pain
Oh, how she adorns this house of mine

So god’s a woman? (hands on they hips)
How water ain’t a woman 
the way she make your thirst
her temperamental breasts
& everywhere everything everyone everywhichway—water

Well, who your altars honor?
The ghosts that inhabit us
& all the evidence of them:
double vision—floaters flecking 
our periphery when we look away

from the light—all the mouths
at the bottom of our stomach—
Ever wonder why we eat two plates
& still hungry?      Or how our anger
multiplies in seconds like a kitchen

of negro roaches?        Yes, even the roaches
have melanin      black/brown with the spirits
of wayward witches        I burn candles 
& pour brown liquor out for my bitches
& they glorious golden auras

To what churches do you tithe?
Our Lady of Ladled Magnificence
God of Ghetto Grace Incorporated
Our Mother Who Art in Harlem
House of Regurgitated Resurrections

Have you ever been possessed?
We ain’t never not been owned
not with all that restless bone 
sediment at the bottom of the Atlantic
wonder why we frantic with personalities

How we sing with three throats
bending notes weeping willow
What are trees if not spirits
weeping & dancing simultaneous?
How we dipped our nooses in gold

& hung crosses from them 
& wore them like shiny portable altars
How is there not a church in our chests?
How our breasts leak gospel truth
How our teeth ache with the blood of Jesus

Who, then, is your muse? 
(pointing) ain’t she a muse        amusing      
a  maze            amazing       amazon 
of our dreams       prisms that fracture
into auras & auras that fragment dimensions

Isn’t mourning a religion, then?
Like how all these feelings grow 
muscles & flex & jerk inside of me
Like how they can’t kill us even when
they hands scream bloody murder

Like how we show up wearing white
just to spite them—spit at the pulpit
of bullshit & Babylon       How we eat
bibles for breakfast      Leviticus & grits    
Our souls sizzling in the skillet like gizzards

What is the geography of your grief?
Everywhere they are      & ain’t
painting the block milk white  & sickly
a tricky bluish tint   (think: veins under skin)     
a sticky blues      a blush       blood—bluing the block       black


Copyright © 2019 by t'ai freedom ford. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 22, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“This poem actually appears in a chapter of a novel I am working on that considers themes around gentrification and death, grief and mourning. When gentrification happens, folks of color lose the sanctuary that is their hood. They walk the streets of their neighborhood to find new neighbors who don't care to know them but constantly question their existence. So, this poem explores the ways in which black folk who exist and survive are interrogated. It attempts to answer those questions that are both blatantly posed and quietly inferred—not that it's our duty to respond but rather that the reader might wrangle with whether they are the question or the questioner or the questioned or the answer.”
—t’ai freedom ford


t'ai freedom ford

t’ai freedom ford is the author of & more black, forthcoming from Augury Books in 2019, and how to get over (Red Hen Press, 2017).

Date Published: 2019-01-22

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