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
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/answers