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A Poem For The Girl Who Solicited Money To Get To the National Poetry Slam (I assume by plane) Because ”I am only 20 and I am a white girl, so I don’t think I should be riding the Greyhound by myself all the way out there.”
A man with fecal matter in his tight fist-ed naps
speaks in Pentecostal tongues and expletives.
Proclaims through the acrid stench of three day human sweat,
the kind one can only acquire on a cross country greyhound bus ride,
that he is going to hold this bus hostage.
Stands in front of the door like a Buckingham palace guard and states
in the only coherent syntax he has offered in the last 40 minutes,
“Ain’t A MUTHAFUCKA GETTIN OF THIS GOD DAMNED BUS!”
The first thing I thought was, “Thank God I am not a white girl.
This would be soooooo scary for her!”
Let me say love, I am sure you didn’t mean it
you know, “that way”,
the way that reminds us crackly
black breeder girls
that we ain’t ever really known danger nor discomfort.
Perhaps we know it just well enough.
The way you know the taste of a rapist spit in your mouth
so translucently familiar
it doesn’t really make you heave anymore when you swallow.
Certain it was an of 18th century slip of tongue .
Cellular memory that made you believe somehow your
precious pallid safety is of such global concern
that our wallets might gladly lay themselves prostrate
at the foot of your pretty toes
than sooner see them sludge through the swamp
of junkies, jailbirds and shitty ass diapers, right?
Greyhound is for…poor people,
……………………………………………………brown people……………………………….. … lesser people.
Not prized little white girls.
After all, America’s flag is woven with the fabric of your
frilly pearly panties and we will not have them soiled
so of course you should not ride the greyhound beside
my grandmother, an E.R nurse for 25 years
on her way to visit her first born grandson.
She might tell you has broken matchstick legs but
she’s been praying God will make them straight as his word.
She might tell you her son just joined the Navy.
That the thought of war makes her stomach knot
like the rubber bands her brother ties around his arms
since he got back from that Vietnam.”
She might just offer you some chicken she fried up for the trip
and we wouldn’t want to unsettle your delicate alabaster belly .
God forbid you have to hear about Liza.
About her 6 month sentence
for writing that 100 dollar bad check for groceries.
She might tell you that she can’t find her youngest
since foster care took him.
Juan might show you a picture of his daughter. He is saving for her
Quinceanera, you know.
A migrant worker might tell you he travels on Mondays
but manages to make that 22 hour bus ride home
in time for Saturday Huevos Rancheros with his wife and three children.
Oh sweet baby jesus, someone might ask you to listen
to something other than a poem;
No sweet young white woman should have to endure that.
Your safety is an American Institution.
A castle built on the backs of greyhound riding brown and black
folks who carry the bricks back and forth across U.S interstates
so you never have to break a sweat, a nail.
Never have to worry if looking like every other black male
will mistakenly land you in prison. If forgetting your papers will land you
in an illegal alien detention center. If today you will be a maid or a whore
or a poor welfare mother cause those are the only people
who should ever ride the bus.
So yes love,
There are a million open wallets waiting
to usher you away from the blight of poverty.
Away from what those not pale or privileged enough for
pricey plane tickets or public pandering
already know and trust.
You, my dear, will get wherever it is you need to go
in comfort and in safety, because you have always
been more than willing to leave the danger and the driving
How Things Get In (“Obama Gonna Fix My Teeth”)
A pixilated pundit prospects the day’s news for political gold.
Requests an accolade robed legislative analyst’s thoughts
on what the Senate will do about health care reform.
His response is a rotted fruit bowl of probable outcomes.
“The Gang of 10 is looking at a compromise
dot dot dot
Expansion of Medicare for 55 year olds dot
No public option dot
(static, fuzz, prickle)
As nebulous as morning clouds, my eldest aunt
will wonder what a stupac is.
Spin her wheel of words waiting for “mandate”s definition
to appear in black. She coughs, oblivious that this is Roulette.
Election night 2008, confetti fell like toxic stars
on the heads of the possibility wishers.
I am sitting at a bar watching a flat screen.
A woman, her eyes a Times Square Marquee
looks into the camera full moon mouthed grin and heralds,
“Obama gonna fix my teeth!”
Perhaps the tender flesh of forearm,
some penetrable part of me gave unwitting access
to that foolhardy piece of possible.
Thought, on a train one day, a random New York woman
will smile shameless at a stranger. Teeth perfect as a white house lawn.
Easter Bunnies, Santa Clauses, Politicians,
all eventually take off the costume.
Inevitably, the day will come like a weeping child
when we learn it was all a lie.
Auntie and I ache and wince in neighboring states.
Share village women remedies. “Take Echinacea for this. Vitamin c for that.”
Count our blessing for what is still intact.
Know like the contours of our own breasts that
no doctor, no insurance
makes the female body a pin-less grenade.
These days my aunt stands still as death,
while a New York woman’s grin closes like a subway door.
The train pulls away.
Impervious, I watch it go.
Forearms, still tender as a November night
pressed tightly to my sides.
Dreams From Father /Wrestling the Possible
My daddy wrestled a lion and saved my life last night
My daddy is not the lion wrestling type.
Actually he is the, “I look good for my age
but after twenty years in the US Navy
I got my ass a desk job!” kinda guy.
He’s a Libra. Balanced.
Not prone to wild fits of frenzy
like fighting off 200lb felines.
My dad and I
don’t talk much.
When we do it’s all pleasantries and fluff
The last word in every conversation is a trembling domino
terrified of being the one to start the collapse.
Both of us certain one day this house of cards
we‘ve built on our laps will fall.
He and I are like black ice,
we look just fine on the surface.
Every now and then I long for a collision;
For the invisible chaos under our wheels
to halt the pretense.
Some days I pray for a large gaping wound
to expose the blood.
I try not to ask my father for things
That heavy ass NO always falls on my chest.
I am out of krazy glue.
But please do not mistake this
for a “my daddy wasn’t there” poem.
When my mother vanished in puff of crack smoke
my disabled brother and I ate because my father worked.
He made it possible for me to grow up
a middle class black girl in a city where military money
made steel city kids think we were rich.
Somewhere along the way he forgot that princess’s
never stop needing their daddies.
Although there was no wicked witch
there was a Cinderella and a very human step mother
with fears of her own and a home that was not big enough
for the both us, and a father
that turned to a pillar of salt
because I kept on looking back.
Much like the millions of things I have ruined in my life
I try not to think about that.
But my daddy fought a lion for me last night.
None of this seems remotely likely.
But lots of impossibility has been happening as of late.
it’s starting to affect my sleep,
On November 4th, Tuesday of that week
I went to bed and when I woke up a Black man was president.
I went to bed last night and my daddy;
my graduated from college a year after me,
married with two kids at the age of nineteen, daddy
was president in my crazy ass dream.
There was no one in the White House but him and me.
Yet, this house wasn’t built out of trembling dominoes or a deck of cards.
The chairs in this dream were hard and solid
like the foundation of two people who have finally
learned how to love one another. We talked.
We walked around the White house
exploring hidden rooms like a daddy and his daughter
watching cartoons when she was nine.
I was suddenly transported to a time when our relationship
was not a broken watch
My father was a man, who knew me,
who loved me and showed me it was so
and I don’t know why we were in the White House back yard
but we were having such a good time we must have been caught off guard
because a lion sprang out of no where and tried to attack.
But my daddy y’all, my big, strong, presidential daddy
had my back. He fought that lion for me.
And I know this is just a dream and it may not make any sense.
But as of that Tuesday and ever since
something in me has shifted.
Perhaps you all missed it.
Two little girls who finally look like me
just might be in the White House playing hide and seek
with their daddy.
And I never thought that was plausible.
I am gonna call my father tonight,
tell him I love him, believe he will return those words and mean it.
Because I woke up this morning certain,
anything is possible.
The body is not an apology.
Let it not be forget-me-not fixed to mattress when night threatens
to leave the room empty as the belly of a crow.
The body is not an apology. Present it not as disassembled rifle
when he has yet to prove himself more than common intruder.
The body is not an apology. Let it not be common as oil, ash, or toilet.
Let it not be small as gravel, stain, or teeth.
Let it not be mountain when it is sand.
Let it not be ocean when it is grass.
Let it not be shaken, flattened, or razed
The body is not an apology. Do not give it as confession,
communion. Do not ask for it to be pardoned as criminal.
The body is not a crime; is not a gun.
The body is not a spill to be contained. It is not
a lost set of keys, a wrong number dialed. It is not
the orange burst of blood to shame white dresses.
The body is not an apology. It is not the unintended granules
of bone beneath wheel. The body is not kill.
It is not unkempt car.
It is not a forgotten appointment.
Do not speak it vulgar.
The body is not soiled. Is not filth to be forgiven.
The body is not an apology. It is not father’s back hand;
is not mother’s dinner late again wrecked jaw howl.
It is not the drunken sorcery of contorting steel round tree.
It is not calamity. The body is not a math test. The body is not a wrong answer.
The body is not a failed class.
You are not failing.
The body is not a cavity; is not hole to be filled, to be yanked out.
It is not a broken thing to be mended, be tossed.
The body is not prison; is not sentence to be served.
It is not pavement; is not prayer.
The body is not an apology.
Do not give the body as gift. Only receive it as such.
The body is not to be prayed for; is to be prayed to.
So, for the evermore tortile tenth grade nose,
For the shower song throat that crackles like a grandfather’s Victrola,
For the spine that never healed; for the lambent heart that didn’t either,
For the sloping pulp of back, hip, belly,
For the errant hairs that rove the face like a pack displaced of wolves.
for the parts we have endeavored to excise.
the cancer, the palsy, the womb that opens like a trap door.
Praise the body in its black jack magic, even in this.
For the razor wire mouth.
For the sweet god ribbon within it.
For the mistake that never was.
For the bend, twist, fall, and rise again,
fall and rise again. For the raising like an obstinate Christ.
For the salvation of a body that bends like a baptismal bowl.
For those who will worship at the lip of this sanctuary.
Praise the body for the body is not an apology.
The body is deity. The body is God. The body is God;
the only righteous love that will never need to say sorry.
Sonya Renee Is. Performance Poet, Activist and transformational leader. Sonya Renee is a National and International poetry slam champion, published author, and change maker. She has shared her work and activism across the US, New Zealand, Australia, England, Scotland, Sweden, Canada and the Netherlands. She is the founder and CEO of the The Body is Not An Apology, an international movement of over 20,000 members focused on radical self love and body empowerment. Ms. Renee has been seen on HBO, BET, MTV, CNN, Oxygen Network and has shared stages with such luminaries as Hillary Rodham Clinton, Harry Belafonte, Dr. Cornell West, Amiri Baraka and more. Sonya continues to perform, speak and facilitate workshops globally. Visit her at www.sonya-renee.com or www.thebodyisnotanapology.com.