what is left – The Feminist Wire

what is left

By M. Nzadi Keita

                    after Toni Cade Bambara

Toni Cade Bambara credit/copyright: Harvey Finkle

Toni Cade Bambara
credit/copyright: Harvey Finkle


death rides a silencer
into your blood
and swims toward
the mind

what you remember
starts with a smile
a raw edge
a single snip
from the someone dead

it is bracelets
or trains or
a taxi, trailing
her deserted path,

it is the swift traveler, landing
as cat or crow

it is black mastery
presiding over collard greens
hot grits and board games

it is the salt and sugar laughter
of sistahs in darkened
movie houses

that makes it clear
her doubtless eyes are on you

now comes the cruelty
that jerks like vomit
as undenying death
rises from its hiding hole

now comes the seeking
for she who was that strategist
that sentry
who would walk or ride
who would let you in free
who would put a hex on pain

that which
inside you is glass
pierces the organs
as it shrieks apart

that which
inside you is flesh
shudders across
all the miles you travel

and all the words she said
rain down
a red sound
fanning the streets

M. Nzadi Keita photograph: ©Elizabeth Ho

M. Nzadi Keita
photograph: ©Elizabeth Ho

M. Nzadi Keita’s forthcoming collection of persona poems, Brief Evidence of Heaven (Whirlwind Press), sheds light on Anna Murray Douglass, Frederick Douglass’s wife of 44 years.  Journals such as Crab Orchard Review, Mission at Tenth, American Poetry Review, and others have published her poems; anthology publications include A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry, and The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South. Having been a cashier, a data entry clerk, a security guard, a freelance journalist, and a community health educator, Keita is now a professor at Ursinus College, where she teaches creative writing, contemporary American literature, and Africana Studies.