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When Racism Affecting Black Girls is Ignored
“I was overwhelmed by the thought of having to be a black girl for the rest of my life.” –Khadijah Costley White, The Washington Post
Ignoring more than obvious hands
………….slicing a people in halves, more
like eminent domain cutting
………….chopping up a neighborhood
to build highways and forget,
…………..more like taking a shot glass
where the lip drops on a canvas
…………..then cutting away what rests
beyond the glass, and insisting
…………..that is the entire picture.
It erases all the known small faces
… ………then denies where sons began.
This ugly says be strong and silent,
…………..only to slap the deserving and reason
how she can handle anything.
…………..This smothering quietly descends
keeps smiling and says,
…………..Wait. Behave. Your turn is coming soon.
Prophecy is rendered as whole, mythic, animal.
It twists limbs free and open-a wide billowing
spread of white dragging reams over daylight.
People turn their heads, ignore quiet attrition.
I mince downstairs with tender ankle and sore foot,
and lean into a railing with weight a lover never
held. There is no easy sweep that foretells what
comes. Besides, one day, steady breath stops.
I count inhalations as I deliberately deposit weight
on each foot. Underneath, a house’s foundation
gradually crumbles. The water may be poisoned
beyond redemption. It runs, wears away rock,
cuts down soil, carries wet in small measures.
Prophecy announces titles like liberation filling
my bag with paperbacks and hardcover spines
by poets and preachers, like I did that morning
when a man sat in a dust-beaten truck listening
to the pundit yelling about university students
touting liberation theology while sitting in living
rooms of dangerous radicals. His truck windows
are open and his radio blares. I silently admit
truth. I have done all those transgressions, part
of a list longer than this diatribe or James Cone’s
tome in my heavy book bag. He pulls off without
looking at me. I lift my bag’s strap, bring it closer
while I walk to the bus stop. We head to different
destinations. Both of us will eventually become
dust, but prophecy calls, insists the future will
fragment the myth that he listens to and expects.
Spiders are Storytellers
for Clementine McQueen Rakovan
The leaning tree shudders with thousands
of green utterances. Light bulbs snake
lazily through branches, shine through
chandelier of an upside down colander
punched through with light. The mother
with La Brea tresses stands on the deck.
Ink of barbed wire and flames strings
illumination up along her arms. Her voice
rolls with a smoky friction. Her daughter
springs effervescent as the peeling back
of citrus skin. Her voice is a small, bright
handful of sequins that match a bird’s chirp.
The daughter keeps saying there’s a spider
in the tree near you, mom. No one is startled.
It is too much to tell the daughter. Spiders
tell stories. This child refreshes the trickster
dance played in the anglings of eight limbs,
the constraints connecting silk drawn from body
to attach to whatever dexterity allows to anchor.
The daughter could learn the threadbare tale where
the woman, too boastful of her craft at the loom,
transforms under the thumb of a god into bud
of thorax and skittering bundle of legs. Her cloth
turned uneven became strong enough to capture
flies but too weak to last throughout decades.
Anyone who sweeps corners and ceilings knows.
Spiders know precarious, overlooked places,
butcher their meat, pass on nimble lines
to tribes of arachnid descendants who carry
concentrated fury like a clear, tensile silk.
Tara Betts is the author of Arc & Hue and the chapbook/libretto THE GREATEST!: An Homage to Muhammad Ali. Tara recently received her Ph.D. in English/Creative Writing at Binghamton University. Her poems has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including POETRY, Ninth Letter, Crab Orchard Review,Gathering Ground, Bum Rush the Page, Villanelles, both Spoken Word Revolution anthologies, The Break Beat Poets and GHOST FISHING: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology. She recently completed the manuscript for her second poetry collection “Break the Habit” and is working on other projects.