Poems. Pics. Pieces. 

rules

we are not to cry at 8 years old, sitting in the palm of a plastered leather chair, hair coated with vaseline, prepped for a perm, in a beauty shop that smells of aerosols, shampoo and fried hair

we are not to jump in pools attached to condominiums attached to yearly swimming passes, the lake on a hundred degree day, water, weeks after our scalp has been burned and the coils of our curls chemically straightened

we are not to play outside; in the dirt, on the street, with the boys, brothers, bait that will lure us away from innocence and purity

we are not to let hair grow out of skin in places purported to be unladylike, improper, unsanitary unfit for a woman

we are not to bare too much shoulder or thigh or stomach, skin lathered in coconut oil and cocoa butter

we are not to wear unkempt polish, islands of pastel slowly degrading on the face of fingernails that mothers swipe aggressively with cotton swabs soaked in ethyl acetate.

we are not to trust men, those who prowl the streets, those with flying hands and fleeting attention

we are to not talk or laugh or be too loud, on buses, on planes, in class, on trains

we are not to see beauty in ourselves, when media, magazines, our own men, deny us

we are not to visibly bear feelings, bear emotion, bear rage

 

instead,

we are to be

erased.

 

instead,

we are to be

silenced.

 

instead,

we are to spend an eternity

fighting within

a cage,

 

that is constantly,

closing in,

fitting us to be,

 

nothing.

Endings

There are books,

four or five of them

piled atop classics

on my dusty windowsill,

 

covering crumbs

at the bottom of my backpack,

 

laid open bare

for the eyes

of my wooden desk,

 

sitting quietly,

lips sealed,

hiding receipts as lost bookmarks.

 

There are books,

four of five of them

each unfinished,

 

lingering,

 

in the same manner

that I have been unable,

to finish you.

 

Unable

to close

our book.

The Zebra out of Sea

At the place I always come back to, bare

brown skin exposed, showered

by splashing droplets of lake michigan,

from caps hitting the break wall.

My focus heightens

to the depths beneath the water.

 

I’m unable to see them, the zebra mussels.

But they make themselves known,

the lucidity,

the water.

 

Dreissena polymorpha. A whisper floats,

reaching the surface

the way oxygen bubbles escape the mouths of the fish below.  

 

The pioneer in me peeks

under the layer of water,

a sea of mussels

stuck like bees to a hive,

covering the metal, the scraps,

all the detritus, resting on the lake floor.

 

How did you get here?

 

The same way you did. They sing in chorus,

by Ballast water,

in the belly of boats.

 

How did you get here?

 

Boats.

I think of my people.

Us too, brought in the stomach of ships.

 

Bellies, boats, packed like sardines,

death forced down the nostrils

of people who had been kidnapped from land.

 

Bellies known for nourishing life,

this time,

created hollowed out caskets,

a black galaxy of death buried beneath the soils of America.

 

Zebra mussels.

Invasive.

Non native.

Wreaking havoc, causing massive ecological

and ecosystem damage,

damage that we have caused

they too would say,

invasive. Non native.

Black.

 

The pressure of a thousand atmospheres,

a million miles of archives,

propel me back to the surface,

unable to go further,

unable to dive deeper,

instead stretching for a space,

above the water,

where I can forget,

not delve,

not dive,

into history.

 

How did you get here?