The Table is a space for Black women to sit with us and examine their world, be praised, be loved, and understood. Wusgood is happy to pull out a chair for these deserving women.
The Softest Parts are Black
after jay katelansky
I’m a quiet woman. I’m not made to scream about my killing or my made-dead.
I’m not made to scream unless I’m laughing at a joke. I laugh with my whole body
& all my skin. When I weep (because the world ain’t always how I’d have it
& won’t ever have me like I’d like) I pave my throat with ice. I edge my lips
with barb. I speak in secret code & hope the haters keep at bay.
They peep & mechanize & all my armor melts & rusts.
(The things I wore for war were bound to wear.
Imported, extorted, & turned into my name –
I only use these tools to play their game.)
I’m a velvet lady by birth.
I’m a honeydip.
I’m dipped in silk.
I deserve my peace.
I’ve got promises to keep:
I’m not here to spend my garden on the graves my haters made.
I came to give flowers to my friends while we’re alive.
I came to plant trees, for fruit. A jacaranda that spills purple
in the spring. I want to kiss my friends on the face & leave
lipstick on all their chiseled cheeks.
If I could have my wish, I wouldn’t have to watch
my softest parts turn to stone. Wouldn’t need become
a bullet or a knife. Everybody texts me to say, stay alive.
& I don’t want to be a liar. If I could have my wish,
I’d keep my promises. Flowers would always pool around us
& we’d dance in the garden I tilled with my two hands.
Hiwot Adilow’s poems have been published or are forthcoming in Winter Tangerine Review, Nepantla, The Offing, and Duende Literary. She has been featured reading her work on CNN, NPR, and Wisconsin Public Television. Hiwot is a Callaloo Fellow and member of the First Wave Hip Hop and Urban Arts Learning Community at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was born and raised in Philly.
2 Poems by Martina “Mick” Powell
Keep my Name / Out Your Mouth
by which i mean
i have become
languaged its magic
to make my name
by which i mean
my name so pretty now
you couldn’t pronounce it
and my mouth so flossy flossy
my mouth a jewelry store
by which i mean
don’t touch nothing
by which i mean
i am clean
i washed my body in the ocean
by which i mean
i washed my hair with honey
i am cannibal now
only for how sweet i taste
only for my black sugar body
how i lick it from my fingers
how it makes my mouth
my own name sparkling
all up in between my teeth
I Might Look Like a Famous Pornstar
the way these white boys
always up in my mouth
like it’s been leeched to them
always up in my chest
like they seen me dark
like they seen me
with my fat thighs thick
and bruised and pressing
these piano key bodies
into a melody of my moaning
for want of pink
the way these white boys
pass me like a hurricane
want me like a monster
the way my mouth
won’t become a bullet
at Paul’s party
where i am the only
good enough to eat
and they eat me
Martina “Mick” Powell (she/her) is a queer black fat femme feminist poet who likes revolutionary acts of resistance. She is currently an MFA in Poetry candidate at Southern Connecticut State University. Mick obtained a B.A. in Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies and Africana Studies and a concentration in Creative Writing from the University of Connecticut and she loves learning about flowers and thinking about magnolia trees. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The Feminist Wire, Black Girl Dangerous, the Long River Review, Winter Tangerine, and The Fem. She is one of the Associate Editors of the Emerging Feminisms section at The Feminist Wire.
3 Poems by Taylor Steele
After Sam Sax’s #nationalcomingoutday Facebook Status
In This Horror Film
Taylor Steele is a Bronx-born, Brooklyn-based writer and performer. Her work can be found at such esteemed publications as Apogee Journal, Drunk in a Midnight Choir, Rogue Agent, and more. Her chapbook “Dirty.Mouth.Kiss” is available on Pizza Pi Press. Taylor has written for The Body is Not an Apology, Drunken Boat Journal, and Philadelphia Printworks. She is an internationally ranked spoken word artist, placing 5th and 6th in the Women of the World Poetry Slam in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Most importantly, Taylor is a triple-Taurus who believes in the power of art to change, shape, and heal.
Two poems by Porsha Olayiwola
A BRIEF HISTORY ON WHY WHITE PEOPLE STOPPED SAYING NIGGER
they aren’t as common as a cotton plant in the antebellum south,
but, you still see them.
every couple mundane suburban street roads, you’d ride,
you were likely to smell the plaque peeling away at the air
more often then you’d see a crack.
that’s what we called them,
in part because of the history
mostly for the infinite sound they made
the noise would crawl from underneath the violet rubble of their mouths
like a maimed corpse fleeing its grave.
their bodies were hunched, like sunflowers, bent for rotting.
their necks held maroon scars noosed round them as branding.
their tongues, brown and discolored, lay limp and ejected from their mouths,
a swollen ringed knot in the center
once white folks had seen the bewitching for themselves,
how the tongue nearly ripped into itself,
how the tension made blood pool in the center of the flesh,
they figured, they wouldn’t say it any mo’.
didn’t want to walk around with a genocide glistening between their lips
didn’t want to find their place indecipherable
the first hexing left a man mangled at a dinner table in front of his daughter
said he kept pointing to the tv yelling, on and on about the .
said he said the word
he wasn’t supposed
to have said
at least a dozen times that breath
until it caught
until it began to swell between his cheeks like a tumor
until his tongue bloomed into a chokehold
and he fell out
and changed colors
and his daughter
and the floor, now a basin brimmed with a copper foam pouring from the slit in his
Rapunzel, a.k.a. long-
Hair-don’t-care, and what?
I’m standing in the check out line at the grocery store
Been standing, waiting, patiently
At least, I aint busted.
my hair is laid
and I got these freshies on my feet
So at the minimum, if I’m out here for this long
At least I give the people something kind to look at
My sister say don’t matter if the lights are cut off at the crib,
Or uncle take over your bed and you don’t have a place to sleep
stay dressed to impress
In other words, stay fly
Say you never know who you gon see out here in these streets
And I’m thinking, I might see the whole damn city here
Cause for a reason unknown to me
They only have one register open tonight
I open up my flaming hots to curve my hunger
I’m too ready to get back to the high rise at Cabrini
Anyway, Its my turn, and I start loading my groceries
onto the moving conveyor belt at the counter
I see the cashier, scanning, all frantic and shit
Then he takes the time to look up at me
You know, like I’m a person or whatever
He say wow, I really love your hair, its beautiful
And I think
bout time, cause I knew I was looking like a bag of money
Bout time, someone noticed all this fine
Bout time I get ready to say thank you,
This freckled face red-head says
If you don’t mind me asking.
Is it yours? Is it weave? Can I touch it?
and then this pumpkin looking mother fucker
is no longer touching my groceries
but has his crusty pale sored fingers in my hair
and I don’t say anything. which is crazy,
cause I’m known to cut a bitch quick for just looking at me too long in the projects.
But here, I feel stiff,
like a brick high rise building
or a redwood coffin
like the black dress
they buried my mother in
like my brother
and all I can think about is death
I can feel his fingers in my hair
but I think I’m dead
And I wonder, if I ever belonged to me, any way
I wonder if I am just beautiful thing
meant for the world to make theirs
I think about how I gave myself something kind
to look at in this ugly world
and now he gone go and touch it
and make it his too
I think, I must not belong to me
I’m his, too
he touch the whole world and its his too
I wish I was kin to Medusa right now
That my hair would grow heads
and bite his fingers bloody
And he would jerk back his hand
I wish my hair could morph into knives
Switchblades or machetes
I wish each strand was a rope
so I could hang each of his fingers to death
Levitate his hands from my scalp
Don’t he know my scalp
Is holy ground
I think I put a spell on you
White boy I scream
To no one
As I hand him the money
When Black Girls Do Not Feel Worthy Of Being Saved
Sha’condria “iCON” Sibley
When I nailed your picture to the Facebook cross,
and questioned a Black woman’s attempt
to rise from all of the dead things inside her,
please forgive me.
Forgive me for being a part of the social media lynch mob
that came for your neck
and your face
when we felt we could no longer recognize you
or your pain.
As if Queen Bees don’t ever feel the sting.
Forgive me for acting like I forgot what it feels like
to not have faith in my own beauty
like it is some phantom god,
to question its existence.
To have everyone tell you
that your unbelief in your own beauty
is no Biggie,
but you know damn well that he was part of the problem.
To feel black and ugly as ever.
However, still wanting to whitewash my skin
I mean, my sins away.
So I cannot blame you for wanting to be born again
for wanting to look like a new creature.
I cannot blame you for wanting to be part Jesus
But sometimes the word ‘beautiful’ to a Black girl
sounds a lot like speaking in tongues.
And our Spirits are broken so much each day
that it’s hard for us to open our mouths
to give our own beautiful its due praise.
So Hallelujah, Kim.
I will be the first to testify
that I, too, know what it feels like to wear this brown skin
like a leper.
To come of age in a time when there was no #BlackGirlMagic
to sprinkle on noses too thick,
lips too thick,
hair too thick,
asses too thick,
voices thick, too.
To have everything about you feel heavy
and not light enough,
especially this skin.
Feeling like too much and not enough
at the same damn time.
We forget that we are made of flesh and blood
and not stone.
Yet we’ve learned to carve out our features with contouring
and cosmetic surgery.
Adding to and subtracting from ourselves
trying to combat our negative self-image.
We imagine that these nappy tendrils make for good rope,
but we are taught that no prince wishes to climb it to get to us.
That we are not damsel enough.
Always having to be strong.
Sometimes secretly longing to be saved.
By God or man.
Taught that there’s no difference between the two.
They’re both men who create things they love in their image.
And I am none of those things.
For the Bible tells me so.
I am taught that I am curse.
That Becky With the Good Hair is blessing.
That she is sacrament.
So I sip parts of her body, praying to be whole.
Something worthy of worship.
Kim, I, too, know what it feels like to overdose on communion.
To drown myself in images that look nothing like me
and call it baptism.
To partake of a broken body.
To sometimes be the one doing the breaking.
To shed of my own blood.
To crucify myself daily in bathroom mirrors.
And still rise
Having saved everyone but
Form Poem by Mariam Coker