The Table

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

Hiwot Adilow

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

an alphabet

and re-muscled

my tongue,

languaged its magic

to make my name

emerald

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

pussy pretty

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

and pleasure-lessness

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

black/fem thing

good enough to eat

and they eat me

Alive

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 my life, I have identified as: a woman, a high-pitched ringing that seems to come from nowhere, a tomboy, the stone path leading from the anaconda cave to the butterfly maze at the bronx zoo, an empty bottle of the cheapest red wine, queer, nothing, a flag at half mast, the smell of rain before it rains, something black/white/re(a)d all over, the second coming, a burning cross, a god, godless, a bathroom stall’s broken door, the graffiti forced into it, the graffiti loved into it, checking my nails both ways, hot garbage juice, a slut, shattered porcelain doll, unlovable, stuck under the hoof of the elephant in the room, the dark side of the moon and its smallest crater, a witch, a dick, an impulse, a contemporary pop-rock musical that changes the landscape of Broadway, lint clumsily picked off oneself, a boi, a beach with no ocean, someone else’s gag reflex, a hole in anything, happy pills and their refills, the reflection that blinks when you don’t, a burden, the small of a giraffe’s neck, the macabre, an inflatable fuck buddy, an open fire hydrant, the permanent crease where someone i loved once sat, a haunting, a chronic masturbator, a passive bed/bug, an entire boy band, a genre porn enthusiast, melancholy, his last mistake, black in gender and sexuality and damn I’m still here, still here.

In This Horror Film

the Black woman does not die. Instead, she goes to work. All ordinary-like. Worries about the babies, hers
and not. Burns her tongue on coffee rushed down her throat before her 2pm meeting. Watches the clock tick to 5pm. Happily walks the sunset home but avoids shadows, even her own. Sees the dark and runs. Sees the knife and runs. Sees the gun and laughs. Then runs. She ain’t no fool. Ain’t nobody’s makeshift sacrifice. Ain’t a secret lost in the woods. Instead, she is the woods. You get lost in her. You trip on a boulder of uncertainty, twist both your ankles, slice your palm in quarters. She sighs, stretches her bones to full extension, collects your blood in a boring old mug — probably a gift from her alma mater. You scream. She hands you back what is yours. Your blood. Not her body. Or her death. Her death is hers. She hides it in her mouth. This is why the Black woman doesn’t speak in this horror film. She ain’t about to utter her finale into existence. That and y’all don’t listen no way. Y’all see the dark and question. See the knife and question. See the gun and laugh. Then question. Y’all got so much time to stand there, contemplating the who’s and the why’s and the what if’s, like death is a dream you can wake up from, drinking gin and tonic til you’ve swallowed the glass itself, fucking each other out of counterintuitive intuition. And the running don’t come so easy to y’all. So you die. All of you. And the Black woman forgets you all and lives. And lives. And lives

Amateur Porn

I’m horny
and who
will absolve me?
Make a meal
of me?
Pour salt until
every wound
bleeds out
and sutures itself.
Make me
a moaning mess
on your floor.
If you play
with my nipples
I cum faster.
If you ask me
to cum, I will.
He knows this.
He and I
are the only ones.
He and I
are friends now.
Except, I don’t
have friends.
I have secrets.
They keep me
sloppy company.
They spill
from their mouths
hoping to land
in another’s.
And I can’t blame them.
Don’t we all want
to sit in a wet, warm place
far away from home?
Aren’t we all just
hopeful runaways?
Don’t we all
just want to get
fucked right
for a change?
Once, He
recorded me
sucking his dick
on my phone.
He deleted it
after he came.
I asked him
what, then, was
the point?
He said, girls
give better head
when they’re
being archived.
And just like
that, I became
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

stand

 screaming

 

and the floor, now a basin brimmed with a copper foam pouring from the slit in his

mouth

Tangled, a.k.a

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

 

My hair

Is black

Magik

 

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,

Lil Kim,
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

part Jezebel.

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.

Holy.

And pure.

And white.

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.

Right(eous).

Beautiful.

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

every Sun.

Day.

Morning.

Having saved everyone but

myself.


screenshot-2016-10-30-20-30-33

Form Poem by Mariam Coker

Mariam Coker is a first generation Nigerian-American Muslim poet hailing from Prince Georges County, Maryland. Currently, she is a junior enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying social work and English – creative writing. After graduating, she hopes to create and run a nonprofit organization that uses art as a vehicle for self care and academic achievement for historically marginalized high school students. Her work has been featured in Winter Tangerine: Hands Up Don’t Shoot series in 2015. She is currently working on a project, Princess Diaspora, where she is exploring her tension between her Nigerian and American cultures, “For Other Muslim Girls Caught With Their Hand Down Their Pants” poem is featured in this work

Panty Droppa

Samantha Adams
the discharge from the
War against myself can only be described
as brown and clotted;
stains on the runway of sanitary napkin
stretching old metallic scents to better heights.
Use ta laugh when
He’d call me caramel
Use ta see it as gift
i feel repeatedly unwrapped
strings of rancid saliva
hang across my body.
An attempt to compliment is
“I’m more of an ass man”
a message from him
to me says: can’t you be more sexual?
Can you program yourself a bit
Closer to Jezebel
Closer to pseudo
-science
to tap into proscribed lascivious temper
my fist kisses in violence
the sandstone-colored shower tile
And in anger, bright red oozed from the
Middle of me. singing:
My darling, my honey
To think of escape, to think in the first place
Requires the flow of blood.
Black, white, twin, woman, reader, writer, frequent crier (soft ass bitch), mobilizer of emotion; sophomore undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin- Madison studying English w/ a Creative Writing emphasis. down for a swim in a body of fresh water. born + brought up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. one who believes in the unrelenting beauty of Blackness, the strength in vulnerability, and the power of words to destruct and reconstruct. she thanks wusgood.black for this wonderful opportunity