Listen to “Sway”
Listen to “Ode to My Pussy”
(after Monica Hand)
A. what you say I am or what I answer to. some of us carry our prison with us wherever we go.
B. cell memory. same family. different colors.
C. water mixed with blood; call us mud babies; a thicker version of war, race, and freedom.
D. mashed berries, sugar cane, and stewed fruit. a boiling mixture. some parts sweeter than others/an acquired taste.
E. all of the above.
WE ranked in order of importance
The white man by default. Writer of the best seller/teller of the number one lie/got us believing woman came from his ribs/and/cause his ribs white/then come the white woman/i.e., the most protected, the most beautiful, better than, greater than, the most important. In conclusion: light is always right, is always valued, is always loved, is always wanted. Me/dark skin black woman. 3 strikes. So she be wrong/ain’t got the answers to none of these white…I mean, right questions. It’s not a problem as long as I don’t look up, don’t move forward, don’t want for nothing more than what I’ve been taught, or been given. Gotta keep believin I can only be the holy ghost or spirit but never a God.
so, I fantasized a river. dreamed it had a beautiful flow. gave to it all of me/and to all of me it gave. but when I awoke, now when I go to dip my toe in the creek, to bathe, play, or drink, all my children be dammed, from taking on too much of somebody else’s shit/be blocked fools/keep expecting to be healthy while drinking from a cesspool. you know some say we too dense to float. but my great grand made a boat out of her mouth/splintered and stretched into groove, into gully, into gulf.
so where did I come from?
A. Big Mama. a stowaway on a ship to Carencro. a dry land tourist or c’est un nouveau pour moi or should I call where I am, home?
B. a reservoir. a fancy word for suppressing floods. the overflow of emotions. coming as one, leaving as many.
C. the block in my own flow/an interruption in greatness. or sometimes when you think you drownin all you gotta do is stand up.
D. bits and pieces of a story told from a larger body. chanting:
we are not what has tried to kill us/we are always what learns to survive
what refuses to die.
E. all of the above
i brought all my ass to the rooftop we on in tampa but everything feel like we in brooklyn tha way tha dj scratching every itch appetizing sounds through speakers bangin matching tha way we bounce sweating bodies dat don stop rollin all over each other do whateva tha beat say tha ocean in mi panties and only a few miles away we windin’ hot and groovy in da soca party baila with me baby/bam bai dam beh dai/bi dam bem bai bem bai practicin everyting tha caribbean sea and sister nancy taught us slow n steady swift n speedy everybody gettin what dey asked for swoonin n she kiss me like what the fuck is commitment anyway remembering when two people fell in love on a dance floor for three minutes and forty seconds but really it’s like five minutes ‘cause the dj getting high off the way pon di gyals pompasetting plus he know what to play to make us lose our shit and damn near come out our clothes stuck like glue move like our ancestors did like we feelin to lime bomba unbothered grind ourselves into someting that fit or you smoke my ass every bit a wave lappin she ebbin n flowin mi bumpa tha whole scene see us party hard vex vanish the song quit and we drift away from each other.
“Where there is a woman there is magic.” -Ntozake Shange
My friend Mandy say I got that good hair. Say she used to pray that one day she’d have hair like mine. And all of a sudden we are another difference society makes of us. She wanna know how my hair got this way, and I’m defensive/as if I didn’t come like this. Unaware that a slightly unfurled fist still be considered to have the upperhand. Like ain’t no such thing as textural privilege. Like we both just get to be some carefree black girls/hair blowing in the wind.
But ask any soufflé, curl-maker, eco-styler, castor-oil, flax-seed, avocado, or edge-control and it’ll call me a liar/leader of this church where I religiously worship/lay my burdens down but dare not come as I am. Call me grown woman still learning what cocktail bring me closer to a coil, wave, or curl pattern I can call a miracle or at least consider myself poppin’. Fingers still figuring out how to work with a natural texture growing from my own scalp. A head that’s been with me since I was born. My hair be shame and the baby of the family. Taught early-on how to be less girl and more chemically altered//not even I should have to put up with myself. Who else is embarrassed but won’t admit they too had to watch a video clip to be educated on all the ways our hair can be manipulated? Got all this hairitage without endurance—cause a 2 or 3 strand twist, crochet, braid, or perm rod make my wrist burn, my neck sore, and lower back ache. Praise the wash-and-go tutorials that teach me to submerge my hair/and be a holy baptism or oblation of autonomy. But we still feel the need to stretch and length check to debunk the myth that black hair don’t grow. Still feel the need to make a 2A, 3B, 4ABC hair type/villain out of each other. Like being black women in America ain’t hard enough. Like black men won’t cheat/still not know how to love us wild and untamed/without calling us nappy-headed when they’re tired of us.
I say, girl, we all got good hair/as in strong, of quality and resilience/righteously worshiping at the congregation of porosity where we are learning to wash, deep-condition, and grow.
Author of Home.Girl.Hood., The Queen’s Glory & The Pussy’s Box, and Love Letters to Balled Fists, Ebony Stewart is a touring performance artist and playwright. Winner of the 2017 Women of the World Poetry Slam. And is the only adult female three-time Slam Champion in Austin, Texas. As a playwright, Ebony has received the B. Iden Payne Awards for Outstanding Original Script and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama for her newest play, Ocean, which premiered at The VORTEX in August 2017. Ebony Stewart’s first one-woman show, Hunger also received a B. Iden Payne Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama and won the Austin Critics’ Table David Mark Cohen New Play Award. The former Sexual Health Educator with the resting bitch face, sometimes known as The Gully Princess, writes because she has to and eats cupcakes for fun. #