Clutch (20/30)

have you ever seen a man
unafraid to die

recognize
the clinched fists
and look in his eyes

when I saw him
charging in my direction
I panicked

had no idea
what made him
come crashing my way
like a freight train
going far too fast
for the load it was carrying

felt the steam
screaming a reminder
of where we are
and what happens to men
who end up in the hands
of those who swore
to protect and serve

so as he passed
my rubber band arms
strapped around that wrecking ball
and I did what I do best

I held him

thinking
“what the fuck do I do now”

watching man after man
jump directly
in the path of destruction
shoved to the side
like raindrops
meeting windshield wipers
at max speed

I held on tight

whispering a nickname
that didn’t have the right
to continuously fall
from my lips
urging him not to fight
but he couldn’t hear me

digging my feet into the ground
forcing this hurricane
backwards

oh, yes
I panicked

knowing his fists
would be no match for a gun
knowing his angry words
might meet a fearful bullet
knowing an approaching siren
meant this
might be the last time
anyone
holds him
again

meanwhile…

he is a lion

fighting to protect his pride
fighting to sink teeth
into flesh
fighting like
“what’s a cage to a king”
and “you ain’t no tamer”
this be no circus
this be real life
where knock on neighbor’s door
gets greeted with last breath

here I am woman
holding onto a man
trying to decide
whether to drag him down
or hold him up

meanwhile…

I’m thinking
I was supposed to be in bed
I was supposed to be home by now
I was supposed to not care
this much
and why can’t anyone help me

and he is down
seated on stairs
between these thighs
these arms wrapped tight
these legs ready to vice grip
but he doesn’t fight
anymore

the police are near
and we all step outside
the night takes us
across the street
running around the block
searching for my car
driving strangers
to random destinations

this
is an every day occurrence
and daily fear
that another black body
will lay cold in his own blood

that an officer will mistake
his pain for a weapon

that they will shoot first
and not apologize later

I have felt so guilty
for clutching him
for not letting him
“be a man”
for putting my heart
where it does not belong

but I’ll be damned
if I stand by
and watch
someone I love
enter a battlefield
alone

when the dust settles
and I reach my friend’s house
I am a mix of frightened
and pained
I am relief
in not having to tell his mother
“I’m sorry”
I am a strong woman
I am an abandoned ex-lover
I am a body of aches
and pains
and a quiet voice repeating

“I couldn’t let him”
“I couldn’t let him”
“I couldn’t let him die in front of me”

This Body Ain’t No Invitation (19/30)

nothing about these curves
says “touch me”
nothing about this smile
says “this is for you”
this body ain’t no invitation

I am not moving my hips
to entice you
not hoping you see something
in lil ‘ole me
this is not a desperate plea
for attention

not a knock at your door
in a coat
and nothing more
trust me
I’m not trying to seduce you

this is self-care

wearing what I want
moving how I want
this my song
can’t nobody tell me different

this is black girl freedom

escaping into music
to feel closer to my god
shaking out the demons
and daring them return

oh, how comfortable
some men feel
claiming ownership
of a woman

how we dare be moving
and breathing
and it not be an offering
to their egos

how we dare be
unwrapped
and it not be
an early birthday present

this is what it’s like
to be a woman
out in public

this is why I carry a knife

________
|This poem is based on an experience I had out with some friends a few weeks ago. Originally, I told the story of how a guy grabbed my ass and what happened thereafter. I literally took out the entire middle of the poem. I like it better this way.

Anxiety Goes Shopping For Sneakers (17/30)

the panic began to rise
so I sat beneath a stand
tucked at toddler level
phone in hand
scrolling my way to stability

he asked if I needed space
then gave it
while keeping near

he didn’t rush me
didn’t make me feel childish
didn’t show a hint of embarassment
just wanted to make sure I was okay

I called out that I was ready
he came back offering a hand
then held me in such a loving embrace

this is how you love a person with anxiety

how you offer up yourself
as safe space if needed
how you acknowledge the condition
while treating the patient with patience
how you make the screaming colors
grow quiet and still

this is why I married him

Black Girl Buys New Underwear (16/30)

when a black girl finds
underwear that fit

when she covers her body
in comfort and grace

when she twerks
in front of mirror
stands tall without tugging

it be the greatest hallelujah
the sugar in the kool-aid
the chicken on the waffle
all voices at the function
singing “before I let you gooooooooo”

and it’s time to go

out into the world
with a hip switch
and a swag unmatchable
a cool smirk
and a spine stretched rubber band
towards the heavens

yes, honey!

you betta strut in those garments

you betta walk like god painted you
fresh this morning

you betta put them undies to werk

Yellow At The Library (13/30)

“look at the stars
look how they shine for you
and everything you do…”

when your sister-in-law messages you
the little girl inside of you
will shout “yay”
from beneath the pile of “please be my friend”
and stand so tall and proud

when she asks how you’ve been
you will take your time answering
being sure to sound happy
but not the kind of happy
that’s annoying

when she replies
that she is expecting
you will collapse inside
and that little girl
will become a woman
sitting in the shower
crying a silent scream
just three days ago

you will type “congratulations”
and tell yourself to be happy
you will tell yourself to be happy
it’s okay to not feel happy

as you sit at a library table
facing exactly six strangers
who will see your sorry tears
if you break and cry

you will recognize this “failure”
this “not again”
this “what am I doing wrong”

it is the same script
you have repeated
since the first miscarriage

and the bleeding hasn’t stopped

“do you know
for you I’d bleed myself dry?…
for you I’d bleed myself dry”

________
|*from Coldplay’s “Yellow”, playing softly on my iPod