Happy International Women’s Day!

In honor of International Women’s Day, here are seven poems from some amazing women of color that I simply adore. 

For more information about International Women’s Day, click here

fitsfits by Sal the Director

 

Lessons on the Body: Baptism 

ife-chudeni a oputa
Ife-Chudeni Oputa

Keep the body three days in darkness.
the body is not whole
Drape the body at the breast.

Let the skin fall slack and cold.
the body is molasses rot
Supple the bones. Fold
down the ears. Seal the jaw.
the body is petrified blues
Stitch the eyelids to the brow.

Plug the nostrils with ginger root.
the body is splintered palm
Line the lungs with perfume.

Harvest the hairs. Drain out the gall.
the body is disrupted night
Listen for when the sea is not calm.

Carry the body to the lip of the tide.
the body is unfiltered sound
Bind the limbs with sea vines.

Rub sand where scars are found.
the body is mercurial glow
Lower the body down.

Watch the waves close.

Watch the vines float.

 

by Ife-Chudeni Oputa

Originally published in MUZZLE Magazine

Finally, the Jellyfish Speaks

    For the boy who said women who don’t think are more beautiful,
            then threw me over his shoulder.

Portrait of Poet Fatimah Asghar in her home
Fatimah Asghar

i
don’t
have
a
brain. 

my
body
moves
when
the
wind
(your
ocean)
tells
it.

what’s
it
feel
like?

to
be
hammered
down? 

to
be
all
tree-leg
&
anchor?

i
go
where
my
wind
wants
me
to.

i
ribbon
&
pulse
&
glow
&
the
tree-trunks
marvel
at
how
beautiful
i
am

they
pick
me
up
&
i
sting.

my
skin,
full
of
mouths
that
bite.

forgive
me.

i
don’t
have
a
brain.

i
know
not
what
i
do.

by Fatimah Asghar

Originally published in Drunken Boat

moon above 11433

amber atiya
Amber Atiya

u daughter of geechee gods
u femme no longer loving
the butch on top of her, u queer
my nickel plated heaven:
boys with breasts
& moustache
girls with hips
& apple
u biceps/white tee turban
round the head & it
don’t stop
u condom wrapper beautify
the weeds beautify
the turf wars
u eskovitch this hood
spiked with open cellars
vulgar prose
a zillion mouths chirp
their synchronized hunger
from trees & project windows
u drown police
sirens in soca
u deflower night red
black & green this borough
u illume my low-
end synthetic wig
my boos think u pure
myth
a seahorse, tragic
dragon carved from wet bone
but u pearl-shine
bright/brighter
than any face at land-
lord tenant court

by Amber Atiya

Originally published in PEN America

Mud

Franny Choi
Franny Choi

I.

I walked through the first boy like a pool of water churning with living things I almost remembered from dreams. Prehistoric conversations, fetal creatures that recognized me from when I floated upside down in a dark place long ago. I could see my face reflected in him but was distracted by the storm below, many-legged secrets calling themselves by my name. The universe doesn’t speak to me anymore, he said, it just mutters under its breath once in a while. The boy who taught me to believe in omens began to smell like an old pond, dead ends bubbling to the surface.

So I waded back out, still wet of him, too afraid to wring him out of my clothes in case I was wrong.

II.

I walked through the second boy like a city garden, a place to close the gate into, away from the crashing symphonies of a sinking ocean liner, glass and last-ditch confessions flying everywhere. We disappeared among the cabbages, each leaf waxy and familiar as our mothers’ elbows. In the pantry of the earth, everyone thought in the same language, the common bodily knowledge of dirt and sun. But when I passed him a fig of me to sink his teeth into, it dropped with a sound like a long blank stare, and I dug for worms and the howls of writhing things, but found only seeds, half-sprouted and too holy between my fingers.

So I walked out, backward, kissing each bed and leaving the gate open in case he wanted to call me back.

III.

I walked into the third boy like a house that had been there all along, wondering how long the porch light had been on when I fell sloppily against the doorbell and tumbled in. Now I’m standing in the front hall, tracking mud on the carpet and afraid to touch couches once familiar to my easy collapse. I look for my face among the picture frames, wondering if he’ll ever come downstairs,

and whether I want him to find me like this: smelling of compost, covered in algae, dripping pond and garden all over his empty answers.

by Franny Choi

Originally published in PANK

 

Witness

ariana brown
Ariana Brown

you said you held a gun first / then a girl / & both begged for mercy / & you are afraid / of your own
body / of the hands that are their own haunting / the coal / bursting through / your glowing skin / black
/ as the morning sun / born dying / the girl / writhing on the bed / the boys behind you / chanting / your
rebirth as a bullet / your reflection / something like your father’s / all the good air / sucked out of your
head / legacy of black pain / avenged / by teaching black boys /
to kill / & you want to know / if you are a monster / for being alive / when you cannot remember / the boy you were

some men / teach their sons to fish / some beat their wives / & say nothing / while their sons / inherit
their fists /

if i tell you / i love you / in the light & dark / what i mean is / there is such a thing as forgiveness / i mean
/ some battles / we are born into / wearing / uniforms of blood / & concrete / that
the children we were / almost never survive / that we must forgive the nightmares / their bloody fingers
/ if i tell you / i love your hands / what i mean is / blessed boy / I am not afraid of you

by Ariana Brown

Originally published in Split This Rock

Post-Colonial Love Poem 

natalie diaz
Natalie Diaz

I’ve been taught bloodstones can cure a snakebite,
can stop the bleeding—most people forgot this
when the war ended. The war ended
depending on which war you mean: those we started,
before those, millennia ago and onward,
those which started me, which I lost and won—
these ever-blooming wounds.
I was built by wage. So I wage Love and worse—
always another campaign to march across
a desert night for the cannon flash of your pale skin
settling in a silver lagoon of smoke at your breast.
I dismount my dark horse, bend to you there, deliver you
the hard pull of all my thirsts—
I learned Drink in a country of drought.
We pleasure to hurt, leave marks
the size of stones—each a cabochon polished
by our mouths. I, your lapidary, your lapidary wheel
turning—green mottled red—
the jaspers of our desires.
There are wild flowers in my desert
which take up to twenty years to bloom.
The seeds sleep like geodes beneath hot feldspar sand
until a flash flood bolts the arroyo, lifting them
in its copper current, opens them with memory—
they remember what their god whispered
into their ribs: Wake up and ache for your life.
Where your hands have been are diamonds

on my shoulders, down my back, thighs—
I am your culebra.
I am in the dirt for you.
Your hips are quartz-light and dangerous,
two rose-horned rams ascending a soft desert wash
before the November sky unyokes a hundred-year flood—
the desert returned suddenly to its ancient sea.
Arise the wild heliotrope, scorpion weed,
blue phacelia which hold purple the way a throat can hold
the shape of any great hand—
Great hands is what she called mine.
The rain will eventually come, or not.
Until then, we touch our bodies like wounds—
the belled bruises fingers ring
against the skin are another way to bloom.
The war never ended and somehow begins again.

by Natalie Diaz

Originally published in New Republic

 

And They Said Never Trust A Mermaid: Siren Song for Femmes

heidi andrea restrepo rhodes
Heidi Andrea Restrepo Rhodes

And they said never trust a mermaid

until you take her swimming, until you

wet her face clean, until you slip her under

a microscope between two slides and pluck out

the sand grain molecules of pride from her pores,

like obstinate hairs inhabiting the chin; never

trust a mermaid until you have de-scaled her

to count her fleshly poundage, her excess, until

you have wrenched the metal from her molars

to intercept the radio signals traveling to her ear.

 

They said never trust the red bed of roses painted

over her lips, beware the under-soil of thorns

sharpening her canines, beware the fish hunger

broiling in her belly. They said never trust the rim

of black penciled around her curious eyes, or the

sparkle of pearlescence dappling her lids, beware

the sorcery in her reports, the lightning

churning her saliva into sweet butter. They warned

of locking eyes with a mermaid: beware the siren

song and charcoal dusted eyelashes batting stars

at your pupils. Beware the bruja underneath the

mask, wretched trickery sparkling blue.

 

O Mermaids,

Our exhibitions are for our own mapping.

We will conduct the palpitations of streamers, fingers,

we will beckon the trumpet parade and shooting stars,

we will glimmer the glossy bright of fuschia

and venerate our bodies’ deviations, every, all.

 

Let them not make of our oceans

a ruly inquisition: We have been hanged

for our excesses before. Let them adore us

or usher out. Tell them there is no paragon:

only a vast mirage suspended

over the wide and sundried sea.

Let them learn to bask in

the glory of our clean and blushless

cheek, our crooked pillow smiles, let them

love our before, before we portrait our

skin with the carapace of beetles. Let them

write symphonies to the sleep in our morning

eyes, crisp with the light of new-day

possibility. Let them tangle in the matted

nest of our wayward manes, and delight in

every wicked knot. Tell them the charcoal

dust on our lashes sharpens our night vision;

the tight clutch of sequins polishes our boom;

every fold of our thick bellies harbors

our most precious and golden secrets.

 

Let them see the soil in our teeth, and learn

to relish every small nick

from the pointedness of thorns,

pearly fangs shimmering,

dripping roses.

 

O Mermaids, gorgeous selcouth monsters

of the briny deep,

 

let them marvel or perish:

 

we will not hang.

by Heidi Andrea Restropo Rhodes

Originally published in As Us Journal


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