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.
fits by Sal the Director
Lessons on the Body: Baptism
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.
by Fatimah Asghar
Originally published in Drunken Boat
moon above 11433
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
girls with hips
u biceps/white tee turban
round the head & it
u condom wrapper beautify
the weeds beautify
the turf wars
u eskovitch this hood
spiked with open cellars
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
a seahorse, tragic
dragon carved from wet bone
but u pearl-shine
than any face at land-
lord tenant court
by Amber Atiya
Originally published in PEN America
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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,
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