twenty-one

She waved,

She waved and did not notice I was not the black woman she thought I was 

She says she is not wearing her glasses

 

I am copy room clerk 

I am assistant 

I am campus aid 

I am math teacher 

I am custodian

I am every other black woman other than myself 

because are we not all the same 

are we not all wow and imagine that 

you look so much alike

 

twenty

I am buying salmon 

and Stevie Wonder is in my ear

And Ma Cherie Amour is in my mouth

and in the mouth of that Black woman at the grapes

and that black man at the door

and all of a sudden we are a symphony

nineteen

"What you eating? The way you chewing is making me want some"

I say my grace and pray for hips; pray for a bend in my backside so that my grandmother will stop calling me straight up

seventeen

The other woman at the ramen spot 

Sits two tables down from me 

She orders with a heavy voice 

It is gruff and overbearing 

She reminds me of my aunt

And so I am home

 

We are alone

But she looks at me and fans her mouth 

Spicy 

She smiles 

And we eat alone together 

fourteen

Pip loses her phone 

Barista jokes with cop about going to jail

Pip is running to get her phone 

We wait

Pip says people in LA do not help people in LA

Barista tells cop to shut up 

Pip says thank you 

The cop snorts coffee onto his lips when he laughs at Barista

Pip does not tend her accent 

We wonder what it is like to think jail is a ha ha joke cracking, cracking bones

thirteen

I cup my hands 

I hold them out

I hold out my hands and wait 

I forget 

how will my cup runneth over 

if it cannot be filled 

eleven

I have heard apology 

Flick from your tongue 

Flick and bounce on 

the ground like

Pocket change 

Like what is leftover 

I cannot inhale 

Anymore pity 

It has turned my 

Stomach to acid 

I am poisoned by

This time it will be 

This time it will be 

This time it will be 

Cracks the drum 

Of my ears 

Say it louder 

one more time 

Maybe it will become 

A pledge of allegiance 

To my tolerance 

To my “okay”

Do I get a donkey and 

40 acres for picking 

The good parts 

For collecting as much as I 

Could, to turn into 

Something to cover my

Eyes with

Kind sir 

Might you give anything 

in exchange for my time 

ten

I am waiting to see you shake the sun like salt- shaker

like dancing hands

to shake the sun and loose that glitter, set that fire free

nine

Jojoba for my face 

Tea tree to shush cuts and punish dark spots 

Peppermint for headaches 

Sandalwood for sweet smell  

Eucalyptus to make me breath 

Lemon to make me happy 

Coconut for my hair for my eyelashes for eyebrows and for my mouth

and my belly and run away legs 

 

Anoint my head with oil

eight

I see men play to hard knock

I see men carry their hearts in their hands 

and tucked behind their backs 

asking me to 

catch catch

what you are not even willing to throw

seven

We got gripes, we got grief, we got pain twisting bottom lips, into pouts, putting up our dukes, stuffing our fingers in each other’s mouths, we are mad, and baring front teeth, and throwing the first punch, so as not to take one to the jaw, or shed a tear; tossing up fists to stand on two feet. 

five

She said make sure you squat in the public bathrooms at Echo Park Lake

all, ok, most, expensive cheese

begins with g, 

and sumthin bougie

sumthin more flashy

than these slim pockets

can grasp 

and us lil mamas

dripping in sunlight 

white blanket soaking up 

red wine blossoms 

crumbs of bagels, 

stuck to our 

glossy mouths

smacking 

looking out

the sun blocked corner of

our eye, asking if the dude 

to our right, 

is reading a book about God 

four

Kiss kiss to my collar bone 

And my chest 

Holding my heart in place 

 

I am full palmed 

And full of grace 

like cool wind 

In sticky heat 

 

I push air into 

my stomach 

Stretch out 

and rise like 

a wild bloom 

 

kiss kiss, kiss kiss 

three

they say there was an earthquake 

I could not feel it 

over my own shifting

 

woman on the sidewalk

smashes a strawberry

to the front of her teeth and 

grins

so that her teeth are red dye 

and her mouth

is kool-aid 

 

maybe she felt the earth quake  

if we do not cry out

the ground will

two

Tuesday, Freshman

I am making them write poems 

I am making them spill beans 

I am making them pinch their lips 

I am making them learn to whisper

I am making them fake good work 

I am making them grit their teeth

You do not need to sit in the corner 

Move that seat 

Get off that desk

Get that rubber band from around your head 

What is in your mouth 

Don’t put that retainer on my desk 

Show me your poem 

Show me your hands

Get off the floor 

No, you cannot order McDonald’s

Why are you screaming

Put your shoes back on 

You do not need sit in the corner 

You want to sit in the corner 

Who told you to hide 

Who told you tuck yourself 

I am making you untuck 

I am making you sit in the middle

Sit where I can see you 

I can see you