She works the midnight shift in a fog
thick as waffle batter and dark as
black coffee, only to wake up at six
to clean the schools
This girl sits outside on her smoke
breaks, takes a deep drag from a
menthol and exhales the anxieties
which kill us all.
Lives matter, mewling mouths which
beg to be fed, two children and two
jobs, it’s the struggle curled up inside
and slowly uncoils.
Her skin is polished with cocoa seeds,
her face untouched by centuries is
living proof immortality blesses those
crushed by a boot.
It was less than a hundred years ago
that her grandmother sipped water
from a fountain on the left, while ivory
was kept to the right.
The same goes for buses, restrooms,
diners, anything which had to be shared
was divided down the middle and
siphoned by the greater.
Believe it or not, when this girl is
naked and closes her eyes, she feels
the same way as if you were nude;
both freedom and shame.
And no matter where she goes
there is always someone who wants
to touch her hair and overstep
a common boundary.
It makes her feel like a walking
petting zoo, black sheep, a sideshow
attraction to be felt by ignorance
mistaken for admiration.
For beneath the wool is a
panther who wouldn’t hesitate
to claw out their leering eyes
and cut their tongues.
The Confederate flag, a waving
symbol. a wicked X, branded by stars
objects her heritage and she would
burn it given a chance.
Much like how the Ku Klux Klan
burns crucifixes on front lawns or
how the sun burns cotton fields
stretched for miles.
But just like her grandmother,
endurance is a strong trait she
inherited and it takes more than
privilege to do her in.
Nevertheless, this girl has felt
the same heartbreak promised by
a man, lived in love’s ruins and cried
for him in night.
A card dealer, whose deep voice
moved her soul, this girl has
melted at his feet and carried
this man’s ego.
Delicate as a press-on nail, easily
broken by counteractions, stripped
of armor and down on his knees
like a worshiper.
She has bared his children,
raised the flowers tall by watering
them with wisdom passed down
through gardening pails.
The matriarch’s sweat, tears,
and rain drops accumulated from all
the storms passed; tremendous,
clouds open for her.
Clarity, a gift rarely obtained,
it covers her like garments stitched
for Ala, the mother goddess of
the Ibo pantheon.
For she is strength, she is the
backbone, the rose petals fallen
and picked up by the wind and
carried through the seasons.