Farewell, 2016—2017, Here I Come!

And another year ends. Truth be told, I’ve been looking forward to 2017 since I got the news about being chosen for the McNair Program, which is likely a sign that I’m a huge nerd. Luckily, y’all already knew that, right?

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster since my last blog post, what with packing all of my stuff up and flying halfway around the world, swapping my summer wear for winter stuff, and figuring out my housing situation. I got an email from the school about maxing out my credits and losing my financial aid, and had to submit a petition to have my max enrollment pushed up, so that I can take these last few terms and complete the McNair program. I had a bit of a panic over it, but am very glad to say that it’s all been sorted out now.

Aside from the amazing opportunity that the McNair program offers in preparing for graduate school, I’m also excited for 2017 because I will finally be graduating, G-d willing. In the last year or so, I’ve gotten really tired of being an undergraduate student. I feel as though upper division courses, and graduate level courses especially, are more academically rigorous, and I’m really looking forward to that. I’ve been feeling frustrated and disappointed in lower division classes this past couple of years, wanting more out of them.

Along with this frustration, I also struggle with feelings of inadequacy. I’m glad to finally have solid goals and clarity on what I want to do with my life, long-term, but I struggle to avoid the trap plaguing many folks my age: the sense that I should have already been done with this part. I took a couple years off to work, and then changed my major a couple of times, and I’m finally going to be finished, which is a huge relief, but I still feel like I should be further along in life. Probably related to my ongoing battle with impostor syndrome; I am well aware that I will always be the first person to downplay my accomplishments. I’ve been working on combating this with various lists and such in my bullet journal, and I have two separate blog posts planned for next year to show y’all some of the tools I’ve been using; I hope you’ll check out those posts when they come out.

Overall, despite the losses and struggles I’ve faced this year, 2016 hasn’t been unkind to me. I don’t know how or why, but it felt less terrible and hard than 2015, and much less so than 2014. Perhaps it’s because I am used to my disability now, and have taken steps to protect and care for myself. Perhaps it’s the amazing healing I did in Ghana, and getting outside the US for a time. Perhaps it’s because I have a tangible set of goals for the next 12 months, and I know that I’ll be closing one chapter—my undergrad career—and preparing to open another in whichever graduate program accepts me.

Whatever the reason, I want to thank you, my beautiful community, for being there with and for me, throughout the year. I feel truly blessed to have you all in my life, and I wish for us all a 2017 at least as good as 2016 was to me. I wish you as loving and supportive a community as I have found. I wish us all the strength to accept grace from others, and to give grace to ourselves and our loved ones. I wish healing for the hurts and protection from the hateful. I wish us creative success and emotional uplift. I wish us peace and joy and a better world.

Happy new year.

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Trees of Reverie June 2016 Readathon Days 3 and 4: Spine Poem and Quotes

Day Three, Monday, June 27 & Day Four, Tuesday, June 28:

(All times are Brisbane local time)

This is the Day 3 and Day 4 Challenges post for the June 2016 Trees of Reverie Read-a-thon.

 

Day 3: Spine poem! This is always my favorite challenge, basically.

She flees Wildwood
Little Red in the City
Half Magic

among The Oathbound
seeking Asylum

A Reckless Beauty
she Sees the Water Rise
The Sparkle in the Grit
The Secret School

Of Two Minds
calls Necessary Fire
against The Witches and wolves
A Monstrous Regiment
their Blood and Chocolate
The Silver Kiss
The “Comforts” of Home

“I Feel This
Truth
by Shackle and Sword
by Lion’s Blood
by That Hideous Strength
I will build Brave
a New World”

2016-06-27 21.22.32 HDR

Here’s audio of me reading this poem.

 

Day 4: Quotes

This is possibly my favorite set of lines in Hamilton, sung by Aaron Burr: “I am the one thing in life I can control / I am inimitable / I am an original / I’m not falling behind or running late / I’m not standing still / I am lying in wait!”

I love this, and have considered getting some kind of tattoo related to it. I even made a gif of the lines.

I love Hamilton, but sometimes Burr just gives me all of the feelings.

 

My To-Be-Read List:

  1. Wintering by Megan Snyder-Camp — FINISHED! 72 pages, 4 stars — Liked it. Still have to read the second book, and then I can start on the review, but that means I probably won’t share much detail here or on Goodreads, until that review is published.
  2. The Gunnywolf by Megan Snyder-Camp
  3. [insert] boy by Danez Smith — FINISHED! 116 pages, 5 Stars
  4. Time on Two Crosses: the Collected Writing of Bayard Rustin by Don Wiese [ed.] (Current page: 27 of 365; change: 8 pages)
  5. UNeducation, Vol 1: A Residential School Graphic Novel by Jason EagleSpeaker (Current page: 28 of 99)
  6. Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
  7. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Current page: 68 of 391)
  8. The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss
  9. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (Current page: 391 of 1225; change: 36 pages)

Spent a lot of Day 3 cleaning and sorting things and getting ready to move out of my apartment, but I took a lunch break to make a yummy smoothie and read the rest of Wintering, which I finished. Then went back to sorting, and put on the Alexander Hamilton audiobook, which I have been listening to while doing work that requires my hands. It’s pretty funny, and I spend a lot of time saying things like “well, of course he did,” and “Alexander, no!” and “seriously?! wow, okay…” (Which is how I read books, so at least I’m consistent.) Read a bit of Time on Two Crosses during my dinner break, and got through the section about the Freedom Rides, thankfully. Day 4 was about running errands, making calls, and providing emotional support, and I didn’t get much time to sit down and read. But I’m about to start The Gunnywolf, and (based on her other book) I’m looking forward to reading it.

 

To see all Read-a-thon posts, go here.

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A Benediction for the End of 2015

I was recently invited to read at the second Grief Rites reading, for the Holiday Edition. As you may know, my father died on Thanksgiving when I was eight years old; I had originally planned to write a new poem about him to read there. But, as happens sometimes, it really wasn’t coming together. Instead, I read a selection of poems written around the holidays last year, and two new pieces written this holiday season. (You can read two of them online, one here and the other here.)

All of the poems I read explicitly address how I feel as a Black person living in America, a country — as I say in my poem “Colonize(d)” — “that would rather see me / shot in the face.” Of the poems I read, one memorializes the 16th St Baptist Church bombing, one memorializes the murder of Michael Brown, and the remaining three deal with the stress of protesting and racial justice work, and the pain of justice denied. They are heavy pieces, and I hesitated to read them.

Some readings, I leave the most radical or race-specific poems out if I am unsure of the crowd, because I have anxiety and chronic pain; baring my soul is hard enough without someone trying to argue with me, a depressingly common occurrence. This time, I read without censoring myself.

During the break, a white woman I’d never met came up to me. She began by telling me what I read really resonated with her, BUT… As it turns out, she was raised in Alabama, and the Alabama of my poem doesn’t exist any more. She insisted that everyone knew better now, that when she was growing up, no one would have done something so awful. She told me that her parents taught her that skin color doesn’t matter, that so long as a person was willing to work hard they would succeed. I pointed out the high rates of police violence against Black people, and she talked around that, reiterating that Alabama wasn’t like that any more, and then tried to say that as women, she and I face the same barriers in corporate America. I cited the racialized gender wage gap, and she said “Not in Dallas.”

She left to visit the bathroom, and then returned to assert that we shouldn’t focus on race, and that we just need to work hard; if we just work hard, we can succeed. She commended me on being strong, utterly missing the point of my poem, “Too Strong,” which is that having to bear up under the pressure of violence and discrimination is exhausting and demoralizing. When she finally went back to the bar, I hid in the bathroom for 10 minutes trying not to have a panic attack, and missed two of the other readers.

While this woman was doing her utmost to convince me I was wrong about the existence of racism, a wonderful friend of mine tried repeatedly to interrupt her, to get her to consider that I might not be open to this conversation, or that it might be painful to me. By the end of the night, I was so tense and overstimulated that I suffered severe migraine symptoms and passed out for 15 hours. When I woke up, I discovered that my contributor copies of Minerva Rising‘s latest issue, Sparrow’s Trill: Writers respond to the Charleston Shooting had arrived in the mail. Two of my poems are included in this special edition: “Placeholder for Home” and “My Black.”

Holding a copy in my hands, I feel so many feelings. This is the first time my poetry has been published outside my own press in half a dozen years, and it makes me feel validated. It reminds me that rejections are a part of the process, that my work can find a home. It reminds me that others are feeling what I’m feeling, struggling as I am struggling. It reminds me that even those who are not feeling what I am can empathize. It reminds me why I struggle. It reminds me why I sometimes feel burnt out.

When I finished work on After Ferguson, In Solidarity, one of our contributors asked me if we would do another anthology for Charleston. I said no; it took 9 months to get AFIS out, and I honestly needed a bit of a break. I started my press in order to put out AFIS, but I hadn’t reckoned with how hard it would be: soliciting submissions from folks, picking which pieces to include, chasing contributors down to get contracts signed, creating a coherent flow, getting the cover art done, fundraising, and more. I learned a lot, most of it the hard way, and I don’t regret it, but I’m also glad I didn’t try to do it again right away. Since I didn’t, I’m glad that Minerva Rising created this special issue, and I’m proud to be included in it.

I want to thank everyone who expressed to me at the Grief Rites reading that they appreciated my work. I hold onto that when I feel the urge to silence my voice, to be jaded and avoidant. The fatigue and frustration can be overwhelming, but that doesn’t mean my voice must be silenced; I have a community to hold me. I don’t have to do all the work myself.

So, for us all, I wish healing and comfort in the new year. I wish peace and joy and strength. I wish us loving community and found family. I wish us support in creative endeavors, and success in our work. I wish us a better world.

Happy holidays, everyone — I’ll see you on the other side!

Poem: Happy Birthday

Here’s a bit of silliness I wrote up as part of my National Poetry Writing Month effort:

Happy Birthday

hi
I, uh
I just really wanted
to say hi to you today
and tell you that I
I really like your shirt
I mean, as you know
the Ninja Turtles are my favourite

and I know they’re your favourite
because you told me so
when we first met
and I really wanted to let you know
that I see you wearing that shirt
and even if no one else knows it
I know you really like the Ninja Turtles

and I know it’s your birthday tomorrow
so I brought you a card—
they didn’t have Ninja Turtles cards
at any of the stores I went to
so I drew one myself
I hope it’s okay—
also, I got you a cupcake
it’s got a picture on top
it’s supposed to be Michelangelo
I hope that’s okay
my mom would only let me get one

but what I really wanted to say is
I like you
no, I mean I like you
like, I like-like you
and I was hoping you might
like-like me back
but
I mean
if you don’t
it’s okay
I just wanted to check

 

uh
happy birthday?

 

© Tessara Dudley, 2015

Brief life update

Hello, all!

I’m just popping in to share a round up of my latest pieces published, and a little bit about how life’s going.

By the way, most of my pieces are shared as they come out on my Facebook page, and I also share a lot of stuff on there, like essays by other writers and poems I like. Currently, I have a series going where I’m sharing a poem I love every Friday through the summer. If you have a Facebook and are interested in my work, I recommend liking that page. (Yay, shameless self-promotion!)

My pieces published in the last month:

I’ve been keeping busy with writing and school, and some behind-the-scenes stuff. In fact, I just ordered proof copies for my first book published through Mourning Glory Publishing, and I’m about to send contributor contracts out for another. I’m really excited and ready to get these books out and into the hands of readers!

Have a lovely week, everyone. ❤

Emptiness in the Aftermath

I didn’t get a lot done during the second half of last week. I didn’t send my regular Wednesday newsletter. I didn’t post my Thursday blog post. I didn’t do my homework, or make my office hours at work. Mostly, I cried.

Today marks four months since Michael Brown, Jr, was shot in the streets of Ferguson, MO, and left for 4.5 hours in the summer sun. Two weeks past from Monday, a grand jury did not indict the officer who shot Mike Brown. A week past from Wednesday, a grand jury did not indict the officer who choked Eric Garner to death. In these four months, the Black community has lost Rumain Brisbon, Akai Gurley, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Kajieme Powell, and — perhaps most tragically — Tamir Rice.

But we have also lost Deshawnda Sanchez and Tajshon Ashley Sherman and Aniya Parker and Gizzy Fowler. We’ve lost Mary Spears and Tjhisha Ball and Angelia Mangum. A second mistrial came in for the death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones. A police officer is going to trial in Oklahoma for the sexual assault of at least 8 Black women and girls.

The deaths of Black men and boys at the hands of police are getting more attention than they have in a long time, and that attention is necessary to create change. But we must also recognise that Black women are the victims of state violence as well. Black women disproportionately account for missing persons. Black women are assaulted and killed by police. Their murders are often ignored or covered up. And they are on the forefront of the movement for justice.

Women accounted for 60% of the Black Panther Party. They led many of the actions of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Today, they lead many of the actions on the ground in Ferguson, New York, LA… Black women are expected to never report violence perpetrated on them by Black men. They are expected to wait for their own justice, while fighting tooth and nail for the lives of Black men. It’s exhausting to fight for your own humanity, but even more so to fight for the humanity of a group who should have your back, but doesn’t.

I wrote a poem about this for my upcoming collection, Fallen/Forever Rising, and I’m sharing it here, because I feel like I have little else to give. I’ve felt so wrung out the last few weeks, a kind of exhausted apathy. I’m struggling to find time to take care of myself, and that leaves me feeling as though I’ve gotten nothing done. I need to rest, but I feel guilty when I do. I don’t know how much longer I can go on, and I don’t know what to do.

Empty

Women’s work
we pour from empty pitchers
every last wet drop for
someone not us

We care takers
care given always care giving
none taken no care not us
no one cares

We targets too
double jeopardy for double-dutch girls
endangered Black women dare
in danger we dare

Losing sons and
daughters fathers mothers sisters and
yes brothers each bone deep
pain pushed through

Street struggle
our streets aren’t safe from police
aren’t safe for our brothers
we aren’t safe from

Silent suffering
no don’t tell don’t call don’t no
sister knows no safety
but still she pours

I hate to ask for anything for myself, but if you have the funds to help me out, you can donate something to my Paypal, or buy a zine. I appreciate any help you can give.

Book Review: Here Versus Elsewhere

A while back, I received a review copy of Allison Carter’s 2014 book of poems Here Versus Elsewhere.9780991109289-FrontCover-Sm_1024x1024

This book took a long time to read, because I had to digest every poem individually. I read each one 2 or 3 times, feeling out nuances of meaning and sitting in the feelings evoked.

I found it worked best to read them out loud; many were best experienced when the sound of the words chosen was given space. Rolling them around in my head was certainly interesting, but hearing them aloud really enabled me to connect with each piece. The language used is very deliberate, and reading silently doesn’t do it justice.

The book is broken up into four titled sections—1. Poems for Baby Ghosts; 2. All Bodies Are The Same/And They Have the Same Reactions; 3. Ghost Stories For Ghosts; 4. Advice—and each section has a through-line or theme that was rather exciting to experience unfolding. Sometimes the connections between poems were very obvious, and sometimes they weren’t, but each section worked as a whole in themselves. I often found myself finishing one poem and then going back to a poem earlier in the section to track the appearance of words and concepts, reading both poems again from a more complete, understanding place. Each poem informed my understanding of the ones that came before it.

There are many lines that stilled me, that gave me a little shiver of yes! when I read them, which I immediately re-read over with pleasure. A sampling:

from Sea View Avenue, pg 22:

some on stilts to be eye level
with the soul

from Useless Metals and Time, pg 27:

The kind of day where
you eat the sounds of things:
the sound of peach, not the
peach itself

from Brevity, pg 68:

A party is a buyer’s market in which supply exceeds demand.

from The End of the Hole, pg 78:

At the end of the hole you will encounter a moth made of precious metals and time.

Okay, I can’t quote the whole thing—you’ll have to get the collection for more of this lovely stuff! I absolutely recommend it. The feel of many of the poems was dreamy, a sort of floating feeling I settled into as I went along. The author experiments and plays with words in a way that left me wanting to write. I was even inspired to write a poem review!

Here Versus Elsewhere
At times
Ephemeral beyond belief
With the sound
Of sunset goodbyes
Sandy hellos

A mumbling
Whisper-shout signal
Brings snow in September
And sun in March

Breathless
Long winding
Verbose
Sparkling grandeur
Ermine fur
And puppy kisses
Narrowing
Down
To a
Point

A morsel following
Leaves you
Wanting
And satisfied

I cannot tell why
The telling is futile
Only the turning page can
The necessity of a poem
The ebb and flow of thunder words
Like ocean lightning
Foam white paper
Spilling down
Rushing and crashing until
A sudden withdrawal
That was un-unexpected
In its brilliance

Truth More Cruel Than Fiction

The main character of my novel-in-progress, Songbird, is a trans woman. She struggles to find acceptance in a world that doesn’t always understand her. Along the way, she makes friends and enemies, and finds herself getting into and out of trouble trying to live her life. But how closely does her story reflect reality?

According to a report by the US-based National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, trans people in America are 4 times as likely to live in poverty as the general population, and 4 times as likely to be houseless. 41% attempt suicide in their life, compared to 1.6% of the general population. 78% experience persistent bullying and harassment in K-12 schools, and 90% report harassment and discrimination at work. 47% have been fired, not hired, or passed over for promotion due to their trans identity.

Adding race and the effects of racism bring the numbers even higher. 34% of Black trans folks have been houseless, compared to 19% of trans folks overall. 21% of Latino/a trans people left K-12 education, compared with 15% of all trans people; a further 9% were expelled from school as a result of bias. 24% of Asian American respondents engaged in sex work or drug dealing to survive, compared to 16% of all trans people. 34% of Native American trans folks reported being denied medical care, compared to 19% of trans folks in general.

Pretty bleak numbers. Across the board, trans people — but especially trans people of colour — are more likely to suffer discrimination and harassment. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation reports that anti-LGBTQ2 murders rose by 11% just from 2009 to 2011. Of victims, 87% were people of colour; 45% were trans women.

Every year, November 20th is Transgender Day of Remembrance. Folks gather to reflect and mourn those who have been lost in the past year. Recently, there has been a movement to change the focus to emphasise the strength and resilience of trans people, and I think that’s a great idea. If anyone has honoured you with the knowledge of their trans identity, take some time to let them know you support and love them. Make your work environment a safer space. Take a moment or two today to honour the memories of hate crime victims, but also hold in your thoughts the survivors of hate crimes.

Poem: Movement Mothers

I mentioned in my newsletter that I’ll be at the Oregon State Penitentiary tomorrow for the Uhuru Sa Sa Poetry Slam. Here’s one of the pieces I’ll be sharing.

Movement Mothers
Not so long ago they lit us on fire for who we loved, visibility and invisibility doing damage differently: hateful looks end with murdered teens tied to fence-posts, sweet bois and grrls beaten, children taken from us too soon, the bully’s hand manifest in the making of nooses, the loading of guns. We lose and are lost.

These days when the struggle is too much and holding my head up is too hard I think of Assata and Angela, Marsha and Carlett, Stormé, Audre, Alice, Octavia, and Laverne, sisters in struggle, sisters in strength, sisters looking out for sisters. Our vulnerability is just one more source of beauty—though the world does not see it, speaking our truth is an act of radical self-love in a world that tries to burn us down.

New piece up on Black Girl Dangerous + upcoming events

Yesterday, a piece I wrote went up on Black Girl Dangerous! You can read it here: Black, Woman, Traveler: Safer In Strange Places Than In the City Where I Live

Other exciting news:

On October 23, I’m participating in Intersections: An Evening of Storytelling About Identity, Community, Culture, and Pride. The event is 6:30-8pm, in Room 228, 1825 SW Broadway at Portland State University. It’s free, and open to the public.

October 28, I’m reading in the Tell It Slant Reading Series. We’ll be at the Alberta St Pub (1036 NE Alberta Street) starting at 7:30pm. $2 suggested donation. Venue is 21+ after 8pm.

I’m working on self-publishing a book of poems. It’s called Fallen/Forever Rising. I’ll post here when it’s done!

Sharing Stories Saves the World

A lot of the work I’ve been doing lately centres on helping others tell stories, and telling my own story.

Recently, I started working at my university; I am the program coordinator for Queeries, an LGBTQ2 speakers bureau organised through the Queer Resource Centre here on campus. Queeries brings panels of folks with various orientations, genders, and intersectional identities to speak about their lives and experiences in college classrooms and the community. I just held the first training session for panelists, which focuses on orienting them to the program and helping them think about how to tell their stories in a time-limited but compelling way.

I also joined the Vanport Multimedia Project, collecting stories from survivors and family members of those who went through the 1948 flood of Vanport, Oregon, for a digital multimedia archive. Vanport was a war-time housing project for shipyard workers and their families. It was the second-largest city in Oregon, until it was obliterated by flooding on Memorial Day in 1948, and many of the residents scrambled to find housing in the aftermath. Some were also survivors of Japanese internment who had already lost all of their belongings, some were recent immigrants facing the difficulty of navigating a new place, and some were African Americans heavily impacted by redlining. We are performing video interviews, editing the videos, and then creating a video and transcript archive that will be freely available, so these stories can be shared instead of being lost.

I was accepted into the Black Girl Dangerous Editor-in-Training program, where we are learning to be editors for online publications, helping authors who submit refine their pieces for an internet audience. We are learning to be better writers ourselves, and will learn what makes an effective piece for online reading: what length to shoot for, what kinds of titles to use, how to shape pieces for BGD’s audience, and so on.

And now I’m in a group performance project about intersectional identities: 4 weeks of workshops ending in a performance where we will each share a personal story about our intersections and journeys. We’ve picked stories we want to tell, and have started generating important details to shape the narrative into an interesting, entertaining stage piece.

I’ve always believed in the power of storytelling: I’ve been participating in speaker’s bureaus for the last decade, and I’ve seen the understanding and interest that can be built through talking about our own identities. Recently, it’s become the focus of a lot of my life. This may be a natural extension of my work as a writer, but it’s the first time almost all of my work has focused on one thing, and it’s a pretty novel experience. I’m so excited for all of it, even if my workaholic tendencies are leaving me a bit frazzled.

I’ve seen over and over folks who have been told they’re uninteresting or unimportant gaining release and healing from sharing their stories and having them validated and affirmed by listeners. Especially for those of us from marginalised communities, who’ve often been made to feel pushed aside or ignored by oppressive systems, it is important to have spaces for this. These stories matter.

So here’s a question for you: what story do you want to tell, need to tell? What story is weighing down your heart? What story is resting like a stone in your belly? What story is buzzing in your brain, sticking in your throat? What story is filming over your eyes?

Whatever that story is, it’s important. I encourage you to tell it.

Poets for Ferguson: a national poetry reading

Tonight, I will be reading poems in a national reading, a fundraiser for organisers in Ferguson. We are poets of colour, poets using our art for change. It runs from 6pm ET on September 27th to 6pm ET on September 28th.

The livestream is up at Poets for Ferguson, and the donation page is here. Please support by watching and giving.

Vogue and Sara Baartman and a Poem

This morning, I woke hours before my alarm. It sometimes takes me a little bit to realise whether I’m awake because of anxiety, adequate rest, or low blood sugar. Often, I struggle to get back to sleep until I figure out which one, and address it (if possible). Sometimes I never get back to sleep.

Rather than lie in the dark waiting, I checked the time on my phone, and noticed I had a notification on Twitter. I checked that, and spotted a tweet from someone I follow about an article posted by Vogue Magazine, titled “We’re Officially in the Era of the Big Booty”:

Vogue tweet 09-10-2014
The original tweet from Vogue Magazine’s Twitter account

The article is as bad, if not worse, as I anticipated. And one of my first thoughts was about Sara Baartman.

For those who don’t know about her, I encourage you to read about her, though I warn that the story is a hard one if you dig deeper into it. Sara was a young African woman in colonial South Africa who was sold into English and then French hands, and displayed as a sideshow attraction under the demeaning name “Hottentot Venus” until she died six years later. After her death, her body was given to a scientist for dissection. He concluded that Sara—and other Africans like her—was subhuman, and her skeleton, brain, and detached genitals were displayed at the Musée del’Homme for the next 150 years. But even once they were removed, it took 20 years of fighting for her body to be returned to South Africa and finally laid to rest.

I could not go back to sleep, because I felt sick with anxiety and sorrow and anger, and so I wrote a poem.

 

Mourning the Living and the Dead

today, I mourn the life and death of Sara Baartman
my rage at the indignities she suffered
rests at the base of my throat
chokes my voice with tears unshed
today, I cannot strangle down my anger for her
Sara, Saartjie, name unknown
forced from family after her fiancé’s murder
she was a slave sold to sideshows
spending six years poked and prodded
examined and talked over and mocked
lied to, looked on, lost
this woman of six and twenty years
dead
it is 200 years since she passed
from alcohol or pneumonia
or a broken heart
and even in death disrespected
dissected
her most intimate parts displayed in jars
as curios for detached Europeans
to view
this history of colonial gaze
of taking and keeping and displaying
the most intimate parts
continues to this day
the roundness of Sara’s body fascinated
and repulsed the gazers
now vogue divorces this largeness from Blackness
makes it safe for mainstream commodification
makes it safe by denying Black women again
taking this aspect of our bodies
claiming our identities for themselves
passing profit over our heads
and leaving us to die like Sara
alone
the world is not safe for my sisters
I know
so I am left to mourn