So some of you might know that my current primary academic field is creative writing. I’ve never been good at poetry; fiction has rather been my forte, mostly because of how difficult I find it to achieve conciseness of image. This I’ve worked on for a while though, a persona poem, and since I’m not a poet and thus not invested in trying to send poetry out for traditional print publication, I thought I’d share it with you.
(after Patricia Smith)
They call me oppressor, and I have the world’s glory.
It’s in the moon’s milk draining from full
to crescent over a world that watches me fold
back my sleeves. I double my belt, curl my right hand
into a cup to wash myself holy. I polish
even my feet clean, five times a day, my soles, they’re
cleaner than your hands, my toes, they’re cleaner
than your fingers. This clean? I have nothing
to apologize for. Oppress them? I want nothing from them
the Great Satans, but distance.
My place in the world is golden and burnished,
with the lines clear, ropes tight, chains glowing.
Gates and poles and safe places, where daughters are not
sluts walking the streets, their skin not beacons
for men and dogs to sense and ravage,
where daughters do not drown their throats
with intoxicating poison. Daughters do not unlayer
their clothes down to dirty dishrags like their faces
to sop up and swallow every man’s honor, leaving salt.
It is no coincidence that here the sun is so high and strong.
The land stays dry and sweet, and nothing hides,
no human souls are suctioned and splintered.
Only a whore’s womb has teeth, and here we have
I want nothing
from them, but distance.
Look at the difference between us.
I prostrate on the floor because my back is strong
enough to bend. With beads on threads, I
count how many ways I can turn my submission
If my forehead taps the floor, who knows what earth-
quakes it could inspire with its waves?
Morality. Clarity. Chastity. Strength.
They fear me when I am on my knees most of all.
They wish they were this clean.
I know how to keep what is mine and keep her clean
like I made her to start with.
My daughter was a whore too, and I showed her how knees
can bend, because she liked to bend them, so I bent
them the other way over carpet. Mint,
lipstick, and cigarette ash don’t smell very clean together,
do they, so don’t open your mouth, but it is so wide you
force me to slam it shut with my fist until your knees stop
bending and your belly starts like a worm,
how many times did your belly start,
lower than the earth Adam was shaped from?
I’d tell them my daughter was a whore too.
She struck the earth
with the spikes of her heels and her ass
in the air, her heels are in red ribbons now.
They could never do that.
The mouth she used to rub my name
into shit swollen like a melon, big-
ger than my hand, than the sun, and she could
not swallow her own blood before it choked her.
Because she liked to gag, the bitch, so I let her:
how dare she think that body was hers
to destroy when it was a bounty,
and I created it, I nourished it, it is only and ever
They call me the oppressor—when they are the ones
who stole what I made and bent her with their filthy
thoughts, their lies and words and drink.
I want nothing from them–
they would sully even my trash.
I have my own world.
And it will stay mine.