by Ashley M. Jones
how many times did you practice
calling me bulldog, ugly, furious plague,
before it tasted like truth?
in the schoolyard, did you watch the little black girls
running in the sun and note how that sun
baked them darker? did you learn to spell their names
with a poisonous tongue?
in the locker room, now infamously presidential,
did you trade stories of conquests
and lie to make yours lighter,
or is my body a prize only when it’s splayed open,
spread, with sweetness, for you?
did you let my body’s gift curdle in your crude retelling?
does it hurt each time you call us unwantable? does your mother’s face fade deeper into black?
somewhere, in a past we both know and always return to,
i watch you, beaten, in the field. watch you, clubbed to pulp by the Big Blue Badge.
there, i clean your wounds and kiss your body better,
heal you with salve and a meal cooked slow—
somewhere, i put my body between yours and harm, between a blinding white and your black—
somewhere, i even put my body on the cross—
does this sacrifice mean nothing? don’t you understand how woman i am, to bear you, feed you, clothe you, even beat you if it means you’ll grow? don’t you see the mirror you shatter when you tell me what you think I’m not?
look, my dark love, at your hands. see what they can’t grasp when you let me go?
Last updated September 27, 2022