loved me but in white i spoke only negro meaning i did not know fairy tale saw it in movies, yes, but saw my daddy spit on in a park in chicago grimms negated
i can't speak white though i tried lord knows pressed brown hands to pale fingers in some sign language morse code palms screaming dontchu rememberafrica? why you treat yoursistah?
forgive me my granddaddy was strung up on a poplar on poplar avenue in memphis hanging there for weeks all cause he applied for the police academy...
my love, i should've warned: a black woman is no picnic
hot combs catfish crumbs and bad men
lent she'd send us out come back with a basketful she'd call my sister and i caught black tadpoles with dark hands thrust into warm bogs seeking, unafraid
my mother bent over cast iron skillet read entrails in the hot oil men will fail you more than the Lord she swung a rosary over the stove in a pendulum swinging north
my sister collected hair thick as a nest from all the old combs in the house buried it deep in red clay daddy will come back she chanted
God can stay asleep these women in my life are magic enuff
in your life
i was eight when my mother filled with rage and jameson crunched a love letter she found from my father's secretary in his suit pocket and came at me screaming, lustful even in her delirium, holding the pulp of paper like a warm heart in her hand and through tears screamed dontchueva—held up the pulsing letter-- dothis toanuthawoman eva inyolife
she stumbled away defeated as job lost as joseph and left me for more liquor
i was thirty when i left my husband to be with no one in particular which is much worse my mother screamed for the life of her she could not understand why God bid her raise a selfish child
don’t pay mom no mind my sister says sometimes you need a sister like a sailor needs a compass
mom prolly still achin over daddy aren’t we all i ask
only read from exodus
we've cradled enuff bodies of men we love bleedingoutonto uncaring streets learned to roll my hair with funeral programs climbed into sheets that mayshroud my children black rituals.emmittillwas mypeterrabbit. my mama only read from exodus I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of slavery
iwonder what mostegyptiansthought when thejewscried with locusts and plagues and blood that their lives mattered my father pulls from a Koolnot a damn thinghe exhales
backing out the drive my mama comes runninggasping you'll need thisshe says unfolds onelongpearl rosary
-- Tara Stringfellow is a poet and an attorney living in Chicago, originally from Memphis, Tennessee and Okinawa, Japan. Third World Press published her first collection of poetry entitled More than Dancing in 2008. Her poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Transitions Magazine, Apogee Journal, decomp: a literary magazine, Voice and Vision: An African American Literary Magazine, and North by Northwestern. Currently, the author is an MFA Candidate for both poetry and prose at Northwestern University.