They said I wasn’t mainstream enough
with my beatnik mouth and street words.
That my style was gutter
like faded Snicker’s wrappers
and hazy glass on the corner of
Jensen and Caplin Street.
That my poetry made a sound like
the aftermath of a sucker punch.
And so, I went and told them
that before my life was through
I’d prove what the granddaughter
of an almost slave could do.
I dared them to put their
two most divergent roads
against even one of the byways
I have travelled.
Place their bravest pioneers in
the face of the dangers I have encountered.
Lay every tear they’ve ever wept
while in the valley of unrest
next to mine and let me show them
how a Black girl’s words can concoct thought
from salt water and a sample of existence.
For I am the language of the people.
The real people.
The huddled masses,
the congress of outcasts
living with infinity skin
who, even under the threat of death,
live each day more magical than the last.
I am the chorus
for disembodied voices
left to suffocate beneath the stripes
of the American flag.
I am the vision
sparkling with fractured light
even after police batons
attempt to beat us into darkness.
I am the uniform of a people
and my words are badges
that show what an honor it is
to fight to be heard.
So lay your best line next to mine
and let my words soak it in venom.
My lines will teach you
how to treat threats as decadence.
Hand my pen your schoolboy freedom.
It will show your page
how to set the stars on fire.
Let your page play it safe.
Let it marshal all of your emotions in a line
like strands on a loom.
Mine will gladly unravel,
come completely undone beneath a lover’s touch.
As you count the many ways you love her,
my lover will slip into the cold ether of my words
with no idea of where he will emerge.
My poem will confuse and steal love’s breath.
While your stanzas watch from the ground
my lyrics will remember how to fly.
When your brittle story
slumbers beneath the veil of privilege
like dawn slumbers in the memory of dusk,
my story will fall into chaos,
be scattered into nothingness
and begin again.
Try as you might
to fade it out of existence,
I am the statement of Genesis
and my voice will forever be
in the fabric of your cells.
The Poem is by me and the art is by both Courtney and me.