4.4 Sweet Moses Lune

My thighs are a sea

& all you need do is bring

Down your divine staff



In Kentucky you can be a Black girl & not know it. You sleep next to

this instrument of control, it be patrolling you through the night & you

don’t even be trying to run away. You have no idea. It be tucked in a chest

or in your night terrors, between your great-grandmother’s blankets in a

drawer with her thimbles & thread & dead white poems. Don’t think

your grandfather won’t pull it out & show it to you, lay it across your

arms, gift you its weight & crime. Do you believe me? What if I told you

he said its name be Justice? Would that be too much? Or if I said he be

the only man your childhood saw hauled away in cuffs, paled & liver-

spotted & still in his limbs, sharp enough to fold into the back of a cruiser?

You & this weapon of defense—the only two Blacks ever

allowed in the house. & at night he be singing you to sleep

while it sit invisible sentry-like out of sight. He be humming hymns:

I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses & knowing

how much blood that bat has seen & whose. He be loving you undercover

& every night be a prayer: him saying one for your father’s split open head

& you saying one for your father’s whole face in front of you. Bullying

a Lucifer-shaded boy’s head is what it’s was made for he say, your papaw,

while you hold it & you won’t know enough about yourself to understand

the cannibal nature of chewing on these words, with no riot inside you.

No baton twirling in the air of your stomach. No notice of the wizards &

their wands inside your nightmares. You be closed-eye & it be there, Black

as a thing it mean to beat.

4.2 “SUBMIT”

or treat doubt like a ghost: pretend you don’t see it, attend it’s funeral.

          humble yourself before a man you see god in, let his hands vine your neck

& your body crumble inside his grip; tender away the blood beating

          in your ear by bending over, bowing away from the muscle, putting your wide

open into the ether; drop your heart to the back of your knees; un-cavern

          your anima; let praise crawl through your lungs & lie down before an altar

of heavy hands; offer your purple, your thick middle, be consumed; or outlive

          your own ash, or surrender; or say thank you for the pain, the fall, the release

of animal inside yourself; spread for the moonless black of him, be eclipsed

          or swallowed; swallow the entire night & hold it in your throat as vocal

memory; throw it at god in the form of a holler; teach broken gods how to drop

          rain; or give up a tear, or a prayer into a neck; free your skin by being bound

up in another’s; or be split open, then bloom; or come hard into the air

          of a mouth; collect all fear from your spine & turn it to spell; be soft, cream,

be quiet; breathe out from between your legs, from a place there is not a good

          enough name for; otherworld your body, otherworld his body; enter hurt &

joy, erratic rapture on command; loose all feeling into the wine of another spirit;

          throne yourself on your knees.


            spent of fuel, they detach and fall away

your hurt is a story

you tell without opening

          your mouth.

          look at yourself

          how you tell it

so often too much to anyone,

          how your neck

          blooms open &

          your shoulders

weep in any kind of place—

          a Friday city sidewalk

          a midnight, a train

          a warm-lit bedroom full

          with your own name.

your assailants in bits

           are lodged in

           your bones

           & teeth & you chew

           on them daily

the one you want

          to love can know

          how to escape you

          by entering

          your mouth.


how can anyone fall

          for a face

          that tells secrets

          no one wishes

          to know?

& strangers always making something

simple of your pain:


          at your wrists

          letting go

          in pools


          at how you

          breathe over &

          over again


          your eyes

          begging in circles


i don’t know how to be kept

they spill. & you tell this story so often

          you open

          your mouth

          without ever

          being asked