She Who Comes with Her Own Things | Kristiana Colón
        for ntozake :: a prologue

We were in the clearing
a tangle of ex-slaves
having church or telling lies
barefoot in the dust.
I thought I saw your silver nose ring
catch the sun and beckon
through the crowd.

Menfolk sat on tree stumps
drinking lemonade and slapping knees,
Is he your soldier? Is he your lover, your rapist?
Black feet stomped the grass flat
and I saw your swirl of colors
winding to the drums
Are these your fathers?
Your ankles were fleabitten and wrapped
in bells.

The colored children picked up your rainbow ribbons
and wound them round the maypole
So many black bodies with loudly beating hearts
and tambourines.
I saw you dancing
I wanted to ask you questions
but was ashamed to interrupt,
your head back, your eyes closed
your golden braids bouncing gainst your shoulder 
blades and your poems tied in bright scarves
swaying round your waist.

Shug Avery stepped up on a tree stump
and started singing blues.
Half-braided women watched
and picked their scalps.

and you weren’t even startled
when I tugged at the ragged hem
of your patchwork skirts.
I asked you to show me the ghost
of the soldier and you said come on
as if I had just asked you to show me
the ladies room. 

We squeezed through the bodies
packed liked a parade
breathless smiles and throaty songs
You smelled of talcum and patchouli 
loose breasts pressed against my back
thrusting me through the throng, the carnavale
It was a revival, it was an orgy, juneteenth
and somewhere he was crouching
still waiting for an all clear
for the sound to come back to his ears
Is he your soldier? 
Your lover? Your monster?

We waded through the sweating torsos
Over the tops of heads I saw Shug’s voice 
fluttering to the feet 
of her wide-eyed, wet-lipped admirers
like dollar bills.
And then you were gone.

I wanted to call after you
but your name is too sacred for a scream
and you wouldn’t hear me anyway
over the tapestry of sound
old men with smiling beards
pounding the taut hides of djembes
women with maracas and hymnals
and Shug Avery’s blues 
and all the clapping hands
of every black child that ever was

A smear of gold glinted 
between the necks of breathless black boys
your braids lashing all that stepped too close
and you weren’t even startled
when I lowered my eyes and tugged
the colored scarves swaying at your waist
I asked you to show me the ghost of the soldier
and you said come on

This time I did not let go
to the rainbow tied in scarves
swirling around your skirts.
You took me to him.
He was crying in the shade
away from all the singing.
Is he your monster? Your valentine?
You shook him awake from the sobs
and demanded he shake my hand. 

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commentary | poetry | fiction | chicago | winter 2008  
Single Life #8 | Amy Groshek 
Parallel Conservatory | Clare Kirwan
Old & Strong  |  Robert Gibbons
Crow | Ramesh Avadhani
Driving Ninety | Mark Spencer
With Her Own Things | Kristiana Colón
Story of a Hall Porter | Edward Mc Whinney
The Halcyon Days of War | B.E. Hopkins
Three Stories | Laurence Davies

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