#ThrowbackThursday Poetry: Together We . . .

What is there left to say? That is the question we must ask ourselves this final week of BlaPoWriMo. Does black poetry/literature still exist today, and if it does, for what purpose? Well, this poem, originally published February 15, 2016, explains why we still need black poetry…

Photo by @createdbyjarrod from nappy.co

Together We . . .

Together we hood our faces,
stuff our pockets with
Skittles and Arizona tea.

Together we lose the air
to our lungs from cigarette
smoke, forearms curled
around our throats.

Together we put our hands up,
surrender to tear gas
and rubber bullets
on evening news.

Together we are body slammed
in bathing suits, flipped
over school desks, strangled
from showerheads, executed
where children play.

Together we pray for peace—
as strangers wave battle
flags, hide assault
rifles behind Bibles.

—Nortina

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#BlaPoWriMo: I met this girl…

I met this girl–skin like polished mahogany, hair like lamb’s wool, lips like plush cushions–she ruined my philosophy of the mad black woman. It is not a frown on her face but a grimace as she holds the weight of every black man who has sat on her back like an ottoman pulled from under the table for guests to rest their feet, have a drink and discuss the politics of the world too sophisticated for a female’s mind, who should know her place in silence when company is around. My heart skips a beat when she finally stands–shows me how tall she really is.

—Nortina


Inspired by Marquessa’s Lyrical Fiction Friday prompt: …I met this girl…she ruined my philosophy…my heart skips a beat when she comes around…

Written for Black Poetry Writing Month (BlaPoWriMo). This year, we’re taking a journey through the different eras of black poetry and history. This week’s era is: Harlem Renaissance

#BlaPoWriMo: Thoughts While Listening to X

Tonya wears jeans three days of the week
when only Fridays are reserved for casual
dress, but who’s checking when half the
office works remote; the rest leave before
five, and I stay behind stretched between
miscellaneous requests and thoughts that
I might have worn the same sweater twice
in one week or that my boots squeak when
I walk to the bathroom as the torn hem to
the only business pants I own that don’t
fit me like slacks drags across the carpet.
In front of the mirror, I stand against the
backdrop of four stalls and pick out my
afro that shrank three inches in the dank
atmosphere below the heating & air vent,
and return to my desk, earbuds plugged,
to fill the silence with the soundtracks of
Black Panther and hope the bald white
man in the corner office who frightens
me like a skinhead with a noose doesn’t
hear Kendrick encourage me too loudly,
Fuck the place up.

—Nortina


Poem inspired by the improvisational characteristics of jazz music and the Black Panther soundtrack that just came out today.

Written for Black Poetry Writing Month (BlaPoWriMo). This year, we’re taking a journey through the different eras of black poetry and history. This week’s era is: Harlem Renaissance

#ThrowbackThursday Poetry: Too Close

We’re into Week 2 of Black Poetry Writing Month, and this week is all about the Harlem Renaissance!

For today’s Throwback Thursday poem, I’m taking you back to BlaPoWriMo’s inaugural year. This poem, originally published two years ago today, was inspired by Harlem Renaissance poet, Countee Cullen’s poem, “Incident,” and it described a similar incident in which I was made aware of my [intimidating…militant…criminal?] blackness…

Photo by @theoptimistdreamer from nappy.co

Too Close

December’s wind gusts
into winter. She clutches
Michael Kors handbag,

pale knuckles pressing
through white skin. She peeks over
her right shoulder, spins

around. You live here?
This your apartment?
she cries.
Yes. I point. Upstairs.

Purse held tightly to
her side, she lets me pass—
Maybe I followed

too close.

—Nortina

#BlaPoWriMo: Work

Work all day under
the hot sun; at night lie still—
until Master comes

Nortina


Written for Black Poetry Writing Month (BlaPoWriMo). This year, we’re taking a journey through the different eras of black poetry and history. This week’s era is: slavery.

#BlaPoWriMo: Great

“The greatest among you shall be your servant.”
Matthew 23:11

Greatness comes when
the heat has all but
killed you when the
shirt is torn off your
back when blood and
sweat mingle inside your
cheek and the crack
of the whip splits
you down your spine…

But still you smile
But still you sing
But still you wait
for the coming of
the King

—Nortina


Many white slave owners made the mistake of presuming their slaves were happy because they sang while doing their work. Little did they know, these negro spirituals were songs of sadness, of suffering; slaves adopting a religion that was forced upon them, and praying for the liberty it promised. 

Written for Black Poetry Writing Month (BlaPoWriMo). This year, we’re taking a journey through the different eras of black poetry and history. This week’s era is: slavery.

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.” Ephesians 6:7-8

#BlaPoWriMo: Auction Block, Chattel No. 4

This one here’s in fine health,
young, got a lotta years in him,
not a mark on his body.
Open your mouth, stick out your
tongue—no loose teeth. Don’t
talk much; won’t stir up no
trouble with the other slaves.
Legs like tree trunks.
Bend over, squat down, trot
ten paces—no sign of lameness.
Squeeze those calves you’ll
break a hand. Thick neck,
strong back, palms like steaks,
can carry twice his weight;
rival any mule or ox. Worth
$1600 to start. Do I hear more?
Sold! To the highest bidder.
Up next . . . Chattel No. 5.

—Nortina


Written for Black Poetry Writing Month (BlaPoWriMo). This year, we’re taking a journey through the different eras of black poetry and history. This week’s era is: slavery.

To learn more about the history of the slave auction, click here.

#BlaPoWriMo: I want to learn to read

I want to learn to read.
Mas’sa say it do no good–
slaves reading–won’t make
me happy. What I gotta be
happy for? Look at Jimmy-boy,
come down from Maryland, him
can read, been mopin’ ’round
here all day, can’t do nothin’.

Him spoiled, that’s him problem,
like all them other house niggas,
never felt the sun burn him back
raw, never had the white man kick
him to him knees when him stop
to catch him breath, never bent
over the cotton, weight of the
day’s pickings slung over him
shoulder, so long him can’t stand
straight when the work done.

I hear Mas’sa say him gon sell
Jimmy-boy to the rice plantation
down south–that’ll whip him into
shape. Me, I stay quiet, meet my weight,
draw letters in the dirt, brush ’em
away fore overseer catch wind.

—Nortina


Written for Black Poetry Writing Month (BlaPoWriMo). This year, we’re taking a journey through the different eras of black poetry and history. This week’s era is: slavery.

Cotton is king – A plantation scene, Georgia. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/8a4595ba-f0f4-4335-e040-e00a18066dc9

 

#BlaPoWriMo: Baby

Slick with afterbirth
is how I remember him–
if a moment can be
counted as a memory–
and Sir bragging that
he bred his finest,
will make him a
fortune, sell for more.

He was out of my arms
before he opened his
eyes, out of the room
before I heard his cries.
The delivery was hard,
I couldn’t move, couldn’t
work any. They let me
alone. I liked that–

For a time.

But it hurt to be still,
and when the milk came,
I had no mouth to feed.
So I got up, went
searching, found you.

You reached for me before
I bent to pick you up,
raised my blouse before
I put your head to my breast,
closed your lips around
the nipple, and I called
you baby. I call you
baby. Until one day
when I call you Sir.

—Nortina


Written for Black Poetry Writing Month (BlaPoWriMo). This year, we’re taking a journey through the different eras of black poetry and history. This week’s era is: slavery.

#ThrowbackThursday Poetry: When Peaches Were in Season

Happy February! Happy Black History Month! Happy Black Poetry Writing Month!

Did I miss any?

Oh, how could I forget? Happy Throwback Thursday!

If you missed the big announcement earlier today, Black Poetry Writing Month (BlaPoWriMo) is back, and this year, we’re taking a journey through the eras of black poetry/literature. 

Quite fitting for a Throwback Thursday, don’t you think?

Every Thursday this month, I’ll be posting one of my poems from a previous BlaPoWriMo challenge that fits with the theme for the week. This week’s theme is slavery. So today, I’m taking you back only a year, to when peaches were in season, and love blossomed, even when tied down by whip and chain…

When Peaches Were in Season

Years later, and I still remember
your ginger hair, red like the sky
before dusk, after the sun has
set behind the cotton fields,
and we’re back in the quarters,
you lying in hay, my face in the
roots of your crown, smelling the
spiced peaches you prepared for
the Missus. One night you snuck
a jar under the folds of your skirt,
and we hid in the balcony above
the chicken coup, slurping the
slimy sweet fruit between cinnamon
crusted fingers, dripping maple
syrup between wood planks into the
den of orange and brown feathers.
It was the only time you ever kissed
me, leaving behind the sticky,
sugary stain between my nose and
upper lip. I never wiped it off.
Not even when Ol’ Whalen tore my
back raw for loving his wench. Not
when he sent me to the driver to
break me. Not when Mama Celia
delivered your baby lighter than
you. No, not even when they sold
you to the rice plantation in South
Caroline, and I watched you dragged
behind the cart in chains, still
swollen from your recent labor, and
when you turned around one last time
to call goodbye, your crying eyes
leaking streaks of blood. But I still
remember your syrupy lips, fastened to
my rough, wiry beard two seconds shorter
than I wanted it to last, the caramelized
peaches squeezed between your teeth,
your copper hair flipped over your
face, a veil to hide your deepest thoughts,
until I parted the spirally locks
and met your stuffed cheeked grin,
oozing cinnamon and maple peach juice
from the corners of your mouth.

—Nortina


Originally published February 14, 2017 for BlaPoWriMo, 2017 — a fortnight of “black” love poetry