#BlaPoWriMo: FTP

I keep a list of names in my chest pocket

and wear it like a bullet-proof vest.

Trayvon Martin

Sandra Bland

A scroll that writes itself each

time the pigs shout “Hands up!”

Tamir Rice

Philando Castile

Then pull the trigger. It descends

to my feet, lays a path by which

Michael Brown

Walter Scott

I march toward the Capitol steps

to call for justice. I roll it tighter

Eric Garner

Breonna Taylor

The longer it gets. One day it will

be thick enough to block the

Ahmaud Arbery

George Floyd

Bullets when they shoot. But

when that happens, who truly wins?

#BlaPoWriMo: You Never Told Me Goodbye

You never told me goodbye
as you slipped out the stables
we shared with the horses
and cattle just before dawn, 
and the dew on the grass 
dampened the hem of your
skirt. You only left instructions—
The Missus doesn't like her food
to touch. Mister has a Sunday
night ritual he expects you
to follow—You were tight-lipped
on what that was, only that I
should wear loose clothing
that was easy to remove. The
clarity came when he snatched
my wrist as I served him tea.
Now, as I coil in my bed of hay
under the stench of manure, 
I think how much I hate you,
even though I know—It was
never your choice to leave.

#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 Simmons

#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 Simmons


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

#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 Simmons

 

“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 Simmons

 

#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 Simmons

 

#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 Simmons