Hair Crisis

Fluff up the frizz,
pull down the coils—
I’m torn.
The song tells me
I am not my hair,
but my reflection glares
back, demanding an
explanation—
Why do I think this
…Lion’s Mane…
is appropriate for
the corporate office;
for walking on sidewalks
behind white women
clutching expensive purses;
for PTA meetings about
strict dress codes—bans
against colors red, blue,
bandannas in back pockets,
tank tops whose namesake
promotes domestic violence,
“distracting” hairstyles.
My afro enters the room
before I do; everyone
turns, stares, mouths agape,
the atmosphere freezes;
I float in limbo while
they decide what to call
my hair—
It’s like a hat,
like a firework,
an overgrown bush,
chop it down with shears
with weed whackers,
it’s unkempt, nappy.
It is defiant toward gravity,
stiff under patting hands
molding it into a shape
more tolerable. It is
the fear of militant Negros
fist fighting the Klansmen
buried in their backyards.
It is the severed limbs
of my enslaved ancestors
rising from my scalp,
reaching up, out, catching
freedom in the wind, in
low hanging branches, in
lost Bobby pins that
cannot tame my
ROAR!

—Nortina


wp-1460120669780.jpgIt’s been a while since I’ve written a poem other than a haiku. Since April is NaPoWriMo, I thought I’d work off the rust, draw some inspiration from BlaPoWriMo  (and the almost hair identity crisis I had standing in front of the mirror this morning before work), and write this poem.

February is Black Poetry Writing Month!

Can you believe no one’s thought of this before now? Well, maybe someone has, but I registered the hashtag first, so that officially makes it my idea, right? Should I be copyrighting this?

Excuse me, I’m still a little thunderstruck that lil’ ol’ me just may be the creator of a project that could grow to become as big as NaNoWriMo or NaPoWriMo!

Seriously, no one’s thought of this yet?

Ok, I’m getting a little ahead of myself, so let me backtrack.

February is probably one of my favorite months on the calendar, and it’s not because it’s the most underappreciated month of the year due to its 28 days (29 in a leap year), or because it’s the month of love (quite frankly, I LOATHE Valentine’s Day), nor is it because it’s the month before my birthday (whoop, whoop)!

I love February because it’s Black History Month, and contrary to what people may say, Black History Month is a time for African Americans (and truly ALL Americans) to come together and remember how far we’ve come and how much further we still must go (especially if we want to keep Donald Trump and his fear-mongering hate-speech out of the White House).

During Black History Month, we learn about the brilliant black artists, scientists, activists, philosophers, inventors, abolitionists, teachers, etc. who lead the fight to break the chains of chattel slavery, and paved the way for all African Americans to be something greater— lawyers, doctors, CEOs, the President of the United States! It teaches young black children in the hood and in the suburbs that no matter their circumstances, oppression, discrimination, and prejudice will not hold them back from accomplishing their dreams.

Still, we rise! 

blapowrimo

It would only make sense that a project like Black Poetry Writing Month would accompany Black History Month, as throughout history, poetry has played a major role in bringing the Black Experience to the forefront and in contributing to the advancement of the African American. Think of great poets like Phillis Wheatley, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, Maya Angelou, and so many others.

As an African American writer, I strive to be like the literary pioneers of the generations before me.

Which is why I’m so ecstatic (and also flabbergasted. Seriously, no one has come up with this yet?) to kick off a tradition that I hope will continue for years to come and one day be as popular as NaNoWriMo and NaPoWriMo.

Black Poetry Writing Month (BlaPoWriMo) is a challenge for writers to pen a poem a day during the month of February that focuses on race/Black Experience in America and/or the African diaspora (past or present). You don’t have to be Black to join the movement. Just dip the quill into ink and join the hashtag #BlaPoWriMo!

I’m excited to see the poems you create. I will also be sharing some of my own as well as posting an optional prompt for each day of the month.

Use the hashtag #BlaPoWriMo, and you’ll get a retweet from me! You can also follow me on twitter (@Nortina_Mariela) to get the latest updates and to read the contributions of fellow poets and writers.

Thank you to everyone who decides to participate. Let’s aim to get #BlaPoWriMo trending all month long!

—Nortina

Dankeschön – Thank You; English #frapalymo

Dankeschön.
That’s the only German I know.
Dankeschön.
Grandpa used to say it all the time.
I don’t know where he learned German.
He fought in Korea—
or was it ‘Nam?
Well, he didn’t actually fight;
He cooked for the troops,
but maybe there were a few
West German soldiers in the battalion
who said Dankeschön as he ladled the
goulash into their bowls.

Dankeschön, duspreka.
I don’t know what duspreka means.
Grandpa thinks he’s saying Thank you, miss.
But I don’t have a German to English dictionary
to fact check him, only Google Translate.
For all I know, this whole time, he’s been speaking
four-letter words or gibberish.

And why is any of this important?
Well, I imagine violins playing softly in the background
as I recount some of my fondest memories of my grandpa.
But don’t shed a mournful tear for me—
he’s still alive;
just a silly, old man
who speaks gibberish in German.

—Nortina


frapalymoSo, I wasn’t able to participate in National Poetry Month in April because I was too busy with the A to Z Challenge, which you can read here. And although I did my own version of NaPoWriMo earlier this year, I’ve decided, for the month of May, to join Germany’s version, Frau Paulchen’s Lyrik Monat, which translates to Mrs Paulchens Poetry Month. Thank you, Bee, for inviting us English speakers; or should I say, Dankeschön! 😉

Today’s prompt is “everything goes better with music.” So if you’re interested, head on over to Fooling around with Bee to see what #frapalymo is all about!

SoCS: Decomposed

I awake with feces on my hand.
A decomposed lover lies next to me.

Eyes no life—sliding down
the sides of his face—
stare at me as his bottom
lip juts out and lavender gums
drop canines onto the
excrement-soaked sheets.
His skin clings to the bed
as I roll his body over the edge.

He was alive last night, clamping
his teeth onto my inner thighs,
circling his tongue around my navel,
and lower, lapping me up
until I burst. When he mounted me,
his eyes turned bright green.
Now, they’re gray, falling
from the sockets.

I wipe his sweat from my breasts.
I can’t peel the decayed foreskin inside me.

—Nortina


This is in response to Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Staying in line with the A to Z Challenge, our prompt had to be a word with the prefix “de–.” Extra points for me since my word ended in “–ed”!

Since it’s NaPoWriMo, I decided to give you guys this creepy ass poem. It’s a continuation of a theme I started with another poem that was published in FishFood Magazine earlier this year. I’m thinking about writing a chapbook using this Necro-Lovers theme. What do you think? By the way, I had my 30 days of poetry writing back in January/February with my No Holds Barred Poetry Writing Challenge, so I’m gonna stick to the A to Z Challenge this April. I don’t want to overwhelm myself! 🙂