R A C H E L L A U R E N S T O R M
The Gendering of Cotacachi
With each fragmented patch of earth,
that Andean sun-god catches her step
until she is falling beneath the dung,
toward the mud fence at the foot of
her curves; this mountain her homeland.
A mother, that hushed story-teller,
whispered to wide-eyed babes,
the aged myths of the mountain.
Mass of sullen earth had appeared
to dreaming men as woman, blonde
and pigeon-toed; her deformities most
captivating to those sleeping groins.
Come rest heavy hips, spread-eagled, sighing, cushioned both under, while your plastic sweat drips down metal rims. Come open your legs dear, so the doctor can see, where pink skin drapes and moves, under wooded crowns where leaves gasp- like you had when, he’d been river through you. Come breathe deeply while we prod, fingers in silken sea waves inching forward even now, though your dress lies in a pile, like a still bird from your womb and my ear by your belly can hear its whistle and purr. Come tighten your thumbs and respire, as my palms consider your breasts, and tire from this young voyage, toward my pockets lined and buried amid the nickels and your name, If only it weren’t a crime, to look longingly at open thighs deep and wide and beg that tremble.
V I C T O R I A T H O M P S O N
Love letter to Troy
you mistake me. I am not kind. I will not crawl amid the river reeds to pull you white winged and wet from the bloated waters. I am not kind. All of your feathers will pull away, edge off, like pebbles spilled from bluffs.
Speaking of Helen
Listen, what I want to say is I’ve seen long necked swans on swollen rivers that have broken the arms of men. And I’ve heard tell of Romans, who dropped lead pearls into their bowls of wine. Not because they didn’t know the look of death but because they liked the taste of it. Listen, what I mean to say is that beauty is not the truth you’re looking for. That Helen has always had a hollow heart And that you, little dove, do not.
T I F F A N Y B O W D E N
. . . For a Dark Skinned Girl
He said: You’re pretty cute
. . . for a dark skinned girl
And I almost smiled
And ran to the nearest mirror to take in the moment,
But it had come to me as loaded as a revolver pointed
square at my face.
My beauty had been qualified by a brother within my
Who stopped to pay tribute once he had gotten close
enough to my face to distinguish my features
I had blended in with the darkness of the room so he
had to get close, just to be sure.
And when he did, he smiled.
And I almost smiled back
But I knew I had failed.
And I wanted to take the brown paper bag that he had
tested me with from his mind
And hyperventilate in it as the room closed in around
And I watched as he invited the girl whose skin
reminded me of carefully churned butter
And as her hair swung hypnotically above her waist
I know he fantasized about how pretty their children
How pretty and curly their children’s hair would be.
Their “good” hair
With skin like sweet caramel.
Careful not to pass down anymore melanin than was
As a matter of selective evolution.
But even so,
He looked back at me and smiled.
And I almost smiled back
But I couldn’t get over the question:
With admirers like you, who needs oppressors?
Caught up in music video fantasies
Where ethnicity + mystery = commodity and anything
And I knew that if I could have looked a little more
A little more Indian
A little more Puerto Rican or
Anything else but like a little dark skinned girl,
I would have held his attention.
And he wasn’t so bad. Wasn’t so arrogant, for a light
And did I mention I almost smiled?
Because I did
But my bliss was broken by the tint of my skin.
And I couldn’t figure out if I was too much of a
Or not enough hoe
To be simply greeted as a woman,
A beautiful woman just for a woman’s sake.
Not to be trapped in the “dark skinned box.”
Couldn’t help wondering if I was just a jigaboo with
a nicely chosen lipgloss.
B R I A N N A W A L K E R
A Five-Figure Wedding
A five-figure wedding, a drama of romance.
Three different forks, two knives and a spoon
for every guest. It will not do to eat with just one fork.
Here are the evenly spaced place settings,
here is the dove cage, ready for release,
here are the crystals of champagne,
dripping cold as the bride and groom.
A forest wedding, their marital dreams.
Crystals and candles and rings of gold.
‘More wine!’ he snarls as I take away his plate,
and I nod, clinical and sober with a smile to boot.
A blessed break, some time to sit.
Across the wood a song sparrow sings–
Song sparrow, song sparrow, teach me how to sing,
sing a song for working women, sing a song for me.
Fly to the tree stump where I sift the dying earth.
I came here once and planted my corn,
row after row of raging, vital corn.
But this was so many years ago even I cannot remember.
And now the stalks have wilted
and the earth is acidic as a stomach knot.
No life has grown here in years,
and the sparrow’s song is lost among the doves.
The doves in a row like bleached teeth
in the salivating earth. Their coos and caws
around me like an old damp cloak.
Shoo doves, shoo. Make room for the sparrow’s song.
I want it between my fingers, I want it in my hair,
I want fertile ground, I want to plant my corn,
but I must pour your wine, bride and groom.
Your wedding has spread over the fertile ground like a veil.
Lift for the kiss, spread it with mulch.
Try and try, but corn will never grow here again.