Benediction for Black Madonna

I’m stopping by briefly to share this work I turned in to my poetry workshop last semester. This poem is related to my thesis, but as usual, I can’t give more details than that because it feels like bad luck (?) to share information about something that is still so…scattered. I feel very protective of my project, and it’s not because I think I’m Beyoncé on some surprise album drop type of thing, because who am I??? (Ok maybe a little bit Beyoncé *twirls in Lemonade yellow*) Still, I’ve only talked about this work in detail with a few people. I cringe a little when people make definitive “when it’s done” statements, or when someone says, “Oh I told so-and-so about your work and they think it’s really cool!” I get that excitement can be contagious, but talking about it too much out loud before it’s anywhere close to ready feels a little like testing fate.

***

Blackmadonna
The Black Madonna of Częstochowa is often used to represent Erzulie Dantor, a Haitian lwa and patron of mothers, women who have suffered abuse, and queer women. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Erzulie Dantor slides off an altar in Jérémie and falls into a seat at a bus stop in Dorchester. Blue chiffon and bluer water solidify into metal iced over and stinging to the thigh. She leaves behind houses flattened like matchboxes, like old photographs pressed between the pages of an address book with phone numbers long faded, like luxury car tires over desperate land.

sleet tapping on the bus window ke-ke-ke-ke

She has unraveled herself from linen headwraps and skirts, and now feels pinched in a too tight brown coat missing the top button she fidgeted away. White ruffles and bare stomping feet turn to dry ankles dusted with grey and jutting out of black bedroom slippers, dragged to tatters by hostile ground.

bones protesting when she tries to rise up ke-ke-ke-ke

She has teeth cracking ‘til they splinter far back in her jaw, the dagger in her heart shifting deeper into the muscle with each hacking cough. She runs her fingers over memories of battle, over tender skin of women à Louisiane, Ouidah, Dzelukoƒe, over Earth’s plates never to come together again.

words won’t come with tongue undone ke-ke-ke-ke

Erzulie Dantor

Patron of the sensual and the broken

Toujours en tort

Que la Déesse te bénisse.

 

 

3 thoughts on “Benediction for Black Madonna

  1. Reblogged this on she who writes reality and commented:

    ” The immigrant artist shares with all other artists the desire
    to interpret and possibly remake his or her own world. So
    though we may not be creating as dangerously as our forebears—though
    we are not risking torture, beatings, execution,
    though exile does not threaten us into perpetual silence—
    still, while we are at work bodies are littering the streets
    somewhere. People are buried under rubble somewhere. Mass
    graves are being dug somewhere. Survivors are living in makeshift
    tent cities and refugee camps somewhere, shielding their
    heads from the rain, closing their eyes, covering their ears, to
    shut out the sounds of military “aid” helicopters. And still,
    many are reading, and writing, quietly, quietly.”

    “Create dangerously, for people who read dangerously. Th is
    is what I’ve always thought it meant to be a writer. Writing,
    knowing in part that no matter how trivial your words may
    seem, someday, somewhere, someone may risk his or her
    life to read them.”
    -Edwidge Danticat, from “Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work.”

    Today the news broke that *someone*’s president has decided to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nearly 60,000 Haitian people who have been building lives in the United States since the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. I have a strong aversion with opening up thoughts with statistics, mainly because I find it easy to unsee each important and individual human life when they are presented to you as marks on a graph. When the earthquake hit, I was still in high school in Ghana, and the only other information I knew about Haiti was the story of Toussaint L’Ouverture’s triumph over French colonial rule, recounted in my history teacher’s booming voice. I didn’t yet know that I would spend most of my time in graduate school tracing links and fractures in that story from my own Ewe people in Ghana and Togo, and our Beninoise cousins (?) to Haiti and Louisiana. I didn’t yet know that the more I would read and study and listen, the more I would find reasons to quit writing and do something else. What use can my stories possibly do, when the people I claim to care so deeply about, those to whom I’m trying to draw closer in my clumsy cobbling together of folklore, vodou and favorite foods, are being targeted all the time for daring to exist, for continuing to choose life where death was the pre-selected destination. These questions have been chewed over and crumpled up into balls of waste paper for as long as writers have sat alone in rooms in need of airing, in the back of clothing stores between shifts, on freezing park benches, trying to write because they had something vital to add to the world. Edwidge Danticat’s words say to me, “write anyway.” I have reached a point where I must resolve to stop turning always back to my self in this way, what does it mean for *me* to do this, who says *I* can, etc. The best I can do is write my care and concern for all of these Black people across diaspora, those I know personally and those I love only from afar, into my work. The best I can do is to bear witness, to keep looking and to turn my readers heads to look to, even when we are inclined to look away. The best I can do is accompany my imagining and writing with direct actions that may take a little less time than it does to edit a novel; calling or faxing whichever government official I need to contact (dubious results?) giving up time and money as often as I can, impressing upon my students just how high the stakes have always been, not just “now more than ever.”

    The UndocuBlack Network (http://undocublack.org/) and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (http://baji.org/) are two organizations working persistently for justice for Black immigrants. Please visit their sites to learn how you can contribute to this cause in time or financial means, and to find out about direct actions and rallies that they organize.

    “There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.” -Toni Morrison

    Like

  2. 1) girl i feel you as far as not talking about things/blessings until they’re actually in existence (i feel like this is an African thing??). even after submitting my undergrad thesis + getting an award i still have not shared it with anyone besides my parents.

    2) thank you for writing this beautiful piece. i am always interested and in awe at how deep and resilient our diaspora links run.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was *just* having a conversation about keeping good news close to your chest with my mum today…it’s so real. It stresses me out so much when people want to be excited for me when I’m not ready, even when i know they mean well! Thanks for reading love and for your kind feedback! I’ve spent most of grad school tracing these links, and have loved every second.

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