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x years

after sojourner’s question       hung, in air

met with nervous applause by white women

and quiet murmurs by Black men

Black women were seen as seals

barking our selves to others’ jarred amusements

noisy clappers       tossed the occasional dead fish

never silent, never nourished, never understood:

“ain’t we women?”


ida b. wells sued & won her train seat       (until it lost appeal)

7 decades before rosa sealed hers

she journaled aloud red records of Black pulp bled and smoked

strained fruit hacked from our selves       hung, in air

not content to watch and write, she worked

ida and her fellow club women so roared suffrage

sisterhood and social uplift to distraction

she told susan b. anthony she needed 3 months family leave:

“ain’t ida a woman?”


a bevy of bessies slung our blues

until we heard our selves sealed in jazz’s complications

singing the scattered notes caught       hung, in air

between Black birds singing in the dead of night

broken wings in jagged flight

we rained a séance in harlem

transfixing art and sexuality ’neath zora’s chapeau

and ‘tween josephine’s legs:

“weren’t we women?”


with winks laced in loud laughter, we insinuated our gayness

& marvelous masculinities       at private parties, balls, saloons & salons

passing salty secret selves in story & song

no longer willing to keep all of our lips sealed

believing risking death meant we were still alive

albeit with something to lose

for a deadened soul is simply dead

with nothing ever to breathe:

“we were we, weren’t we?”


so we picked from paths presented

civil rights & Black power for Black men       women’s liberation & equal rights for white women

and pursued our sealed selves in bars under moonlit skies until pig-o-lanterns came to raid

Black machismo snubbed us as race traitors or silenced siphons of labor

white feminists crudely analyzed bits of our burdens for skewed critique

both telling us to wait on them as they weighed on us

preoccupied only with the vertebrae they sat on

neither noting our pain, our breath, nor our souls:

“we…ain’t we.”


my mother-mes sat a spell at the intersections in the seething sun

backs aching and bellies soured on rotted fish

when they noticed like-selves also peering out of shadow & in crossroads

more third world women in need of first world chiropractic care

together deciding, “there’ll be no more clapping for others.  our hands are bloody & numb.

let’s unseal our stories & sound ourselves with kitchen tables as our drums.”

they laughed       screamed       cried       flirted       and sighed

fed truths, torched lies, cradled difference, mirrored lives

as their wombs spun spider eggs

of sisters-trans-brothers-genderqueers-spirits

weaving webs of worlds into the words:

“we ARE.”


alice coltrane’s “turiya & ramakrishna” from the album ptah, the el daoud:  (~ with a doffed cap to the beatles)