Thursday, November 8, 2012

Tuesday Poem: an earlier version published by The Nerve: Writing Women of 1997 from Virago Press

Romare Bearden's "In The Garden"

Sunny in the Cotton Field
looking distant as she bends
to rest the heavy sack on the ground.

Why’s Sunny so dreamy today ?

Her look so far away: probably
back at the house where her baby
cries and nobody’s picking him up.

Sunny’s arms ache, her breasts gone dry
so baby can feed while she’s away.

What is Mama thinking?
Sitting out on the porch, dozing off
when she should be inside.

Sunny Dark Chocolate
Sweet, uh-huh. That’s what she says to herself
when a little white girl on the bus
points her finger, pale as a maggot, at Sunny,
says Look, Mama. Look. 
A lady made of chocolate!

Then the bus goes all 
shamed and silent,
for a heartbeat or two, 
but it’s enough to give
Sunny an ache in her neck, 
from holding her head up
as she lowers herself 
out the back door.

Sunny Tough Hands
from pulling that soft white stuff
out of claws that hold it tight.

Nothing white without a price.
Jim Crow’s told her that, in how many ways?

As soon as she had ears to hear and eyes to see.

Sunny Too Fat
made her brothers laugh,
say her butt quivers
like the skin that holds the river in.

Right, she said.
And if you don’t stop pinching
and brushing past me
I’ll throw myself in there,
and wash away for good!

Ssss, Sunny, come on, 
sit down with me
Mama putting the plates out, 
just two of them,
for biscuits and honey 
and chamomile tea.

Mama always so good at fixing things:
the miserable din of her brothers,
the dogs, the fields receding
in a hum of pleasure,
the two of them drunk like bees.

Sunny Like A Tree
breaks the blue horizon
stuck in the red dirt of this place,
and reaching up to heaven
with pleading limbs.

Well, not really.
She wouldn’t get very far doing that,
what with the bag dragging behind her,
that won’t go filling itself.

But once in a while she looks up
and that big old leafless thing
seems to be on fire as sun sinks into night.
She imagines it calling through God’s thin ether,
telling Him : Look here, Lord.
Is this all you made us for?
When will you put things right?

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