The Sacred Assignment Called Mother

(from Screaming Times)


You are God's hand on Earth,

one swoosh of what you do

is the miracle. 

You are...


You birth from your mind to your body, 

give comfort to something greater, 

the fairy dust of duty lives on us 

as we creep or sleep. 

You see...


To be mother is to be God in skin.

Your ecosystem of love prevails 

when you nourish us from one week 

to the next, birth us only to save us,

only to release us to the winds. 

You do...


Have heard a mother pray? 

Wash her children and anyone else's 

in womb wisdom, protection and faith? 

You make...


Momma's prayers excavate us 

from muck and douse us clean 

with her syrupy words—whole again.



The Secret Life of Black Mothers

(from Screaming Times)


No indictment no peace

Oh the feeling of when you don't 

even have a poem in your heart. 

Just jumbled sounds and letters, 

a mother's scream, glass breaking, 

misguided warriors rationalizing 

on both sides and the eyes of babies 

who watch us bumble around the truth. 



With each milestone to manhood, we weep. 

Each time you grow an inch, we weep, 

an extra whisker course and pronounced, we weep, 

the new bass in your resonating voice, we weep, 

the muscle in your mind you flex in wit and insight, we weep.


We weep when we hear you'd rather live overseas 

than to die right here at home by the hands

of some careless, loveless blue man.


We weep.

We black mothers weep

when we know we have to release 

you to the movies with your friends

while reviewing the strategies to avoid harassment 

when all you really want to do is hold hands 

with the cutie and kiss in the dark 

during the action scenes and rolling credits.


In the quick and secret part of us

we black mothers weep

knowing there is no milestone

or achievable end to when we can let go of our fears.

We weep as you dress in your armor of duck feathers,

waxed backs to slide negative media off you

Your momma knows it's not being nonchalant, it's fatigue,

I wear it too in my private tears;

exhaustion from the constant exercise 

of proving yourself to the careless bullets 

of micro aggressive everything.


We weep.

This society of strong women of unshakeable faith 

who cross their fingers and toes hoping the 

right neighborhood 

right friends 

right school 

right clothes

right diction 

will somehow make you less of a threat to a fool. 

A blue fool, a life-taking fool. 

No one is safe around a fool.


We pray inaudible prayers when 

we look into your eyes while smacking 

with the sweetness of a 15 year old morning kiss. 

We even demand that God say something 

out loud to scare those monsters away 

those who hide in the unknown numbers 

that call our phones with the news….


We black mothers 

of the Secret Society of Constant Fret

weep for our sons,

we wail at the news of names that could be yours

flashing across the screen like they knew those those babies,

our babies, who wailed with us as they entered to take on this flesh called 

black and male and young and dangerous and suspicious and monster!!

We weep for our sons

and mourn for our daughters 

who will be mothers 

joining on the inhale 

our secret lives of breath holding.


Ode to the body

(from Screaming Times, first appearing in Southern Humanities Review) 


I know thee well. 

I know thee from the first suckle

of my mother's breast. 

I know thee through the wind 

and rain--sleet that cuts like ice upon me. 

I know thee posing as wood, rock or metal, 

sap secreting to geyser gush between 

soft and softest like thick water. 

I know thee well!


You, I pray to, give up 

good choices to feed you. 

You, I know and worship! 

How can I ask you to wait 

when you are cold and shivering, 

when you need covering 

from the storm of loneliness?

You must be fed by hand, 

pressure, jaw and back. 

Cut the air with your sickle shapes 

we make in the moon with howl

the way you breath with midnight

when you sing with yourself

you won’t wait on any one any thing


Oh, this flesh has led me 

to the many places... 

This flesh, this flesh dances 

to the flesh for more of itself.

Mirrors that face each other 

and dance, trances in bump 

and beats, sloosh, smoosh 

and smack this flesh! 


All we have to call us human!

All we have of mush and mash

that delegates our day,

separates us from those 

we love.


Selected Poems by Natasha Ria El-Scari

Love Knot

(from The Only Other)


When I was a girl I sat on hot cement 

steps and let the sun warm my thighs.


I rolled in the grass and searched for 

four-leaf clovers until the sun set.


I come from a long line of women

slave and free, women who sometimes


married more than once, shed

any layer that didn’t serve them. But


I am strangled, voiceless in his 

love, yet this constriction is not my natural


order. Another’s other. The one who swallows

when she won’t. Why do I unhinge?


Pray to never return. Pray to wear

new skin, year after year. 

Where did I learn this snake-like life— 

hiding in plain view?

Purgatory Prayers

(from The Only Other)


Oh lover, stay exactly where you are,

bosomed in the sanctity 

of your shared emptiness.  Return there, 

clean and dry with scentless soap

on your face and privates.

Go there, in ease and peace my love.


Oh man, only bring the truth of your stroke, 

the line in your brow when pleasure comes,

the quick turn in rhythm before I want it to end.


Oh bed, hold your perfume of pleasured flesh

on Saturday mornings. Keep the dresser drawers 

and heart empty, hope only the stanzas will last

longer than the time between the next visit.


Oh heart, must you always give away your secrets?

Must you pump the blood into my singing throat

when he appears. He is not the only one who betrays.

You wild thing, playing all your cards,

flushed and relentless—dancing with the rhythmic hips

that consume flesh. You are a sweet mess.


Oh time, must you tick each second?

Must you rush your minutes again

when it seems he only arrived milliseconds

ago? Hours must have traded places with your second hand.

The dealer of fate is slick on this table,

I gamble only to lose to the lady of the house.