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 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.
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.
Have heard a mother pray?
Wash her children and anyone else's
in womb wisdom, protection and faith?
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 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.
This society of strong women of unshakeable faith
who cross their fingers and toes hoping the
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
Selected Poems by Natasha Ria El-Scari
(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?
(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.