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Williams, Lorelei

Williams, Lorelei

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Lorelei’s work has been recognized through fellowships from the Breadloaf Young Writer’s Conference and the New York Foundation for the Arts.  She has performed throughout NYC and globally.  Lorelei’s writings have appeared in Essence Magazine, Meridians Journal on Feminism, Race and Transnationalism, and African Voices – and in the anthologiesBe the Dream (Algonquin Books); Beyond the Frontier: African-American Poetry for the 21st Century (Black Classic Press); Cave Canem III (Black Classic Press); Daddy Can I Tell You Something (Sela Press); and Guerreras y Cimmaronas(University of Houston Arte Publico Press).  Lorelei earned a B.A. from Yale University in Political Science/African American Studies and a Masters Degree in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Maroon Woman

Run child past knives whips chains rape. Sold South. Don’t know your real name. Nor birth date.  Sound of shame form in your mouth when your love come see how they did you.  So now he gone help you run.  Come Sunday new moon he say.  Lie low now love.  Let your ache sleep.

He lay her down in the secret place.  Rest her ‘tween cat gut and hambone.  Drum skin.  Catch the bloody holler in her neck with his tongue.  His love echo in her bruised bone.  His string strum staccato trip into her rough hewn-blood hued life.  He moan low hum and come into her like new light.  A blues balm to soothe her open wound.  He try to make her new.  After.  She sleep heavy like stone-stunned sinner.  Love.  We got to run he say. Stare at her sweet face all night long.  Four teeth broke from master boot.  He still like her smile.  Don’t taste her dirt.  Keep watch.  Don’t sleep.  When she wake, he gone.  Leave his scent in her undone hair.

Nine days on his call come.  A crow’s cry before sunrise.  She run past big house past master snore sound.  Leave food for him to eat and die.  Run from her child’s pale face.  Don’t look back at what she did.  Run past cane field shoeless one blue dress. Whip ripped flesh still raw from when she birth master baby last month. Run.  North star battle-axe crow cry.  No moon light.  This night good girl.   Run, he say.  Hold out his hand.

She creep through trees with him.  They heed star sign birdcall night sky.   Breathe slow.  Lie low.  Run.  Don’t stop.  Don’t sleep.  North star to new home hard road.  Ten days times ten.  Food gone.  Gut ache.  Mean sun.  Heart ache.  Run.  Rain.  Dog chase.  Run.  His leg snap.  Snag skin on branch rag rope his skin a flag but he never let go her hand.  She breathe for him when he can’t no more.  Fight the urge to die with him.

Fortnight moon rise.  She rise from grief.  Walk.  Crawl.  Four days more times five.  Long gone.  Cross line.  New land.  She kneel and pray.  Sing.  Cry.  Breathe deep.  Deep breath.  New home up North.  Not safe, but home.  Not his.  Her own.  And free.


Identity

I don’t want to be
nobody’s poet-tree
no sorry song
no mystery
no Billie’s blues
no one drop rule
no rebel muse

Stop caging me
I am my own
simple selves

every one
and no one
you know
at all.

Stranger in the Village

Standing in your same skin
Mr. Baldwin I want
to open your buddha eyes
in my skull
and clothe myself
in your spirit.

Ride your sorcerous tongue
that thunders
with hallelujahs
and homecomings
until the holy ghost
sets me back down on my feet.

Will you help me build a shelter
for my soul with
your confessional palms
and testify to blue eyes
that my tears
are not exotic?

Why I am afraid

Because I will not bleed again
Because I remember too much
Because this tattoo stings
Because he will never be man enough
Because I love him anyway
Because there’s another cunt on his tongue
Because I swallow
Because I have no mask, no umbrella
Because my skin is stretching tighter
Because my belly is full of silverfish
Because the ghosts cough in my blood
Because the birds keep bringing babies
Because I do not want to be a mother yet
Because my amens echo
Because my hands do not obey
Because he will go to war
Because I will be pregnant at the funeral
Because his bones won’t walk me home
Because my eyes are dry
Because this water breaks
Because I do not know how it ends


Diaspora Daughter

I am from steel pans, cow bells, and Mighty Sparrow
police sirens and Greek siren songs.

I am from the Ivy League, Yale Rep and Harvard Yard
from the Hudson, Charles, Nile, and Amazon
I am from projects, penthouses, crack dens. Park Avenue
from Harlem before it was “No-Ha”
Lenox Ave. before it was Malcolm X Boulevard

I am from scholarships, thrift stores and Fayva shoes.
I am from nerdom, talking white, lost and found, never-fit-in-blues.
I am from Mike & Ikes, sorrel and plaintain
from roti and black eyed peas, callalloo and collard greens.

I am from “you mus’ have a trade’ and “Mama looka booboo dey.”
I am from “A sweet honey way out of no way.”
I am from Black River, Treasure Beach. Calabash Bay.
I am from Grandma Edna, the Trenchtown sage.
I am from Mama Liz, Mama’s Mama I never knew.
I am from Nanny of the Maroons.
I am from minha abecoada mae Oxum.

I’m the invisible woman in the Holy Trinity.
I am from politics, prayer and prophecy.
I’m from altar calls and midnight psalms.
From Riverside. Refuge. Olive oil balms.
I’m from Biblical blues batuques preaching the good news.

I’m from Big Mama. Rev. Mo. Dot Mom. Iya-Mi
I am the branch of the seed of the root of the tree
Creation is re-created in my cellular memory
The slave, the maid, the merchant marine
The diva, the hustler, the healer, the fiend
All have lent their DNA to me.

I am from Salvador da Bahia, Port-au-Prince, Haiti,
from Brixton, Kingston, Nairobi, New Orleans.
I am the ancestor’s bones beneath the Atlantic Sea.

I am no child of Uncle Sam, I don’t believe in the American Dream
I am from the never Promised Land. Still fighting to get free.
I am a Diaspora Daughter, still fighting to get free.