Natasha Ria El-Scari is a writer, Cave Canem fellow, 2016 Ragdale Residency recipient and educator for over a decade. Her poetry, academic papers, and personal essays have been published in anthologies, literary and online journals. She has opened for and introduced many great writers, singers and activists, and has been featured at a host of universities and venues nationwide. Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Natasha has a BA from Jackson State University and a MA from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Natasha’s Black Feminist approach is reflected in her writing, poetry and performance pieces. Natasha brings the fire! She is a mother of two awesome children. Once asked in an interview what makes her unique she replied, “…most people lie to themselves, but I like to reveal myself.” In 2015 Natasha released her first book, Screaming Times (Spartan Press, 2015). Of her work, critic and poet Denise Low writes,“Poems lift off the page, almost reading themselves. Unlike some performance poetry, her words translate well to the printed page.” Her CDs, DragonButterFirefly (2006), This is Love…(2010) and DVD Live at the Blue Room (2015) display how Natasha connects with any crowd with maternal warmth and unrelenting honesty.
Ode to the body
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 breathe 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
There is a rumbling
and stuff starts to ruin
fall apart like your favorite kindergarten shirt
like your marriage
like your transmission during the final payment
it all feels like it’s gone.
Your knowing, the ground you stood on?
Have you felt the quake?
That feeling of when Grandma ain’t home?
Mama ain’t home and you are all alone
and you are in the dark and you hear something
breathing on you in one long steamy, funky breath
and the light and the bat feel far from you?
Change doesn’t come bringing flowers
she is a little spicy with it.
Her skirt is too high to wear around your man.
She is bold and brave and laughs with a gap-toothed smile.
She doesn’t apologize for making you uncomfortable.
She sits right next to you and files her nails
with a razor blade and says,
What are you waiting for honey?
You stood on those shaky legs before?
Open that empty cupboard and asked
scared and frozen
Elsa ain’t got shit on you!
Change is a nightrider.
He walks in wearing boots
with his hand behind his back.
He creeps up on you while you are balancing
turds, shit, poop and piss. He says things like,
It gotta do what it do, whatcha waiting on suga’
Beat your thoughts out in Taps
killing the old you, singing funeral songs
of all you thought you were is now gone.
Cats ain’t the only ones with nine lives.
Jesus ain’t the only resurrection.
Kali is riding your ceiling fan saying,
Sister, sister it is your time….
The Secret Life of Black Mothers
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 unshakable 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.
Screaming Times (Spartan Press, 2015)
2016 Ragdale Residency