I was at a Slam Poetry workshop the other day with Cyndey Edwards. As a prompt to get us writing poetry, she share Patricia Smith’s poem “What it’s Like to be a Black Girl (for those of you who aren’t).” Take a look at the poem below.
First of all, it’s being 9 years old and
feeling like you’re not finished, like your
edges are wild, like there’s something,
everything, wrong. it’s dropping food
coloring in your eyes to make them blue and suffering
their burn in silence. it’s popping a bleached
white mophead over the kinks of your hair and
priming in front of the mirrors that deny your
reflection. it’s finding a space between your
legs, a disturbance in your chest, and not knowing
what to do with the whistles. it’s jumping
double dutch until your legs pop, it’s sweat
and vaseline and bullets, it’s growing tall and
wearing a lot of white, it’s smelling blood in
your breakfast, it’s learning to say fuck with
grace but learning to fuck without it, it’s
flame and fists and life according to motown,
it’s finally have a man reach out for you
then caving in
around his fingers.
What I enjoy the most about this poem is that it reads like a ‘how-to’ guide and is instructional as well as personal. Here’s the prompt so you can write your own poem and share it with others!
First, we created a list of ways we identify. My list included everything from being asexual and homoromantic, to being a tea lover and a comic book reader.
From that list, we generated our own “What it’s like to be a [blank]”. The idea behind writing this poem is for us to define ourselves and claim ownership our identities and experiences.
Below is my first draft of “What It’s Like to be Asexual and Love Women.”
It’s not a Freudian lack no
Penis envy but a
Filling like the dentist’s
Hands inside your mouth the whir of
Metal drilling into bone under
Gum and enamel so your teeth grow
Strong so you grow strong.
Drink your tea.
Fill those silent mornings evenings wondering
How long can Single last
Before your Aunt, your Grandfather, the dentist (who
Goes to your Synagogue), the airport security agent begins
Where your man is
(maybe) where your woman is
And why you want to shear your
Hair to your scalp and
are you gay and
“a little” does not answer
Cannot provide sustain the
Fullness that is romance