A Rape Victim’s Memory

She knows there are some things
a body must forget

like the feel of a stranger’s hand
prying knees apart like a stubborn door
whose hinges scream out for oil

or the rancid smell of breath brushing her neck,
presenting a string of overused curse words
to be placed about her neck like a cheap necklace

or the pressure of a foot placed on her bed
after a window was jimmied open as if though there was
no mother to caution against such childishness

or the feel of calloused hands
laying across her mouth and
the taste of the screams she was forced
to swallow

or the urge to vomit, her throat contracting
as the muted screams scratch against her throat,
something trying to come up
the screams or yesterday’s dinner

or the incessant wondering how he
could fail to translate the hatred she knew
lived behind her gaze – She refused to close
her eyes, wanted him to see her falling apart

or how each thrust felt like a violent ripping apart
of her body, ripping flesh from bone

will she ever be able to forget
any of those things that it’s necessary to forget
or will she continue to carry them along
behind her like a name she never learned
to form her lips to utter

Peace & Love,
Rosalind

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Free

She learned silence
in the womb of
her mother’s screams

Becoming invisible
wasn’t hard
when no one wanted you
to exist. She became
proficient at
making herself small
around people she loved
because she learned love
was quiet & unassuming
like her daddy,
existing in the lining of
the life he created
from his cotton candy dreams.

That’s what he called it.
Cotton candy, sweet
at first.

So like him
she settled for
existing in places
where no one could
see her. Just one of
the lies she told
herself.

Then one day
she met a man
cuz that’s what happens
in a love story–
boy meets girl–
& this is a love story
in a way.

This man was intrigued
by her silence, he knew
there were stories in her
just waiting
to break free.

But a prisoner don’t hardly
know how to be free.
And she’d become a prisoner,
locked away in the fear
that if she ever spoke
loud enough to be heard
she’d start screaming too
like her mother.

And she couldn’t remember
a time when she
didn’t want to be
anything but
like her mother.

So she kept silent
No matter how
that man who loved her
tried to free her
she refused to be set free

Cuz a prisoner don’t hardly
know how to be free.

So that man, he
had no choice but
to buy his own freedom, but
he dropped the key
by the door of her cell,
even though
the door stood wide open
& he walked away.

So you see this is
sort of a love story
because there are stories
where love is an emotion
but just not enough
to buy freedom
cause freedom ain’t
always free &
a prisoner don’t hardly
know how to be free

Peace & Love,
Rosalind

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The Phone Call

She thinks,
I wonder if her knew
before he left.
I mean,
did he have any idea
before he left the house
that day.

Did he know
that he would murder
a mother’s soul,
an unknowing mother
who always knew?

With that one phone call
two people ceased breathing.

Ma’am I have some very bad news.”

A hashtag.
A headline.
That’s what my son
had become, she thinks.
Even though
I raised him to
be a man.

Who decided the best
way
to let a mother know
her only son has died
was a phone call?

Did They not know
that a mother prepares,
especially a black mother,
for that call to come
one day?
From the day she holds
her baby boy
in her arms–
how she longs
to hold him in her arms–
forever.

And now this detached voice
on the phone,
delivers words like a hail of bullets
with no escape.
Maybe if she refuses to speak,
refuses to hear
the words that have been
a throng of silent whispers
echoing in her head
since the day he was born,
maybe then
the pain now coursing through
her heart will
go away.
She can refuse to hang up;
she will hold the receiver
with a grip that refuses to
let go,
like she couldn’t do
her brown skin,
brown-eyed son.

Holding this voice hostage,
refusing to accept
the barrage of bullets
to her soul, she
wonders if her son
already knew.
She wonders
Did she say ‘I love you’
enough?
Did she teach him
how to die gracefully?
She taught him to read
taught him the ABCs
They struggled through
lessons he needed,
stuff he’d need
for the rest of his life like
how to tie his shoes.
And struggled through
math too.

But did she teach him
how to see
his own blood
pour from his body
but not to panic
not to react
just to die gracefully
like the man
he’d never be?

The thought pricks her memory
and she picks up the burden,
shoulders grief ensconced in
remembering.
She forgot to remind him
that the air of mystery
surrounding him
could be
mis—taken for
a weapon and
the knee jerk
reaction
of some racist
neighborhood watchman or
overzealous policeman
who wears his manhood
on his sleeve
could kill him.

She thinks,
I didn’t warn him
that the cowardly actions
of some other “man”
could become the knife blade
of reality
to remind them both–
if the dead can remember–
They have always hated him.
But she,
she has always
loved him
because
how could she not?

Peace & Love,
Rosalind

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He Knew. She Knew.

Spring

The day she saw him in the park
she knew.

but don’t all women?

He asked to
photograph her.
Wanted to take her picture.
Just one—he pleaded.

She paused       not because
he was a stranger
but because
his smile  had been created
just for her – she knew.

losing that smile – worse than never
discovering it

 

Autumn

Sit still. Smile.
She tried to relax
but she anticipated the
flash and she covered her face.

He pleaded for her
to present him
with the gift of her
smile.

And they ended up
exchanging words.
She accused him of
trying to
steal her soul. “You’re trying
to rob me of a piece of me
when you don’t plan to leave anything
behind.”

“If I let you
take my picture
you’ll leave and
take that piece of me
forever. Eternity.”

She suggested he
consider
doing a painting instead.
A painting
would give her time,
give them time together and
that’s all she really wanted.

Time to be warmed
by his smile and to
hold his sweet words
in her mouth; he became
her dessert.

He easily agree & she knew.

Winter

It took nearly a year to
capture her expressions
& features on his canvas.

He captured the way she
turned her head, just so
ever so slightly when she was
listening to him talk.

He knew. She knew.

The closer he got to
completing her portrait
she began to feel
the detachment settling
in. He’s leaving for sure,
she knew.

And he did. He left.
Told her he loved her.
And left.

No one ever knew
how tenaciously
she guarded her love
for him. She couldn’t bear
the truth
that love just sometimes
isn’t enough.

He carried her with him —
he and the portrait
covered many miles
as he searched for a place
to settle.

He found many
settling places,
ones that
almost made him forget
what he’d discovered
one afternoon
in the park.

Summer

He presented the portrait
to her
on their tenth anniversary.
She stared fondly at
the picture,
but all she really wanted
was to be sure he’d never
leave
again.

All he could give her
was the portrait,
the symbol of his love.

He knew. She knew.

Peace & Love,
Rosalind

 

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Bitter Fruit

standing on the razor blade
of indecision
she was afraid to move
forward. the past
taught her that love was
a bitter piece of fruit
that grew in a tree
up out of her reach.
one step forward to grab
what she could see,
not feel
could break her or just break
her heart
and the memory
of the pain of love, the
pain she felt before when she
dared to love
kept her balancing
on the razor edge
of indecision
where the only possibility
was that she would
cut her own self
bear the fruit of her
own misery

Peace & Love,
Rosalind

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His Tortured Soul

 

The headline screamed
He was Tortured Before He
Was Killed as if though
he was tortured his entire life.

Somehow the suffering he did
when he was alive
went unnoticed. No one heard his
silent cries. He carried his tortured
soul inside like a rabbit’s foot
in his pocket. Something no one could
find unless they went looking.

And even those who looked and found
the source of his soul’s cries
pointed the crooked finger of blame. Love
and acceptance, a forever carrot
dangled before him as if though
they could one day belong to him.
But he always knew
he was born to be killed
like minnow fish
born to be food used to capture
poverty, incarceration, and miseducation
the lures used to keep him
swimming upstream
toward nothing new.

Slavery comes in different forms.
This he knew, so he never
stopped fighting, never stopped
crying. Over the years his tears
became steel. You always thought
he was stronger than he was
because that’s what you wanted
him to be. You never knew
he’d been fighting from
the day he was born
to silence the tears
of his tortured soul.

Peace & Love,
Rosalind

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I Wanna Hear a Love Song

Why aren’t any of the love songs
actually about love? There are songs
about longing to love
a woman the way she deserves to be
loved & songs about walking away from love
but nothing about holding onto love
as if though real love were enough to
grab ahold of and worth fighting for.
No songs to tell you that when you find love,
don’t let it slip away. There are songs
about taking what’s right here today &
trying to make it worthy of a song
with lyrics about a love that will never fade away.

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been fooling
myself, thinking I was listening to love songs.
I’d lock myself in my room and cry as I listened
to the words of a love song or what I always
thought were love songs. But how can you walk away
from a love that’s real while singing about how
elusive love is? Are these songs meant to create magic?
The kind of magic that can turn honey-coated lies
into the lyrics of a love song,
a song so sweet it can make a young girl cry.

I wanna hear a love song
I wanna hear a song about love
that’s hard to find, but worth waiting for &
worth fighting to keep alive. A love that’s
more valued than any right here and right now.
I wanna hear a love song that doesn’t require me
to shred my own heart into pieces I’ll no longer
recognize. I wanna hear a love song that
assures me that there’s someone who’ll love me
exactly for me. I wanna know that love is
possible. I wanna know that there exists a love
that’s worthy of a love song.

Peace & Love,
Rosalind

love song

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A Pain to Swallow Your Own

The silence was enough to drive us all mad. It
would have too if we had not finally stopped breathing.
It echoed in our brains, this forlorn silence, as we
felt the blood draining from our bodies. They would say
we bled to death. That nothing could have staunched
the steady flow of blood or the memories, like leftovers
on the stove, who did you think would want them? They
would say we were murdered by indifference – cold eyes
darting furtively, back & forth, searching for a pain deep
enough to swallow your own. They’d say they always knew
we’d made more out of things than what was really there.
All of these words, released effortlessly, like doves following
the performance of an ill-formed union. Their words would soon
die away, as quickly as we did. Swallowed
by the quiet darkness that greeted us in our death. We died.
and the world was silent the day we died. And the silence rages
on.

Peace & Love,
Rosalind

*Note: The line “The world was silent the day we died” was originally found in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Moon, a novel I’m currently reading. The line spoke to me. There’s a message there for me about the seeming insignificance of our lives. Quietly we enter the world and quietly we leave. If we’re blessed enough to have made an impact on those whose lives we touched, the world will not be so silent upon our passing. Tears fall so very easily. Tears do not signal love. The need to hold on, even if it’s nothing more than memories, is love.

Enough ruminating for one evening. I have to get some sleep because I have another long day ahead of me, a day made less longer because, hopefully, I will be able to carve out some time for writing.

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Where Are You Going?

Where are you going? The question
burns in my throat. Agonizing pain as if
I have swallowed a spear. I need to know
where you are going. Are you travelling to a place
where little girls’ souls are draped across power lines
like ill-fitting clothes on clotheslines, where no one
cares to wear them anymore? Are you going
to the place where skulls burnished with brain matter
are used to sip tea? Men wearing singlets, holding
wooden-carved rifles smile and through the holes in
their cracked and rotting teeth it’s possible to see
destruction has been the plan all along. Will you tear down
all that the others have built, leave behind the burning embers
that scald the tongue when you try to remember? Isn’t it
easier to forget how it once felt to have the warm moistness
of a nectarine resting on your tongue while you reclined
in the sun, its fingertips reaching down to touch that spot
on your neck? Can you see the trees swaying in the wind,
yielding so easily, as if though they have no spine?
They say the war will be civil, blood shed like a dripping faucet
left running overnight instead of like festering hate
has been left in the sun so long, it now smells like death.
Will you ever not dream of the scent of burning flesh, hear
the crackling of flesh and bones as if the world is nothing more
than a fireplace? Will you not ever wake to find that screams
fill up more than the spaces in your mind, they surround you,
menacingly they advance on you until you finally break?
And then where will you go?

Peace & Love,
Rosalind

burned home and car

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Empty Spaces

Last night I dreamed that I was in my grandmother’s house, a place I no longer go since she passed away. I was staring out the kitchen window. Someone I recognized in the dream, but not when I woke up, was sitting outside in a car. They were staring up at my grandmother’s house. And this person was holding a gun to his or her own head. When I realized what they were about to do, I opened my mouth to scream for them to stop but the person did not heed my muted screams. They pulled the trigger. Only they didn’t die right away, so somehow this person went back to just before they had shot him or herself and did it again. The second shot also was disappointing, so they started over again and the third time I think was right on target. They died right away just like they’d wanted.

And I woke up.

And I wrote a poem.

Here’s the poem.

You place guns to temples
and shove them down throats.
Pull the trigger, take lives
as if empty coffins are being buried.
You are like the men who love women
without feelings,
carving out empty spaces
where once lives used to dwell
leaving behind
nothing but dirt and bones,
using destruction
to make a name for yourself.
One as ephemeral as
all the lives you’ve stolen.

Peace & Love,
Rosalind

 

empty coffins

photo courtesy of gettyimages. 

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