when the guillotine comes from my ovaries,
I peel Hina from my bedside.
She mumbles your name, hands me two
clocks entombed in ice. The dead will come
for these, but the dead cannot have them.
how can I be saved from ghosts
that tread on stars? I try
to remember there are eyes
beyond our eyes. Lamps
of nothingness, voids of brightness.
this is where the blade bites
your alate shoulder, moon queen’s fist
golden shield around my waist.
here you steal purpled graves
from my ankles – I know someone
must answer for this red and grey
drowning. tell my blooming body
you deserve to be burned.
put your eyes into these pockets, midnight blue, bury
them beneath constellations you’ve wrestled
from coral sky.
let your lips press collarbones
into auburn suns. drag moonstone
across your pillows and ask for forgiveness.
give petals back to orchids. write words
only you understand. ask orion
to watch over black girls snatched
into mouthless shadows.
wonder if you
will be next.
shake stars from your clothes before washing.
name yourself Aria when you learn the melodies
golden melanin sings into your skin.
tell the wind that for once,
I’d like to belong
dream of Harambe and cracked eggs,
dead babies in vases. pray your eyes into emeralds
that ride on archgriffins’ wings.
plant a bed of arenaria
but never water it.
wait for it to bloom.
after Tomaz Salaman
deziree is a monster.
deziree is humid hydrogen / black wind
birthed from the mouth’s bloody veil.
maybe she is our sunbreaker / [Aria’s omen] filled
with Saturn’s frothy lips. maybe you have seen opal horns /
dark gold eyes / the fog unfolding from her necklace
of bones – wolf / bear teeth / a finger you lost to the leshen’s fangs.
maybe deziree will chant a crow’s lullaby with sleepless
hounds at her hooves / devour any Light desperate to escape
her ragged jaw. maybe she is Oya’s tsunami / white-hot sphere. look
at your elephants / how their knees smother at her command.
now drink in her wings / see how they beat the moon
raw / as our sun swallows her lavender claws.
A few good words with dezireé
PDS: What I love about this series of poems is the range of black femme expression, from your menstrual “blooming body” that deserves “to be burned,” to the goddess Ishtar’s reclamation of her life, saying “I’d like to belong / to myself.” I read the last poem as a sort of cataloging of self—a witch’s litany of possible spells, the body’s power named. How do you see the different voices speaking to each other?
DAB: These poems are focused on a black woman’s battles with grief and loss, and how her mental illnesses affect her recovery. The journey to coping and healing can take steps backward before moving forward, and I wanted these pieces and the tones within them to emphasize that. So there are highs in these stanzas, and there are lows. Each poem is another step in processing grief. It’s important for me to highlight a black woman’s struggle with mental illnesses because our society does not allow us to have any. And we hurt because of it.
The voices here differ in several ways but all share the common factor of vulnerability. Black women are not indestructible. We are tough, determined, and strong as diamond, but we are human. We feel things. We can be broken like anyone else.
I really find it interesting that tacenda. was originally written as a very dark and somber piece, but it has been called my ‘Kanye loves Kanye’ poem. I love that the power of the body lives inherently within the words, and that the poem can live in both contexts.
PDS: “tacenda.” uses both slashes and negative spacing to create tension and pacing—how did you want your reader to understand the difference between the two ways of formatting?
DAB: The slashes are a softer stop than a line break or white space. If I want a word or phrase to stay with the reader for a moment longer, slashes are usually the way to go. I want this poem to feel like it’s creeping up on you in the dark. The slashes slow the reader and push them forward simultaneously, helping to create that feeling of dread. I’ve been enjoying experimenting with them in my work as of late.
PDS: What are some of the struggles and some of the blessings of being a black, queer women writing in 2017?
DAB: A lot of the struggles are the same as they always have been. People clutching bags as I walk by. Friends that won’t use the correct pronouns. Black women consistently experiencing erasure by black men. It’s a tiring cycle that can cause writer’s block and drain creativity. I do believe that people are much more blatant with nonsense because of the president. Honest self-care is the one of the most important parts of my life now.
But blessings are in abundance. More than ever, marginalized voices are being brought to the forefront and given the airtime they deserve. There are fantastic poets like Danez Smith and Tarfia Faizullah that continue to reshape my understanding of what poetry can do. And with the current state of the world, there’s no end to the amount of material I can write about. It’s lit.
deziree a. brown is a black queer woman poet, scholar, and social justice warrior born and raised in Flint, MI. They are currently a MFA candidate at Northern Michigan University, and they serve as an Associate Editor for Passages North and Poetry Editor for Heavy Feather Review. Their work has been recently published in the anthology Best “New” African Poets 2015, Public Pool, and Luna Luna Magazine, among others. They tweet at @deziree_a_brown.