Kris and I in Graduate School
Kris and I we talk over loose-leaf green tea and rose at her house.
We talk yoni steams: draping skirts and our bodies over boiling pots
of rosemary calendula lavender and yarrow in the middle of graduate school.
We talk toning the uterus, reproduction, birthing babies, the raspberry leaf
for her cramping, and we talk 26-day cycles of blood and contractions and how
to balance the ovaries. We talk damiana and cervical mucus, the coming,
and Kris, she apologizes for having left her panties on her bathroom floor.
Kris and I take a break from our brown skin,
or we return to it and take a trip to the natural grocer
and we grab more than the almond milk and black beans for dinner—
we talk aloe vera for healing and throw it in the cart we share
and we think to buy the dandelion detox tea because sometimes
the warm lemon water in the morning isn’t enough to release
the poison we still sometimes consume.
Kris and I see royal jelly and talk about how much in a daily dosage
and we talk fertility and having babies again.
And Kris says I should have a baby and I think she should have a baby:
fill ours wombs with honey and semen and limbs and other parts of our children
so we grab the royal jelly from its shelf and find winter oils
to protect our growing skin & hair.
Kris and I on Season 4 of Scandal
Kris and I say we still want to be Olivia Pope: all that power up in the white house
and our clicking heels in the air at home. The scholars might say we’re Jezebels
(and say our white men named Lincoln) but we’re academics too
even with all our daddy’s picked-out-dicks inside us.
Kris and I say we want to be Olivia Pope: white coats and to be fucked on video.
We want to trade in our locs for curlier like versatile hair and
live on deserted islands with white men and make jam with them in Vermont.
And Kris and I we want to sweat out our silk presses in somebody’s chambers,
and save black men and fuck them and save them ‘til our white hats are brown.
Kris and I say we want to be Olivia Pope somehow: all that brown pussy up in the academy
like we’re Olivia Pope in Kansas and all the men are white and want to watch us
and like all the men are black and want to save us as if we don’t read the Literature too
like we, too, ain’t got beef with kansas and power and men and the system
like Kris, Liv, and I don’t pay attention—
Kris and I want to be Olivia Pope sometimes: all that red wine spilled on white couches
and us all sexed up for a reason and
we got our daddy’s picked-out-dicks inside us like we just can’t love white men
or we just can’t fuck black men without a hat or a cape
Like therapy for the men or the pleasure
On my walk to therapy this morning, I smell the silver bearded man’s
cologne on someone passing by and it triggers stillness
the memory of him scanning my frame when he laid me
out like an X on the hotel bed in Dallas, whispering something
about my body summoning his tongue and my locs
like thick ropes he wanted swinging over his head.
I tell my therapist about the silver bearded man and
that some days, like today, I pull my hair
all the way up so the men don’t get to it.
And I tell him that my father thinks I love him, really love him
because ours moon are in Scorpio— my body so mean and so possessive
that he thinks I always want a man and sex
when sometimes all I want to eat is kansas and bread and honey.
And I tell my therapist I want men to keep exoticizing me
but to do it on paper because that’s where the poem is
the spell is the prayer.
And I tell him about wanting to piss in my professor’s mouth
when he told me my shit ain’t sophisticated
like I crave sophistication or like that shit is attainable
when you’re writing poems about abortions and fucking multiple men
or like that shit is attainable for a bitch with skin thick and brown enough—
or for a bitch with hair long and loc’d enough to lynch erections and bodies
A few good words with Simone
BVS: “Kris and I in Graduate School” focuses heavily on healing and bodily presence, laying out the way that femme folks of color hold space for each other. The energy of the poem is full of love, self-reflexivity and maybe most importantly, tenderness. What roles to do you see poetry playing in self-care?
SS: My mothers and my closest friends taught me to carve out space in the day to love and honor myself. I was told to drink lots of tea, stretch, to give thanks, to write. Audre Lorde writes, “For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.” I’ve been journaling since I was eleven, and have also been writing poetry as a way to heal and to reflect on my experiences as a woman/femme of color (in graduate school). I was thinking a lot about isolation and erasure when I wrote “Kris and I in Graduate School” I was so glad to have a friend writing and healing with me (I love her so much, btw!). Poetry also offers me a body that is healed/healing, a body that chooses love and tenderness / or tea and yoni steams when I’m feeling overwhelmed and need to rest and recharge. I attempt to lay out these rituals of self-care on the page. I return to poems like “Kris and I in Graduate School” and remember (how) to love and honor myself. I remember the ways I’ve been taught to survive, to protect my body and my magic.
BVS: As I was reading “Like therapy for the men or the pleasure,” I thought a lot about how mental healthcare of black femmes/women is discussed, or more often than not, silenced. I thought about how the “strong black woman” trope often disallows us to dialogue about practices that may already be considered taboo. This piece felt all at once a resistance to that notion and a denial of that notion. What freedoms did this poem lend you in talking about your mental health?
SS: My therapist is lowkey my best friend. Lol! Like in therapy, I share some private experiences and inner rage in “Like therapy for the men or the pleasure.” I considered the poem to be my therapist before I began seeing a psychologist in 2013. Here, I wanted to think about the ways in which therapy and poetry allow me the space to tell and to have authority over my life and sharing my experiences. I wanted to honor through poetry this practice of sharing/telling as healing, and as resistance. I let go in a poem just as I let go in therapy–both offer me a space to be raw and open.
BVS: Who’s making work that you can’t put down? What poems and poets are your homing beacons?
SS: Ah, so many! Okay I’ll name the first few that come to mind: Natasha Trethewey’s Imperatives for Carrying On in the Aftermath, Patricia Smith’s Black, Poured Directly into the Wound, Barber Shop by Phillip B. Williams, Notes on the Below by Ada Limon.
Simone Savannah is from Columbus, Ohio and studies Creative Writing at The University of Kansas. Her poems are forthcoming and have appeared in Big Lucks, Powder Keg, Apogee, GlitterMOB, The Fem, Voicemail Poems, Vending Machine Press, The Pierian, and Blackberry: A Magazine. Find her on social media @PerfectVerse22.