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  • Simone Person

The PdS Black Voices Series Presents: SIMONE PERSON

your new bitch

can’t cook & I’m not Julia Child or nothing in this motherfucker

but does your new bitch know how to fatten you can she octopus-squeeze you

in the morning make you desperate to not leave her bed

does she know when you nightmare & talk fire in your sleep

it’s best to kiss your forehead gently shake you awake dumpling-fold you into her arms so when you come back to this plane

you know you are loved can she fuck you like I did

& I’m not Jada Fire or nothing in this motherfucker

but after the ways men have destroyed me you included

it’s a miracle anything works at all I’d expect at this point my shit

would’ve cemented over does she look at you the way I did

she must achieve some facsimile because I knew the dybbuk

rolling mist over your tongue still let you cross

my thresholds kissed you full long even after I knew it was over

cooked you breakfast & yoga-ed into every sciatic-angry position

let you replace my face with all the white girls you liked better I just kept hoping

I’d fold right & fractal into a girl you could love the girl

you said you loved the girl you tried for when trying was still new

I’m growing older & deciding if I want to be happy or loved

& I’m not bell hooks or nothing in this motherfucker

so I’m learning to ignore how I split apart realizing

I can only choose one & not knowing which is lonelier

I’m always up late curling into myself trying to become

something new something you’d bring to the function to show off to your mom

& so when you hold me down into my mattress

shackle-hands on my shoulders all sweat-slick skin

I’d be the only girl you’re breaking

I Actually Prefer Fat Women

After Dan Weiss’s advice column Ask a Guy Who Likes Fat Chicks

watch how I can balloon

my body in a single bound

I’m every tired circus cliché &

you’re in the front row popcorn-stained

teeth waiting for me to expand you say

fat women are better because every part

of us is everlasting everywhere a swell

to press your mouth & drink until you’re sick

a pillow perfect for your head a warm dark

taking you back to when your parents still hid

fights behind closed doors to when you didn’t

know hands could be for breaking

fat women are better because we’re mango-bodied

beauties our skin sugar-rich & ready to be sucked clean

we are better built to take a real pounding

never ask why when you think of me you conjure

me splintering a shipwreck in your sheets

find me most holy beauty as your mouth blooms

bruises on my neck your fingers cuff-tight around

my wrists & maybe if I was smarter or prettier or

more of something somewhere I wouldn’t

so readily be your coconut baby let you

split me in half for your feasting wouldn’t allow your hands

to find home underneath my dress I’d become strong

in all the ways that’d heal the smoke-girl I was

that I’m always trying to leave behind

drunk I text / my mother /

that he raped me & she sighs / heavy across iMessage / says it’s disappointing but / not surprising the best way / to move forward / is to make his memory leave my house / shed into a new person / one who knows better next time / never that she’s sorry or asks / how I’m doing / & I’m glad / for these small mercies / because that conversation / congeals on my tongue & / most days are spent / wondering if it was rape at all / even though everyone’s face changes / when I talk / about repeated / no’s & / his unlistening / how he kneed apart my legs / later / he swore he thought I was joking / kissed the tops of my hands / promised he’s not that kind / of boy / he’s not his father / he’s not my father / he cared about me / it was just / misunderstanding & I / needed to work on my communication / always a question / of my communication / what aren’t I saying / not why isn’t he paying attention never / how can he be so close / & not hear the sounds / my heart makes / how doesn’t he see / this is a person held underneath him / whose touch has gone cold / who stares at the ceiling / why am I always a thing / to be broken / in the beginning / he said he wouldn’t hurt / me & I was the worst kind of hopeful / to not ask for how long

A few good words with Simone

PDS: These poems are deeply connected to the body, particularly the black, fat, femme body. This body is connected to its pains and the way it strains against/towards pleasure and autonomy. How does writing your body engender its agency? How does writing make your body yours?

SP: I think a lot of Black women grow up being told what our bodies are (usually sinful, fast, ugly). To reject that by creating space where I can talk about, and name my body however I need and want to is a terrifying, yet necessary experience. Names hold a lot of power, and for so long I called mine monstrous, and that deeply affected the way I saw myself, and what kinds of things I deserved, and what things I wasn’t good enough to have. Writing is how I can work on becoming the voice of my own life, instead of centering others’ misogynoiristic and fatphobic perceptions.

Writing about my body—especially examining the ways partners have taken it for granted, objectified it, and violated it—has allowed me to push back against the narratives others place on it. My poems work on making my body mine, not something that only exists to be in service of others. I just got out of an abusive relationship with a partner who raped me, and to be able to name my body—in its glory and flaws—is incredibly important for moving forward and processing that abuse and rape, especially the parts that people don’t want to discuss when we think about them, like loving or feeling protective of your abuser, or feeling s of shame. Abuse and rape really disconnected me from my body, and I’m trying to find my way back to it, and writing is how I’ve been anchoring myself lately.

PDS: All three pieces use the page in radically different ways—I’m always interested in writing processes—did these poems build themselves or did you have a preconceived idea of how you would like them laid out before you began them?

SP: I’m new to writing poetry, so figuring out my process is still, for lack of a better term, a process. I’ve been writing fiction since I was a little kid, so the switch to poetry has been interesting. It forces me to look at and think about language and imagery so differently than with fiction. I’ve been lucky enough to meet some amazing poets in my MFA, both students and faculty, and they’re kind and generous with their time and energy to humor my questions about how poetry works and what a line break is, so that helps. I try to read a lot of poetry, too, to see how other folks are writing about and how they’re using language.

I’d say “your new bitch” definitely built itself. This idea so many people have of Black women and girls as being disposable is a constant in my life, as is my shame surrounding being in an abusive relationship and experiencing rape. The phrase, “we all have a story inside of us waiting to come out,” is so schmaltzy and I’m a little embarrassed to use it here, but this poem kind of feels that way for me, like I was able to access something I’ve needed to say/explore for a long time.

Other poems came much more slowly, like “I Actually Prefer Fat Women” and “drunk I text / my mother /.” I spent a lot of time with both of these poems because they’re really important to me, and I wanted to do right by them and myself. “Fat Women” came about from stumbling across all these “fat admirer” websites, and the language used was so dehumanizing and violent, and it made me think about the ways partners have used that same language with me, often framing it as a compliment, but it was really hard to enter this poem. I think once I stopped focusing so heavily on what I wanted the poem to be “about,” and quit being terrified of even engaging with these things, it got easier to find spaces inside of those poems and new places I could take them to. The same happened with “drunk I text /” because writing about rape and abuse is hard as hell, and to try to capture the worst moment of my life felt too big of a task, but I felt like I needed to have some kind of artifact of it, if that makes sense. Something to prove to myself and others that this happened, while repositioning myself in the narrative. I’m not a person something happened to, I’m a person, and in writing about this, I can take back some of the things my rapist and abuser stole from me, you know?

PDS: Where in your home do you feel most yourself? How do your senses render/read safety in that space? How does your body fit in?

SP: I have some chronic pain issues (shout out to the sciatic nerve), so feeling fully comfortable is rare. I’m honestly most myself drinking coffee at 2:00 in the afternoon on my couch, taking BuzzFeed quizzes about what kind of bread I am while listening to DMX and Trick Daddy. I’m an only child and spent most of my childhood home alone, so I still really feel the safest when I’m by myself in my apartment, and don’t have to deal with the stresses that come from navigating a highly politicized body in an MFA program where I’m one of three Black students in a predominately white town. When I think about safety, I think about my body existing outside of scrutiny. That usually comes from isolating myself from that mess, and focusing on creating space in my home to fit what I need, instead of constantly trying to make my body fit spaces that often aren’t meant for me or bodies like mine (and that don’t ever plan on changing) by toning down my fatness and Blackness for others’ comfort.

Simone Person grew up in Michigan and Ohio, and is a dual Fiction MFA and African American and African Diaspora Studies MA at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from WusGood Mag, Menacing Hedge, Kweli Journal, and others. She sporadically, and to varying degrees of success, uses Twitter and Instagram at @princxporkchop.

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