The PdS Black Voices Series Presents: MAURISA LI-A-PING
all in a days work
12am i close my eyes
but dont no sleep visit
1am - i worry
‘bout girls from east new york
who don’t got no mama
who i think i can fix
‘bout girls from the bronx
who go grocery shopping in my body
some come with list
some wipe the shelves clean
2am - 4am i cry a hurricane,
3am this flood is both my nightmare and lullaby
4am i dream,
5am ‘bout freedom,
6am ‘bout joy,
‘bout a day when i can unclench my jaw
7am - 4pm a nigga got me fucked up
8am another one
9am another one
10am a bitch tries to touch my hair
11am a bitch succeeds
12pm - 2pm i dont slap her
i play solange, i ground my spirit
2pm my paycheck is a joke
almost invisible, almost gone,
3pm i tell my supervisor, im tired
they say, where they do that at?
4pm i text my sista-frand: girl im not press, im not beat truly
5pm - 7pm i want to break but, cannot
got a mama to call
to let her know im good, though i aint
for her to let me know she good, though she aint
8pm our tears make dinner
my pain some kind of seasoning for the fried chicken
these niggas dog
9pm i still want to break, i still tired, still aint rising,
but still ain’t still, still, grindin’
10pm - my sista-frand go to jail for some shit she aint do
i close my eyes
break , but
11pm i got homework
my professor ask me to rewrite a paper
to include my citations
i cite myself
she said who said it, i say i did
she say who else?
almost invisible, almost gone
will niggas check for us/ after death?
for Coniqua Johnson aka Co
aint nobody checkin for me
zamn Bish you too
aint nobody checkin for me either
niggas dead aint shit
no actually tho
you seen that bodycon dress online with the low v neck
i can’t wear no bra for that
ok i see you tryna be a zaddy
what you think some high waisted pants gone do for my waistline
i been eatin less, tryna make myself small
let a nigga kno i can hold space for them
bet they come runnin then
or maybe with them bomb ass shoes for bogo at the mall
you kno Black Women always the half off
never gettin paid what we deserve
you aint sayin nothin but a word
did you see the halter top with the back out on sale
i figure i could lay on my stomach and be a bridge for humanity or whateva
seein how everythin is done the backs of Black Women
Co! they got this all black romper
it’s a lil baggie though, kinda like…a body bag
like the one they put Sandra in
wait till you see this shit sis
…you gone be dyin!
girl, you think niggas check for you after death
A few good words with Maurisa
BVS: The end of “all in a day’s work,” (“my professor ask me to rewrite a paper / to include my citations / i cite myself / she said who said it, i say i did / she say / who else?”), struck me in a particular soft part of my solar plexus—we are punished for sounding “too smart” (smarter or more capable than the perceived station in life that our blackness relegates us to) and we are punished for not sounding smart enough (using AAVE like “sista-frand”). Can you talk a little bit about your choices (joys or pains) in language(s)?
MLAP: I remember when I first started writing essays for school, my teacher told me that I shouldn’t write how I speak. Later in graduate school, I spent a great deal of time looking up academic jargon to include in my papers and presentations. These two memories, along with many others, conveyed to me that my tongue was inferior. At one point I was forgetting childhood slang and that was an unbearable grief in which I made a deliberate choice to write just as I speak. This choice brings me great joy. Language can be very harmful, and it can also be a tool to validate a culture and community. Writing in AAVE feels like a clapback in which I get to affirm my kin and village. It is also a way for me to document the language of the time. I think of the line, “i text my sista-frand: girl im not press…” maybe both sista-frand and press will evolve to mean something different in 2029.
BVS: Tell us a little bit about how it feels to be writing in the particular socio-political moment as a black woman? What (or who) do you feel drawn to write to (or away from)?
MLAP: The current socio-political climate feels as it has always felt. I have a greater sense of awareness and more language to name my experiences, but the hardships of being a Black Queer Womxn have not changed a great deal. My body has always known the trauma of invisibility and writing constantly feels like a gift I cannot afford to take for granted. I use poetry to write myself and other Black Queer Womxn into existence. I am documenting our joy, love, laughter, and sorrow. I say look, we (have) live(d) and here is my truth from our mouth.
With his memoir, Heavy, Kiese Laymon taught me the importance of not only writing for my people but also to them. When writing to and for Black Queer Womxn I get to unapologetically shift our voices, inside jokes, and bond from the margins to the center. Writing to Black Queer Womxn feels like an act of resistance that isn’t usually easy, but always necessary. It is a way to be in community for our collective liberation.
BVS: I know that American culture has kind of branded self-care as going out to brunch and getting your nails done, but I wonder how you employ self-care in your literary life? Is there anything writer or work that you turn to center/uplift/recharge yourself?
MLAP: Sometimes people think that writing poetry is a form of self-care and I can’t help but laugh. I do not write poems as self-care because poetry is not always stress-free and joyful. I do however journal almost every day. If I am not journaling, you could always catch me watching artist interviews on YouTube. It’s so important to meet the artist behind the art. Sometimes I glorify people who I admire and forget that they are human just like me. Self-care can also be as simple as turning off my analytical brain and reading a book for pure pleasure. Nikky Finney said, “…you have to move around as a writer, you can’t stay home, you gotta move…and you’ve got to go out in search of who you are.” So, I do my best to get outside, travel and engage with the human world.
Some poems I turn to for refuge are "A Litany for Survival," by Audre Lorde, "won't you celebrate with me," by Lucille Clifton, "a note on the body," by Danez Smith, "How to Triumph Like a Girl," by Ada Limon, "black girl magic," by Mahogany L. Browne and so many more.
Maurisa Li-A-Ping is a storyteller, educator, and performer raised by a village of Black women in Brooklyn, New York. Maurisa utilizes poetry to document the experiences of Black Queer Womxn. She has touched stages at the World-Famous Apollo Theater, United Nations, Poetic License Festival, Barclays Center and more. Her commitment to her craft and scholarship has allowed her to present and perform at NASPA’s 100th Annual Conference, the ACPA Convention, the Herman C. Hudson Symposium, The National Conference on Student Leadership, and various
other venues. Maurisa's dedication to her craft has led her to receive national honors from The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, their Alumni Microgrant , a Pushcart nomination and publication with Up the Staircase Quarterly, as well as publication with Wusgood Mag , The National Institute for Transformative Equity, Lunch Ticket,
and more. She currently resides in Providence, Rhode Island.