- BLACK VOICES SERIES
KB | Two Poems
& all it amounted to was laps around the sun
The mornings in low light lining the hairline on your stomach.
The half-bitten skin on my fingers teaching your edges how
to grow. The touch on my leg when my teeth grinds became audible,
the breath slipping somewhere between your lips and mine. All of it
was poetry to me. All ellipses along the trail with the garden
that eventually becomes the sidewalk. We walked that path
many times. We sung The Supremes & more on 3-hour rides
to the city I called home & back. All of it culminated into
the fleeting shadow of your car. All the midday tremors terrored
the ground you stomped on before you reached the front door.
On nights when I see the moon still wrapped with your name, I stick
my pillows in the middle of my thoughts & wake with your clothes
still there. How selfish of the universe to not let us be; how silly
every lap around the sun has felt since.
Upon hearing the news about Tony McDade/ Layleen Polanco / Breonna Taylor / George Floyd / Mike Ramos
I blinked & sat up. I locked my phone. I brushed my teeth. I ran a mile in 70 degrees. I cleaned my face. I ate breakfast & checked the news. I did push-ups, then burpees, then squats. I breath focused. I body scanned. I showered off sweat & dead skin. I applied lotion & then deodorant. I logged in to the virtual work meeting. I accepted sorry's at the virtual work meeting. I signed the petition & checked social media. I told coworkers that I'm okay. I fogged my glasses as I picked up the mail. I fogged my glasses as I cried over the mail. I told the mailman that I'm okay. I accepted the venmos & cashapps. I accepted the DMs dripping with guilt. I logged in to the teach-in. I ranted about antiBlackness. I told anxiety to close the door behind it. I accepted the thoughts & prayers. I contemplated going to the protest. I told myself that I'm listening. I fogged my glasses & sat outside. I broke up with another friend. I accepted the gifts & selective outrage. I tried to believe it wasn't temporary. I checked the news & cried again. I vowed to stay offline & sleep again. I logged out of the virtual work day. I contemplated & at the very least, tried. I watched the fire end. I watched the cycle rebegin. I blinked & sat up. I locked my phone.
A few good words with KB
BVS: What struck me the most about “Upon hearing the news about Tony McDade/ Layleen Polanco / Breonna Taylor / George Floyd / Mike Ramos /” was the focus on embodiment—gesture, action, tenderness—in contrast to the implied disembodiment of the struck-through names (as victims of state violence), the ways that the body of the poem moves in repetition. Can you speak more about how the action in the poem speaks to the death in the poem (implicated in our named ghosts).
KB: I wanted action, and the quickness of it within this poem, to function as an amplifier. The ways in which Black people are expected to function as if the backdrop of death isn’t always with us is… interesting to say the least. We’re supposed to act as if, any moment, we are not being wronged somewhere, and as if our history isn’t riddled with the trauma of anti-Blackness. I think that the possibility and closeness of death is a thing that, with our consent or not, Black folk carry with us everyday. So something as mundane as “checking your phone” may seem like nothing, but to me & within this poem, it has death on the other side.
BVS: I think that these two poems speak so well to each other, because “& all it amounted to was laps around the sun” also looks at body, but here the bodies are languid, playful, erotic. As a body-obsessed writer, I would love to hear what draws you to writing about Black experience through body experience.
KB: Ha! I think that the body gets a bad wrap within this genre. It’s often seen as a trope these days, but what initially drew me into poetry (and what sustains my interest) is the naming that happens -- flesh, blood, tongue -- and how that brings you into a scene, or condition, or feeling. Within this poem, the feeling is one of loss and fondness, and those feelings also happen to be riddled within the Black experience! The body is present in all things, so it often becomes a thing I turn to when trying to find out what’s on my mind.
BVS: So, we’re stuck in our homes/neighborhoods/familiar places because of this pandemic—what work, art or music is helping you feel like you’re somewhere else?
KB: Good question! This changes as the days do. Right now, “Seen my Aura” by Helado Negro helps me remember that the beach exists, even if only in my head. Lately I’ve also been doing awkward slow dancing in the kitchen with my partner to Bobby Caldwell; that [almost] feels like I’m in a jazz club haha.
KB is a Black queer genderless poet, organizer, educator, and student affairs professional. They have earned many fellowships and publications, most notably from Lambda Literary, Cincinnati Review, and Equality Texas. Catch them talking sweetness and other (non)human things online @earthtokb.