Tuesday, April 19, 2011

April 13, Poem 13 - Afro (after Kelly Norman Ellis)


(after Kelly Norman Ellis)

My mother's afro was a magic orb

of goodness. Afro Sheen leaked

onto it's ends and became emerald

in the sun. It was 1975 and my mother

told me every day, that I was black; taught

me how to comb my own round globe

of halo - how to hold the pick

at its shoulder where the fist

became the bad-ass comb's


In 1975 my mother took me

to the tailor for my first suit.

And it was super bad - light

blue, with lapels like wings.

It was sure nuf made

from something like polyester,

but the trousers bloomed outward

from the knees, so at the hems

my shoes were barely visible-

The shoes? Chocolate brown

Clarks with a rounded toe.

I was aware for the first time

that I was spectacular,

though I wasn't yet sure

what it meant to be black

in the whole world. Where

I was, I knew the light-blue

suit meant I was ordained

In the boogie. I was allowed,

even obliged to funk.


about clothes meant this;

permission and responsibility -

something about being fresh

was suddenly in play.

When My aunt

dragged me from class


The Barber

my mother at work,

my head shaven

I knew

for the first time

that my body would never




I don't know how else

to say now what the seven

year old me came to know

in the bottom of my stomach.

If I'd had all the rage

I eventually built

into a citadel; had I

the words, I'd have



My mother came home

saw my head and became



My aunt, disgusted

said she had to - my head

was full of wooly stuff...

And this is when I knew I was black for real.

This is when I knew black was a city

whose walls were constantly under siege.

This is when I knew what hymns

were meant for - that they were

songs of anoint for the body

that was constantly at war

And then my mother rose up saying:

Of course it's wooly. I have lain only with black men, men whose skin was the darkest black, men whose hair was the roughest wire and they were beautiful, and my child's hair is this way because I have never, like you, lain with anyone light skin or even remotely Chinese. And my child is beautiful, wooly, black.

And I knew I'd always be fighting.

And I knew that I would win.

To schedule a reading or an appearance please contact Ofer Ziv at Blue Flower Arts at 845-677-8559 or email ofer@blueflowerarts.com.www.facebook.com/rogerbonairagardwww.twitter.com/rogerbonairwww.cypherbooks.com


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