#BlaPoWriMo: Farewell

Squeeze my finger one last time,
your stubby digits enclosed around
my knuckles. You look just like
your father before they disfigured
his face with iron muzzle, bit
down his tongue on rusted metal.

I will always remember the way your
eyes slowly open, adjusting to the
morning sun, how you upchuck just
a little on my breast from nursing
too hurriedly. Let that hunger for
your mother never go away—

Even when you can no longer hear my
voice, when my touch is cool, faint
from the distance, when they beat
you ’til your back blisters open and
your muslin shirt irritates the
wounds my hands cannot heal.

Your cries will echo forever, and
one day when this system crumbles
on its head, and our chains are
broken free, I’ll follow them North,
like the brightest stars in the sky,
’til my embrace calms you once more.

© 2016-2023 Nortina Simmons

Originally published February 17, 2016.

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#BlaPoWriMo: A lullaby

I watch your eyelashes
when you sleep, jealous
of how far they extend,
curling like decorative
wrought iron gates. What
do you dream when you
lay your head on my
breasts rising and
falling with the rhythm
of our synchronized
breathing? Your lashes
flutter with every exhale,
and I imagine it is me
you see in your visions.
I remember you once
threatened to cut them,
and I met you with glue
over my eyes—that
I could see what you see,
dream what you dream. I
caress your short curls
behind your ear. Cast
your burdens onto me, dear
love. The world cares not
about us, our desires, our
hopes, our pain, but together,
ascension is possible. So
dream on, and let me blow
on your lashes and watch
them shiver in the night.

© 2017-2023 Nortina Simmons

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#BlaPoWriMo: Gaslighting history

I’m tired
of being made to remember

how I was snatched
from my motherland,

chained and beaten,
whipped into subjection,

forced to build up
the country they now call

the richest in the land—

only for my oppressors
to be offended.

© 2023 Nortina Simmons

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#BlaPoWriMo: Under the night’s sky

Love Tanka #19

My love's skin is as
Black as the night's sky. I count
the stars in freckles,
the constellations in stripes—
his back a map to freedom.

© 2023 Nortina Simmons

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#BlaPoWriMo: Door of No Return

Door overlooking
the ocean, you are my last
memory of home—


chains and bodies and sweat
stored in the hull of a ship,

and then

chains and bodies and sweat
tilling the land under the hot sun.

© 2023 Nortina Simmons

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#BlaPoWriMo: Boycott the Dark Girl

Boycott the dark girl!

Don’t tell them about race. Middle America
doesn’t want to face your afros and wide nose,
your full lips and round hips.

Boycott the dark girl!

Rip open your blouse, measure the humpback
on which a nation’s edifices are housed,
count the scars from raw cowhide
whipped into formation of a chokecherry plantation.

Boycott the dark girl!

Mend your heartstrings across the violin bridge,
play an empowering song by raising your fist.
Splash shades of brown throughout the stadium field—
a prism of acceptance, their politics must yield.

Boycott the dark girl!

A call for peace, an end to violence
is an attack, they say.
You were beaten, raped,
your genitals dissected and put on display.

Dance on the boycott, dark girl.

Hatred can’t make them turn you away.
Your purple skin is imperial. Reclaim your domain
as you slay on the stage in Black Panther berets.

© 2016 Nortina Simmons

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#BlaPoWriMo: Thoughts while listening to X

Photo by Godisawoman with curly afro wearing black and yellow sweater and sunglasses

Tonya wears jeans three days of the week
when only Fridays are reserved for casual
dress, but who’s checking when half the
office works remote, the rest leaves before
five, and I stay behind to fill miscellaneous
requests and obsess over whether I wore
the same sweater twice in one week or why
my boots squeak when I walk to the bathroom
as the torn hem to the only business pants I
own drags across the carpet. In front of the
mirror, I stand against a gray backdrop of four
stalls and pick my afro that shrank three inches
in the dank cubicle below the air vent. I plug
in my earbuds to fill the silence with the Black
Panther soundtrack and hope the bald White
man in the corner office who frightens me like
a skinhead with a noose doesn’t hear Kendrick
encourage me loudly to
Fuck the place up.

© 2018-2023 Nortina Simmons

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#BlaPoWriMo: I am not an invasive species

little child with afro hairstyle sitting in chair

I am not an invasive species
that you can squash under
your boot like a bug, that you
can strip from the brush like
a perennial vine consuming
your crops, a stain you can
eradicate from your white
picket-fence neighborhood.
If God made man on the sixth
day, breathed the breath of life
into the dirt and rose His image
and likeness from the dust, then
why do you treat me as if I were
the slithering serpent come to
tempt you? Why do you crush
my head when all I did was bow?

© 2023 Nortina Simmons

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#BlaPoWriMo: Fly home, little Black bird

Little Black bird perched on my 
windowsill, spread your wings 
and fly. Fly while the sun is still 
high in the sky, while the breeze 
is still cool, while the police sirens 
are still far off. The South was
never safe. The North, less overt 
in its hate, will still lock you in a 
cage. Fly East, little Black bird, 
over the North-Atlantic current, 
which brought your mothers and 
fathers in ships like cargo, back 
to the land from which you were 
uprooted, back to the land where 
God originally planted you by the 
tree of life and said, "Of this you 
may freely eat." Land flowing 
with milk and honey, where 
there is not slave or free, Jew 
or Gentile, Black or White. Fly 
home, little Black bird, and 
when you find God there, ask 
Him to grant us our wings.

© 2023 Nortina Simmons

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#BlaPoWriMo: God is not a Republican

I’ll be your thug if you’ll be my terrorist.
We’ll sing Negro spirituals and call to prayer

a nation that worships a White-skinned,
blue-eyed, gun-wielding Republican Jesus,

who shrouds massacred children in a star-
spangled banner riddled with bullet holes.

They’ll call your Isa a sand nigga,
my Yeshua an Antifa socialist.

They’ll say God is an American,
but God came back years ago.

He raptured the thugs and the terrorists and
the Antifa socialists and the schoolchildren

mangled by shrapnel into the clouds,
while the Patriots stay behind and

await their sacred White savior. A figment.
Maybe they’ll have better luck with a golden calf.

© 2023 Nortina Simmons

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