#BlaPoWriMo: Rest

abendstimmung agriculture back light cereal

A Black History Month Senryu

Beat me til I’m stiff
In the ground, I lay my soul
To rest, finally.

© 2023 Nortina Simmons

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#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: 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: I want to learn to read

I want to learn to read.
Massa say it do no good—
slaves reading—won’t make
me happy. What I gotta be
happy for? Look at Jimmy-boy,
come down from Maryland, he
can read, been mopin’ ’round
here all day, can’t do nothin’.

He spoiled. That’s his problem.
Like all dem other house niggas,
never felt the sun burn his back
raw, never had the white man kick
him to his knees when he stop
to catch his breath, never bent
over the cotton so long he can’t
stand straight when the work done—
weight of day’s pickings slung
over his shoulder.

I hear Massa say he gon sell
Jimmy-boy to the rice plantation
down south—that’ll whip him into
shape. Me, I stay quiet, meet my weight,
draw letters in the dirt, brush ’em
away ’fore overseer catch wind.

© 2018-2023 Nortina Simmons

 Originally published February 3, 2018

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#BlaPoWriMo: Baby

Slick with afterbirth
is how I remember him—
if a moment can be
counted as a memory—
and Sir bragging that
he bred his finest,
will make him a
fortune, sell for more.

He was out of my arms
before he opened his
eyes, out of the room
before I heard his cries.
The delivery was hard,
I couldn’t move, couldn’t
work any. They let me
alone. I liked that—

For a time.

But it hurt to be still,
and when the milk came,
I had no mouth to feed.
So I got up, went
searching, found you.

You reached for me before
I bent to pick you up,
raised my blouse before
I laid your head on my breast,
closed your lips around
the nipple, and I called
you baby.

I call you baby.
Until one day when
I will call you Sir.

© 2018-2023 Nortina Simmons

Originally published February 2, 2018.

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Bloganuary Day 8

I’m going to tell you a story. And it’s going to sound fantastical to you, something out of a storybook. But it’s the truth. I promise you it’s the God’s honest truth. And when I’m finished telling you this story, you may do one of three things. You may disregard me as completely insane. You may say I have the world’s largest imagination and I was only dreaming. Or you may choose to believe me. Whatever happens after I finish telling you this story, it will be up to you how it concludes…

Welcome to Bloganuary Day 8 and the first Sunday Morning Tea post of the new year (although it is now Sunday afternoon and I am currently drinking coffee…)

For the uninitiated, Sunday Morning Tea is my virtual writing salon, where we talk about our writing goals and projects while sipping on a hot cuppa tea…or coffee!

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The work was backbreaking in the fields under the hot sun. I wipe my forehead with the back of my hand. The skin is cracked and peeling. In the adjacent row, Mrs. Thompson hunches over an empty basket, breathing heavily.

“Move it!” The overseer unfurls his whip.

I rush over, link arms with her, and help her to straighten up.

“My granddaddy always told me they would find a way.” She sighs. “But you millennials don’t go and vote.”

I bite my tongue. Even as our country regresses a century and a half, the elders don’t hesitate to blame us.

#BlaPoWriMo: You Never Told Me Goodbye

You never told me goodbye
as you slipped out the stables
we shared with the horses
and cattle just before dawn, 
and the dew on the grass 
dampened the hem of your
skirt. You only left instructions—
The Missus doesn't like her food
to touch. Mister has a Sunday
night ritual he expects you
to follow—You were tight-lipped
on what that was, only that I
should wear loose clothing
that was easy to remove. The
clarity came when he snatched
my wrist as I served him tea.
Now, as I coil in my bed of hay
under the stench of manure, 
I think how much I hate you,
even though I know—It was
never your choice to leave.