Pedagogy of the Oppressed


the woman beside me at the bus stop
eats her dates, casting pit to pavement
amber skin like liquor
rippling in the breeze of passing cars

she teaches me:

the black woman is the most disrespected person on the planet,
did you know that?
they don’ teach it
they don’t want you to know

i listen with too-big ears
drowned in a lake of skin and tongue

i wonder if anyone has ever died being baptized

her dates punctuate her story
where sweetness of mouth
mixed with tart
and sweat of brow
forms tilled rows of hair and thickfurrow skin
on her forehead
rows for planting mind-flowers
to accent the bier
in this intimacy of last rites

thee. most. dis. re. spect. ed. person
hear me?

she tells me of mothers and men
labor and grief
neglect and toll
and the time a dr.
winced at her naked body
and i am ache

she speaks of church and sunday sermon
men in dirty suits with clean mouths
shameless crusted-over-stains
spilled pools of dried diamond dust
accenting the imprint of their
serpents caged up in slacks
and clergy collars like too-loose-nooses-god-won’t-tighten-enough
to let the rest of us breathe

of white night wenches
who steal crumbs from the empty pillow beside her
making certain to leave nothing behind
to nourish her in the morning
starvation and wasting
begging and being ignored
skin and bones woman
hungry for the sustenance of love
and acceptance

she speaks of abandonment
and bleeding faith
remnants of the war
before the fall of man
while she builds a pile of pits

she becomes the women of old
sheroes that were
leading revolt
possessed by a spirit of revolution
enslaved women
indigenous women
escaped women
dead women living in the solidarity of her neglect

i know this lesson
and i believe her

i listen and wonder
if the discard of her mouth
will grow in the sidewalk cracks
to feed the future of this place
designated for shelter
and hope so

in my devotion to herspeak
i wonder how many ways
a man can be murdered
let rivers of retribution in my mind
ease the ache of offense
apologizing without words
she no longer wants to hear

I wish I could kill every man
who made you stop seeing yourself
in your dreams at night
who spells out the words
of your discontent
who ate your rations
and left you to die
while chasing their mirage
of come-up


another man approaches
from across the street
eating dragon fruit
lean and slim
adorned in inflections
of the generations of women who made him
riding high in his hip
eyes arched to gladness
burning shame offerings for the sun
he is a fire walker too
charred feet disguised in design
to my eye
a man made of rose quartz
but with soft edges, and self-smoothed
iridescent in his intentions

he teaches me:

her lips curl into meat hooks
and hang his body like slaughterhouse flesh
from the roof of the shelter
painted by the blood

she masters a rhythm of roll-eye-spit-and-curse
so precisely her spit sounds like sissy

i feel the mother in me rise
to sit between us in daylight
revealing herself
wings spread wide
like a psalm 91 god called to crisis

but I suppress her within
knowing there is not enough room
for all that I am
on the bench too

how yall doin? he asks
to which the woman soundlessly rolls-eye-spit-curse-sisssynigga
no reply

she has ceased to teach
my ears melt in the heat of her sun
as the corners of my own mouth curl
to say

insufficiently oppressed, it seems , my sweet baby
but i guess we’ll get there one day.

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