Featured writer: Nikki Patin

Remain Silent

 

and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak
remembering
we were never meant to survive

-Audre Lorde

 

When it is the police,

We remain silent

 

When it is rape,

We remain silent

 

When it is someone famous

someone popular

someone powerful

We remain silent

 

Of all rape victims,

We have the right to require silence

Because we think no one is innocent

Not even the innocent

 

Not ever the victims

We make them complicit

 

We are told when we are young

Who we can go to

To feel safe

 

Tell the police

Tell your teacher

Tell your preacher

 

Who do you tell when those charged with your protection

Those tasked to give you service

Slide their badges over your body

Shove their chalk down your throat

Get you drunk on the blood of Jesus

 

Then tell you that your silence will protect you

 

The numbers tell me that nothing will protect me or you

 

Like how

since 1976, 1,394 people have been executed on Death Row but over 14,000 have been murdered by police

Like how sexual misconduct is the second highest form of police brutality

Like how you’re more likely to get raped by a cop than someone on the street

Like how Oklahoma City cop, Daniel Holtzlcaw, can face over 32 charges of first-degree rape, forcible sodomy and sexual battery and still get freed on bail and still get thousands in donations because him getting punished for raping Black women is seen as the real injustice

Like how 51% of all sexual violence committed by police is against minors

Like how 60% of Black women get raped before they turn 18

Like how every woman I know has either been raped or her sister or her mama or her daughter or her friend or her cousin or her coworker has been raped

Like how men get raped but no one ever wants to talk about that because we don’t even like to talk about women getting raped

Like how children get raped but no one ever wants talk about that because we don’t ever want to talk about anyone getting raped

Like how sex is the weapon when it comes to rape

not the actual point because rapists hardly ever come

 

And hardly ever close to justice

With thousands of untested rape kits languishing

in basements of police stations nationwide

 

Why am I talking about rape when I am supposed to be talking about how we can’t breathe?

 

This PTSD takes my breath away

Takes my days

turns them into tears

Takes my joys

turns them into terrors

Takes and takes and takes and takes my light

Until I swallow darkness of silence

To keep the kind of sanity that makes everyone else more comfortable than I will ever be

 

I have never been able to breathe

I hold my stomach in unintentionally

Have held it in for decades trying to hold myself together

Held it in so long that it hurts to pee

To sing to sleep to speak

 

Everyone tells me that my silence will protect me

Just like the police are supposed to protect me

Just like the church should be my sanctuary

Just like schools and workshops and poetry were supposed to liberate me

 

But I still can’t breathe

Because the movement ain’t trying to get me free

When rape is so pervasive

That those trying to uplift the masses

Do their best to try to uplift some asses

Then press fingers into screams

saying “just move with me

Not against me”


Saying “keep this our secret

No one will believe you anyway”

 

Gluttons for power

Will always gorge themselves

On those they perceive as weak

 

What is most terrifying to the powerful

Is the weak realizing their strength

 

There is no keeping of secrets

When the dead are resurrected

Through the anger of the living

 

There is no keeping of secrets

When the raped find their justice

In the telling of what happened

 

There is no keeping of the secret

That the system of America

Was built between the thighs of captured dark women

Built inside the grooves of bloodied Black backs

Built on top of bones red and feathered with colonizing cruelty

 

When the desecrated begin to assess the damage

Demand what was stolen be returned

Demand what was broken be repaired

Demand what was destroyed be restored

Demand what was betrayed be reconciled by the awful searing truth

 

Then the breath will demand its rightful place

The breath will command its rightful space

 

To matter

To shatter this silence

That will never protect us

 

We matter. Black lives matter.

 

And so

We must breathe.

Hunted

 

Who hunts become hunted

No one can stay hidden

What weight is there in having to wait

Night dirt and fear underfoot

Terror gnawing from drawn out hunger

We all become monsters in the dark

 

Wish to run away from the dark

Wish to dig out a path not hunted

To keen and purr in desirous hunger

To burst into light and expose the hidden

Roll and roil in lushness underfoot

All wishes lose their grip in wait

 

Petrified, I wait

Suffocating in panicked dark

Sweat trickling underfoot

All my muscles hunted

Every breath remains hidden

Resisting the violence of their hunger

 

All driven by hunger

When starving, who can wait?

When desperate, nothing stays hidden

Violence rends the dark

What is closest becomes hunted

Blood, bone, sinew crunching slick underfoot

 

I remember sunlight underfoot

I remember never knowing hunger

I did not know what it was to be hunted

I did not know what it was to wait

Why is evil lurking dark?

Why is malevolence hidden?

 

Who can respect what is hidden?

Do we ever love what is underfoot?

Are we invited by the silkiness of the dark?

Are we soothed by the chew of hunger?

Can we save ourselves by choosing to wait?

Or do we cast ourselves as the hunted?

 

I refuse to be hunted

As I break the wait

Survival, my only hunger

 

 

Bedroom Empire

after Marvin Tate’s “My Life to Present”

 

I am a sometimes singer

an assumed diva

but in a trashy sort of way

 

who smokes and tokes

and laughs and acts

surprised a lot

when nothing ever shocks me

 

bullshit defining dark moments

between the truth

 

according to me

I only bullshit fools

long for the brilliant ones

to wrestle me to the carpet

prove how easily they can see through

 

I am an all-the-time grinder

on schemes that make short money

 

a role model to myself

scrunched into too-small clothes

cheap shoes

and fake hair

 

faking fantasy

burning out between my thighs

 

I am a nasty gal

betty davis

listening-to wild child

 

a heathen in a world

of struggling angels

 

a nomad on a sinking ship

 

I am a dick lover

clit sucker

 

an I can't believe

she said/wore/did that

motherfucker

 

I learned want and need

at the age of greed

insistent at three

about what no one else

even tried to tell me

 

I'm on that greenery

better not bring no

hateration or holleration

to my dancery

 

I am a butch girl's wet dream

and a lonely femme's obsession

 

eyes crafted with possession

 

I am the lesson

in who not to fall in love with

 

I am deadly

 

a self-centered

sex-obsessed

pop medley

 

I take dirty pictures

and give them to my Mom

 

I take clear shots

and party til dawn

 

I'm a hustler, baby

on the take and the make

 

Cree Summer's pirate plaything

on Prince's purple ship

 

I am not hip

cool or down

 

I am awkward

big and brown

 

phat grrrl superhero

with no cape

 

and the power

to attract losers, psychos and killers

 

in a single bound

 

I am the warrior

mistaken for the fool

 

the arrowhead

swapped for jewel

 

I am a multiverse

of glitter and heartache

 

a parallel life of longing

 

waiting for the Hottentot

to split me down the middle

and snatch back her heart

 

I am a self-deluded

misfit who sucks at life

 

can't keep apartments, relationships

or attention

 

who fails to mention

any of this

 

to crowds loud and lewd

and ready to be unplugged

 

I am no lady

slightly shady

and gone off

 

like bad television

or cream

 

I am an abusive asshole

known to toss cords and cartridges

at heads and hearts

 

cruelty falling from my

golden tongue

 

I don't believe in anything

except my own eyesight

and the sky

 

space and time

 

I am a poorly read philosopher

a cartoon flunkie

posing as a fangirl

 

I am atomic

in how epically I fuck up

 

foreign at home and away

 

black stamp denied

 

always told

 

someday

someday

She

                       To say youth, beauty and innocence were stolen from her would be to assume that she ever possessed any of them.

                      She be Black girl and not that kind who is the exception to the rule of Black girl. She be Black girl who looked 30 at age 13, Black girl with too big tummy and rusty knees. Black girl with hair that never behaves. She be Black girl too smart, too quick, who no one would ever work hard to save.

                      She was born beyond salvation; heart broken by Daddy long gone before she ever drew her first breath. She solitary. Intrepid. Nuisance. Burden. She Black girl heaped on the back of another Black girl, except that Black girl was actually beautiful, eternally young and doggedly innocent. What could she do with a Mother determined to not know? To Mother is to know, to want to know, to get all up in all that business, even the nasty kind, even the kind that keeps you up at night.

                      Her Mother only wanted to know certain things: are you getting good grades? Are you being good and not having sex, drinking, smoking or doing drugs? Is your womb empty? A filled womb is an indictment in a world full of too many, too-grown Black girls who were too eager to be women.

                      Her Mother only wanted to know if she were winning, doing the right things, behaving well, being nice, staying polite. Her Mother wanted her to be not woman, not girl, but some neutered robot that brought home first place certificates and excellents on the report card. Some automaton who knows how to work and not jerk, who knows how to do the right thing every time, all the time, and not feel any type of way about it. A lockstep, forward-moving worker bee with no feelings, no desires, no dreams. To dream is to open the door to disaster. To want more than is your station.

                      She was the first girl in her class to wear a bra, starting at the end of the third grade. The secret was that those were not breasts filling out the polyester training bra, but baby fat spilling over into fat fat. Little girl chub jiggling a little too much. She got teased like they were those other things, but now that she's grown, the breasts still look like the same hanging blobs of flesh that were never firm or perky or fresh.

                      She pretend she tough, a real badass. Behind the wheel of the cars she owns (never anyone else's or a rental), she'll gun right behind anyone she feels disrespected her on the road. She brake-check, stopping fast right in front of anyone stupid enough to fuck with someone they don't even know. Like how she stupid, sometimes. She acts tough and stupid sometimes even though she doesn't know how to fight, throws punches with nothing behind them. She uses this big, stupid body to intimidate people into silence, to threaten them with the possibility that they tangled with the wrong one.

                      She angry. Uncle say she got this deep well of anger inside her, like someone dug a hole inside her soul, lined it with stones and filled it with every cliché of rage. She lava, she a pot bubbling, she the lid banging against that metal, she lightning across an ominous sky, a mighty ocean come to wipe out anything resembling earth, dirt, foundation. Monster. She be Mothra and Godzilla's hate child, come to finish the job.

                      Why she so angry? Who the fuck knows? Maybe 'cause she born ugly in a family of gorgeous women. Maybe 'cause she born gorgeous in a family of gorgeous women who didn't want another so they fattened her up, turned her into a deformed nerd the shape and weight of a book no one wants to read. Maybe 'cause she figured out that don't nobody want a smart woman, a Black woman, a fat woman, a queer woman, an all-of-the-above-and-then-some woman who don't even want to be a woman sometimes because it's too much goddamned work. Maybe 'cause people were fucked up to her from jump, never gave her a chance, talked shit about shit she couldn't control, like being the bastard daughter of a drug addict, like being the only child of a heartbroken woman, like being a fat kid in cheap clothes who acted like fucking royalty and looked down on the hooligans in $100 Jordan's who couldn't even spell.

                      She got something, though. She got something the tiny chicks ain't got. She got something the white boys ain't got. She got something that Jordan's and a good father and a happy mother and a back yard can't get you. She can get up on that stage and melt every face with her voice, her words, her passion. She can bellow like a beast and make them love it. She can take off all her clothes, cuss like a sailor, cover herself in tattoos and bruises from a lover who does it rough the way she likes it and still get called a role model. There's no name for some shit like that, but when she's feeling low and powerless and weird, she can call on that thing and know that she has lived what most people will never touch.

                      Then again, her own mother ain't got nothing to say about it, even less she wants to do. So maybe she got nothing. Maybe she is nothing at all.