Runner-up for the 2021 Auburn Witness Poetry Prize judged by Jericho Brown
my momma is all knuckle no talk. hails from
northside akron front yard fights on carlysle. once
almost dragged a lady into the aldi’s parkin lot over
ten cents. my mother is hard handed. but soft hearted
when it pays or keeps her children out harm’s way.
she says you are too smart to protest with fists
unclenched. her voice stumbles soft and clumsy through
the phone. i am the youngest of three. her last dime
saved. when she pleads stay home boy i understand
she’s frightened by memories of her baby nursing
his wrists scraped bloody by zip ties. or being taken
for a rough ride in a city she’s never heard of.
she knows i’m quick to anger and means to uncurl my
reactionary fits. before a pig decides my pulsing
neck vein is a concealed weapon. my mother is a devout christian.
all the church regulars know bobbi best by ad libs. recognize
the instigation of her amen! her come on pastor!
her take ya time! once inspired a bishop to keep
us in service for two days straight. she made sure i could recite books
of the bible in my sleep hanging upside down. the first time i’m arrested
at a protest she says my brain is better used in service of the lord’s
work. she believes my voice is most effective as a sanctuary echo.
i wanna tell her about the morning i survived an armored truck
big as a chapel plowing through a residential neighborhood. how i
know god is real because once after curfew i was cornered by a squad
of headlights and i grew wings. flapped once and feathered home.
she says her biggest regret is not being the kind of person
who protests. and i wanna tell her how i scan the crowd
for the loudest person in attendance. and i find my mother
in the front row swaying near the megaphone. a sacred pulpit.
where a black woman who smiles just like her. screams holy
with her diaphragm turned skyward. how it feels like praise and
politics. how we sing no justice! and it sounds like
sunday mourning. i want to ask what good is the lord’s work
if not demanding a piece of heaven on earth for all her children.
what use is my salvation if i can’t pray with my feet first. if i won’t
stand ten toes against military cowardice. if i won’t risk
whatever life i got left. if she could see us dance in the intersection
we gon be alright electrifying each breath while we pass half empty
water bottles like communion. arms woven like a thorn crown. guilty
and ready to accept the consequences. i think she’d bow her
head. say praise god thankful i found my church home.
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DARIUS SIMPSON is a writer, educator, performer, and skilled living room dancer from Akron, Ohio. Much like the means of production, he believes poetry belongs to and with the masses. He aims to inspire that feeling you get that makes you frown and slightly twist up ya face in approval. Darius believes in the dissolution of empire and the total liberation of Africans and all oppressed people by any means necessary. All Power to the People. Free The Land. Free All Political Prisoners.