My mother’s friend sips on her coffee,
her eyes don’t leave my face.
she warns as she looks at me, quietly, without saying a word,
because at that age you must have heard warnings about smooth talking beasts,
because things like this are not to be said,
they are obvious.
I see your mom’s face in your face.
You look alike. Same lips.
And I see your daughter’s faces in your face,
and your granddaughters’ faces in your face.
They all look back at me through you,
and I see myself in you.
“The summer tan is catching up on your daughter. She should probably stay inside. Such a tomboy! I saw her racing with the boys; she’s pretty fast. She’s getting pretty dark though. Are you sure it’s ladylike? For her to be out there racing and getting so dark? Who is going to marry her?”
I nestled myself into you.
The anthem of hopelessly hopeful girls worldwide? Isn’t it?
Thought I’d make a home out of you, like a bee attracted to a flower,
like a bird attracted to a tree.
I couldn’t resist it,
I thought I was going to make a home out of you,
but your branches started to close in.
You perfumed more and more of rotting leaves and flowers.
Your colors faded, faded and faded with me.
We rotted together.
My kinks were less and less inviting
my color too dark,
the spices my food was made with too strong? Too smelly?
My freckles not enough to remind you of the ideal woman?
Someone lighter perhaps?
Surely not this dark.
The beast you were warned about as a child by your mother….
you don’t realize that the beast won’t simply devour you.
The reason for why your mother won’t even allow you to talk to the beast,
is because he speaks.
Smoothly, warms you up like tea on a cold morning,
he draws you in & makes himself the cage,
and you the bird in it.
It’d be a waste to feed only once,
why not devour you?
Piece by piece,
smile by smile,
wasted minute by wasted minute,
memory by memory,
touch by touch,
before you’ll know all of you will be devoured.
Pretty curls, and a snapback to hide a head full of mischief.
Dark enough to blend in the night,
so that they can be forgotten and never spoken of again.
Someone you don’t show up with in front of your friends.
At least not seriously.
The girls you got to keep an eye out for.
The girl you just have to settle with as the last choice?
Is that what your mom’s friend meant?
Hands work restlessly.
You ask your mother
why won’t she praise the good Lord with the rest of us anymore?
A question repeated too many times to be counted in this world.
Why is her friend so annoying?
Why can’t she mind her business? Let her race on her bikes and rollerblades in peace?
Why did she have to act like she even wanted her over for coffee?
What’s there to be upset about?
Why can’t she tell her friend that she doesn’t really care about her daughter being a tomboy or getting darker?
She never had anything to say about it.
She tells you to go study, that grown folks don’t always say what’s on their minds.
Years later you realize that the scrubbing wasn’t idle,
it was the scrubbing of the bars you were locked in.
So that you’d never have to scrub your way out.
So your daughters,
your daughters’ daughters,
would never have to rot in a cage that smelled of dead flowers.
Before you leave to study some more for the next four years far far away she warns you of beasts.
She tells you to not bother with boys with pretty curls and heads full of mischief that talk like her friend.
She waves goodbye, finally doing something else besides scrubbing.
I guess I finally realized that books do take you somewhere.
“Books and doors are the same thing. You open them and you go through another world.” – Jeanette Winterson