Mantra for Black Girls
Like Harriet the
great compromise is always
freedom of being:
Learn when to bow down
quilt prayers create code words
What turned us on still
turns us out seeking justice
a hand we can trust
for preservation, for kin
our black bodie/s/lay.
For What a Tomorrow Could Bring
Mama drove a yellow school bus cooked in school cafeterias & cleaned white folk’s houses. Daddy cleaned their yards, worked their farms, drove nails in their boards, built their houses, their schools, their churches, their office buildings, their grocery & department stores.
They came home every day to a four-turned-eight room house that took thirty years to pay for, the house for which they worked hard to make a home—for me & every child who ever laid their head down in it, every child they raised, every moment they gave for somebody else.
They knew Black America like the backs of their hands, that it was a hallelujah anyhow, that it was a dice game, a juke joint, a song they danced, a come-to-Jesus moment; it was more than what they had yesterday. Life had been scattered with hope for what a tomorrow could bring.
They knew white America was no black man’s promised land, but they got out of bed every day anyhow, pressed on for whatever victory they had in that white Jesus hanging high in a picture framed—in their living room; even he looked up.
They kept the faith because in America, life could change for the better in a NY minute, in a shotgun marriage, a child’s birth, at a funeral, with a graduation, in an old white woman’s kitchen, or the tilling of a white man’s field. There rested a promise that hard work paid, not well, but good enough to raise boys & girls America might one day call sons & daughters, men & women, black or white, rich or poor, American.
Their Black lives mattered—to them first, to them foremost, to them most of all.
Latorial Faison, Ed.D., is a Tom Howard Prize winner and a finalist for the Louise Bogan, RHINO, and Cave Canem Prizes, with poems published in Obsidian, Prairie Schooner, Artemis, and elsewhere. Her books include Mother to Son, 28 Days of Poetry Celebrating Black History, and The Missed Education of the Negro.