Yvette R. Murray
Ode to the Ladies in the Front of the Room
It begins at the top
with a certain tilt of her chin.
The way her head never slips below
a certain angle.
How she Serengeties a room.
Her speech crisp,
tart if ever crossed.
A bright smile reserved.
Impeccable politeness for the rest.
The way she will carve a necessary
path in concrete,
stands at the ready.
It is the timbre of her drawl,
the way she seems to glide
an inch above ground.
I sit in the back,
live in her shadow.
But, oh, what a bright place it is.
It is I for whom she reaches.
I that she treats like wet clay.
I that she tells the tales of her creation.
Jim Crow, yass ma’am survivor
to whom I bow.
Refined Tastes of a Gullah Woman
A Gullah woman is born with a very refined palate.
She can tell when you cooked the shrimp too long
and when the grease should have been changed before using.
She will distinguish which herbs you used for seasoning.
and when you didn’t use enough.
A Gullah woman knows the difference by taste and texture
between collards, mustards, and kale.
Her Mama taught her how long to cook grits and rice—
when to stir
and when not to stir.
She senses when the pain has been too much for you
and can trace the tracks of your dried tears.
She can tell the blood type of drops and smears,
brain matter and skin left on asphalt.
She watches the pain that has been left behind:
tattered generations that keep walking,
walking through these arid states
to search for fresh water.
And she knows how to grab up all her people
by the soul and let them rest on her porch.