guest-edited by Danielle Evans
Forgive my impatience
for nostalgia, your penicillin or wine,
your muddling through pleasure
as a map whose compass was inked
by men who put darker men
to the lash, your map whose edges
extend only to motherhood untroubled
by this skin deep fear my babies
won’t have the sharp squint
that is a song to the cradleboard,
that is a song to the red of me.
All right, I’m tired of your nursery rhymes,
language as white language consumed
in its own syllables. What’s at stake besides being
human? Motherhood for me looks like a storm
where I demolish the whole school
in the whiplash of my war cry
after my little one crafts a paper turkey
whose feathers, when reversed
become a fine headdress. That day
my daughter returns home, perhaps
my logic will have evolved to make
lyric her not dark enough, the way
I try to explain my own skin.
It has become increasingly apparent
which side of this audience I’m on,
whose side of the church I’ve shown up for,
as the poet makes her toasts to Kant,
Gutenberg, motherhood, language
which is already un-coded for the bridal
party, not so much for the groom.
I’m not bewildered by your inside
jokes, no, I grew up in a two-story house,
I ate fresh green beans, apple pies;
I know what it is to be like snow—
at some point I can even remember
what it was like to be as though
motherhood were just another language
I had yet to learn, as though my words
were like anyone else’s, as though anger
were not a liability, not a red thing crumpled
into the smallest, blackest ball inside.
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Kenzie Allen is a Zell Postgraduate Fellow at the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program, and is a descendant of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin. Her poetry and non-fiction can be found in Sonora Review, The Iowa Review, Day One, Word Riot, Apogee, Drunken Boat, Matter: A Journal of Political Poetry and Commentary, and elsewhere, and she is managing editor of the Anthropoid collective. She lives with her mother on the Oneida Reservation in Green Bay, and in Ann Arbor.