It wasn’t a real day,
but two rather
luminous hours I spent in a kitchen
with you, the light coy with us until evening-
my blinking, rapidly,
the way a girl did once in a film
I criticized as not worth the ticket’s price.
I don’t know why I felt so beautiful-
but when I called my mother,
she made some noise when I said
you were someone I could love.
She was remembering my father already-
what she was wearing,
what he was wearing,
each word she said,
each word he said,
what it all meant-
what it all would come to mean,
She’d go back and take that fellowship
and study overseas in France-
but don’t get her wrong,
she wasn’t not bitter. She’s perfectly fine.
It’s like she didn’t understand
who she was talking to,
that I’m one of the few good moments
she shared with that pretty, redbone man.
She was thinking blue dress and tweed jacket and 1958
when I said you and I sat there talking at the table
speaking in hesitations before we kissed,
that you took off your glasses and closed your eyes
while describing a moment you wanted me to see.
And if I’d told her the true craziness?
I’d already bought the condoms;
I was wearing new panties under my clothes;
I’d shaved the tender part at the back of my knees,
but after you kissed me,
that was it.
That was all.
I sat there at the table,
The cork in the wine bottle mocking
me with its sweet, funky smell,
and I knew this was a day of separation.
The time before, when a woman
wouldn’t look for signs.
The time after, when a woman
could lose her mind,
and start to believe
buried in a man’s laughter,
no matter what she says:
I’m through with that sorry story.
I’m way past all that.
Honorée is a poet, fiction writer, literary and cultural critic, and the author of three books of poetry, The Gospel of Barbecue (2000); Outlandish Blues (Wesleyan University Press, 2003); and Red Clay Suite (Southern Illinois University Press, 2007).
Honorée has received several awards for her writing, including an award from the Rona Jaffe Foundation, and fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Witter Bynner Foundation through the Library of Congress. Her poems have appeared in African American Review, American Poetry Review, Black Renaissance Noire, Blues Poems (Random House, 2003), Brilliant Corners: A Journal of Jazz and Literature, Callaloo, The Civil Rights Reader (University of Georgia, 2009), The Gettysburg Review, The Kenyon Review, The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food and Drink (Bloomsbury, 2012), Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner and Ploughshares, among others.
She is at work on two separate books of poetry: In The Glory Gets, Honorée turns to the business of wisdom. Using the metaphors of “gets”—the concessional returns of living—she travels the interconnected legs of the journey to womanhood. Her other project, The Age of Phillis, is a book of historical poetry imagining the life and times of Phillis Wheatley, the eighteenth-century, Revolutionary-Era poet who was the first black American woman to publish a book; for the extensive research for this second project, Honorée traveled to Senegal, the United Kingdom, and throughout New England (USA), and her NEA Fellowship, American Antiquarian Society Fellowship, and the Vermont Studio Center Fellowship were awarded in support of The Age of Phillis. She has published several poems from each of her two manuscripts-in-progress.
A native Southerner, Honorée now lives on the prairie where she has taught creative writing at the University of Oklahoma since 2002; she is Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing Coordinator.
Visit Honorée’s full author website: www.honoreejeffers.com