Prayer for My Body Moving through Space

The black body is not a miracle
It belongs
Like perfume stain
Sunflower seed
Rain smell
The white body is not a sign
Telling your body to keep out
A white man is not a gun that has learned to walk upright
A white woman is not a subtraction of your whole
A white-passing woman is not your failure
Brush their shoulders
Keep your body forward
Make your inward gaze a home
Apologize to no one
Don’t say excuse me
Don’t embrace the margins of the sidewalk
Don’t take their bruises into yourself
Address the unsunned skin beneath the breasts
That charged space between the hands
You will get home safe
The village will carry you
However harassed
There is understanding waiting for you
On the other side of that intersection
Do not resent bodies moving through space
Wish all bodies well
Love the black body
That patron saint of culture
When it wears a dress that doesn’t apologize
When it is not sexy
When it is male and not also strong
Love the crazy body
Love the body at war with itself
Love it without requiring it to love you back




Receiving a man’s aggression into your body
And having nowhere to go with it




Wanting to be the authority on your blackness
And not wanting to be the authority on blackness




Trying to read Mambety’s filmmaking
Because you can’t stop thinking about how someone tried to own your body




Your openness
Vulnerable to white guilt
The blurred line between friendliness and violence




How to tell a well-meaning white woman that she is erasing you




Swearing never to call the cops on a black man
Knowing few black men will protect you




So ready to be militant
Nothing to be militant about




A girlfriend
For something a man did
To both of us

Student Loans

I’ve become one of those
Luxurious children of European bankers
Soft and unworked
Fat on free time
London my playground
Hunting leisure on weekends
Going out not just to eat
But to be waited on
Sitting outside an exhibition
He tells me
Working class doesn’t mean miserable
I vehemently agree
So why do I whisper Hoxton
When asked where I live
Why this guilt
When all I’ve done is
Collect cactuses
Fatten friends on black chocolate
Bathe my face in lavender
Drink saffron in Brick Lane?
It was entirely too easy to ask my country for a living
Once I left
My government so willing
To loan me debt
Uni so eager to collect a check
American affirmative action
Sitting in the gallery
He asks why I’m stressed
It’s basically free money, isn’t it?
Then tries to sell me art
Another thing that the rich seem to own
Instead I
Buy a leather jacket
Just like everyone else
Dance at Pxssy Palace and
House Jamaican youth
Eat Nigerian tapas
Meet my parents’ civil war
Paint French tips gold and
Philosophize at Chimamanda’s feet
Consume black theatre
Defend our humanity
Give nothing to the homeless
And sometimes

What’s harder than being cool?


Walk in
Skin as bright as peacock feather
Veins humming with drink,
Love loose on my tongue
Fingers race hearts when they tap and queue
Squad cranks the party all the way up
-until white girl says
That’s nice but
You’re taking up too much space
I didn’t know dancing could be anything but a conversation
Until a white man told me I shouldn’t leave the house party
Because my body was doing amazing things
His gaze and mouth all
Full of awe
Before an Afrobeat fan
Followed my wine all the way to the floor
I can do that, too
Before a white gay slipped me his number
Should I ever want to go out sometime
I give them so much life
If impersonation is the sincerest form of flattery
Then what’s a bad imitation
You don’t even desire me
You dismember me
You want my hips for yourself
What would you do with my feet
Bring them out for company?
Hump them in your cold sheets
In the middle of the night?
This dark corner is not a stage
Believe it or not
I came to grind by myself
I don’t ask for much
Just this tract of dancefloor
Where I come to stop rubbing elbows
Cramming myself into margins
Folding and folding myself into your leftover space
Here is where my body can be big
Speak free
But you find me here, too
House party capitalist
You want me to be Rihanna
Stop watching like an audience
When you haven’t even paid
All this flattery
Makes me silkworm
Soft and withdrawn
Dreaming of a strong country
Where all around me would have been mirrors
Walk out exhausted
Shoulders hunched
No I’m not crying
These are such sweet problems
They would taste delicious under a hot sun
Hustling for food and water
But they are mine
I came to party
Turns out I’m the entertainment


after Ebele Okobi

He invades my immigrant life like bug bites you discover
Just south of your most tender regions
From professor’s mouth: How will you survive this man
Shake head
Survive is what I do every day
Don African print
Listen to TED Talk
Older Igbo-American woman
Says she’s not going back
She wants to be a threat
I rouse 9 year-old Ifeanyi
Hear that?
Dream not just of success
But notoriety
These days I’m too timid to even tweet while emotional
Let the Atlantic sit like static between me and the news
But when I tune in
Even National Public Radio sounds biased
I shake pre-9/11 Ifeanyi
Tell her, America will raise you to be nonthreatening
Call it "Islamophobia"
In fifteen years, don’t whisper "Assalam alaykum"
When greeting your Emirati friend
Her scarf the color of milk
In my tweets
Trump is a lowercase noun
I hold their names at arm’s length
The truth is
It’s hard to fight a government that thinks you’re a mythical creature
The question is
How to box them with a poem
How to hold a construct between crosshairs
She said she wanted to be a threat
Constant like thorn in side
She made it sound delicious
I want to be processed sugar
The innocuous that destroys from the inside
Binge on me
Till diabetic with my ideals
My question
Is how to pull my country out from underneath him
All my people intact
How to run his people so ragged
That they race to Caucasus
How do I unlearn respectability
Once and for all
Vigilante glow-up
What if the Secret Service code for threat
Was my name?
To be a threat to his most tender parts
To make him cough up my ancestors’ blood
To make him
A ghost