After Ana Mendieta’s Tree of Life
I decided I wanted to be a black girl.
If I couldn’t be a black girl
I’d be a white girl but I didn’t want to be
a white girl.
I find a tree and drag the bark on my skin,
some grasses and earth, until I am black
by the sweat of my own skin.
I’m caught by a pool and captured and shipped
It’s such a shitty thing they do to me
but it’s only the first shitty thing.
One shitty thing after another happens.
I wonder why the goddess I pray to
allows this to happen.
I don’t know her anymore,
and no one knows me anymore.
I will not titillate you with sordid confessions,
nor will I dwell upon the horrors inflicted upon me.
Instead, I will eat the black beans of my own skin.
It was a dangerous decision to become a black girl.
I didn’t know my skin would be a red flag,
and my people would be lynched.
But I feel better not being white,
since it’s the whites in charge that lynch
black girls like me
whether they knot the rope or not.
Whether or not you know it or not,
the tree where they tie the rope
is the tree that bathes my black skin
with tree mercy and consolation
so my black soul wiggles loose from the noose,
junks its losses, and slips past them.
Mary Meriam co-founded Headmistress Press and edits the Lavender Review: Lesbian Poetry and Art. She is the author of My Girl’s Green Jacket (2018) and The Lillian Trilogy (2015), both from Headmistress Press. Poems appear recently in Poetry, Prelude, and Subtropics.
The Ekphrastic Review
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