Portrait of an Unidentified Black Woman, c. 1850
i am not
in my demure
in this chair
for your 15 minute
wide as oars
span continents & octaves
shape the finest pastries
more delicate than the northern star
reverend said the stowaways
devour them with both hands
like as if they were the christ-body
how do you like my plaits?
i straighten them as best i can
don't want to scare you with my kink
unruly as the irish
(harpooned in this whalebone corset what i wouldn’t give for my cotton nightgown embroidered with the pink violets the one i wear in the garden on spring nights while the homestead sleeps to let the warmth creep into my spiraling moss)
how am i doing?
am i developing nicely?
i want not to make a bad impression
doused in mercury
finished in gold chloride
daguerreotype of I
[unknown black woman]
dark as the ocean bed’s secrets
i will not smile for the camera
Alexander Perez has published poetry in Blue Unicorn, South Florida Poetry Review, Queer Toronto Literary Magazine, and elsewhere. He has a chapbook entitled Immortal Jellyfish forthcoming in 2023 from Finishing Line Press. Alexander is a member of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild and resides in Upstate New York with his partner James. For more, feel free to visit perezpoetrystudio.com
2/6/2023 04:11:56 pm
The sitter does look like Harriet Tubman, and I'm glad you took that leap even if she isn't. Love the poem. You did a great job capturing the "I am who I am, proud of who I am, not going to take any mess from you" tone.
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