You Do, by Maura Alia Badji
after Kara Walker’s artwork by the same name
A midnight woman in the shape of a monster takes center stage. Master of ceremonies
Shrinks in her radiant shadow, though still wields the sting of his tiny stick
Like a promise of rage unstrung. Is she revelation or divination? Is she embodiment
Of her own, or our salvation? Has she read the quilted maps of her own star-crossed palms?
Master shrinks in her pulsated shadow, becomes little man gripped in one
Hand, while pinstruck voudou child rides the other. Mother/Destroyer, Mama Oya.
Her dual nature compels her still: squeeze the pale life from him, throw his husk to hogs.
Be rid of his ever-present will; lift the chains of his privilege. She knows she can
Take his wand, break that hated stick by sleight of her gifted hand. Her revenant laugh
Cracks the air, blows back the dusty curtain of history to reveal power: her long repressed,
Her stereotyped, her hungry, her abandoned, her mythical sex. Once called succubus,
Wanton, witch, unsexed field-hand, now she channels hidden centuries of womb wisdom.
She’ll teach master his true size; this is not his show. The show must go on and will repeat
Like syncopated refrains of ancient songs. Far from copasetic, yet it will do. It will do,
Cake-walking its steady road through cotton-pricked fields of pain. She tacks a scrap of her
Scarred heart to the magic doll: pain she wants to give that little man, a sharp knife serving
Soured fruit. She knows pain can teach, reach beyond mere truth. She offers her own
Needled coming-of-age, keloided ebony skin as proof: pain alchemized her power. Behold:
She is fabled vision, no mere ingénue. Her breasts should sag with weight of long labour, famine.
Her beauty, defiant rides high. Colossal, her sex yields rivers of pleasure above his shrieks.
She speaks: I am a multitude, the only one, made anew each hour, each moon;
I eclipse your every imagination. I birth myself without respite.
I name myself: The Stillness and the Dance
I name myself: Mother of Nations
I name myself: Hope of Warriors
My name is Confluence, Convergence: my powers multiply.
I transform the small world in my mighty, mighty hands.*
Maura Alia Badji
*Source for last two lines: Lines 37 and 38, Exquisite Corpse 032015, Strange, and Tribble.
The poet was inspired by a particular work of Kara Walker, called You Do. Click here to view it.
Maura Alia Badji is a poet and writer. Her poetry and essays have appeared in many publications, including Cobalt, The Delaware Review, Pirene’s Fountain, The Skinny Poetry Journal, The Good Men Project, This City Is a Poem, Barely South Review, Red Flag Poetry, The Phoenix Soul, The Buffalo News, and The Haight Ashbury Literary Journal. Her poems are in anthologies from Liberated Muse, The Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, Night Ballet Press, Yellow Chair Press, and others. Maura earned her MFA from University of WA, Seattle where she was also an editorial assistant at The Seattle Review. She is a member of The Watering Hole, an online community for poets of colour. A NY state native, Maura lives in Virginia Beach with her son, Ibrahim.
11/11/2018 03:07:36 am
I love the title and how it tells an unadulterated story of truth in triumphant and victorious way. The words prompt visualization and a discussion on history, race, gender, and where these intersect.
MAURA ALIA BADJI
11/13/2018 10:58:20 pm
Latorial, Thank you for reading and taking time to comment. Much appreciated. ~Maura
11/11/2018 06:14:58 pm
My poem was inspired by Kara Walker's art work by the same name.
11/13/2018 07:03:13 am
I really love this artist, saw her works and started researching on them straight up.
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