A Space for Writers of the World
for Sierra Leone ballet dancer and civil war survivor
we You have no bones. Maybe you swallowed them. After witnessing a teacher cut open to settle a bet of her unborn sex, I would lose epaulettes too throw tendons downhill, to keep pride a secret— my belly full. So, I wonder what propels you to jump beside Medusa’s head— stealing 2 snakes to tie your ballet slippers. Maybe that bun secures them: a perfectly scooped decoy, a fine haired boneyard. Maybe bones are tucked beneath that grin. 3 teeth slip through. Where do these ligaments sleep? Because they do not sleep in you.
from Robert Thom’s J. Marion Sims: Gynecologic Surgeon
A breeding ox, soured
but not barren kneels before him.
2 others gawk and one peeps.
This is a cutting morning.
Fistula. Fist-you-lah sounds
regal but cuts a $100-less
from a female thigh.
hums like a stepdaughter.
It was not used on 28 mornings
that screamed clouds of mercy.
I visited dr. sims in East Harlem.
Because it was a dream, I don’t
remember our exchange except
he said in Denzel Washington’s baritone:
“King Kong got nothing on me.”
I bean-stalked into a goddess
opened my legs, drowning him
in blankets of my old womb.
A wrought, iron coat
was slick in my horror.
He gawked with a recognizable
pleading while my eyes rolled,
damn near inverted
from his comedic shame.
That didn’t happen.
I can’t water board ghosts.
I met dr. sims in East Harlem
where he spun a roll of negatives in my head—
women glossed in black
cut open to reveal sliver.
He grew in East Harlem’s
bastard sunflowers that coddled a wedding
of a black bride.
Her gown was almost too lively,
I want to do some bloodletting in my classroom.
There’s a blue ox and 12 lumberjacks
who don’t have the slightest clue
how to use their axes. And I know that,
I know but can’t dismiss that.
We are discussing colorism in a classroom
in the essential melting pot of 1 black bean.
Tanning is the same as bleaching cream for Indian people.
Looking better, lighter is an evolutionary tactic.
I did not assign the Bell Curve this semester.
I bit my tongue till I tasted cookware
to keep from laughing, to keep from—
You focus on the negative, I mean Disney just
featured a Black Princess. Why can’t
double consciousness be applied to white,
A wave of molasses fell on my head.
My mother climbed in my drumming ear:
“the moment you feel the need to kill someone,
remember they’re somebody’s baby.”
After getting drunk from Donny Hathaway,
another ghost reappeared, this time
in glossy print:
The sun rose in my uterus
when I read that article.
to Chemical Relaxers.”
I daydreamed in
with fried eggs
dressed in ketchup:
baby it doesn’t hurt,
keep on going.
The gash was shaped
like minstrel lips and
out of the mouth came
jelly. That’s how I
can tame this wound,
manage this cleaning.
Focus on the latex
smell, the pattern of
the gauge, the algebra
homework to do.
My mother’s fibroids were:
three golf balls,
a marbleized cantaloupe,
one red fist.
I’ll inherit her grocery list
and have my daughter
tend to the wide healing
while listening to Al Green.
I’m looking for
blood ties between
my legs and his hands.
And I think I’ve found hi
sleeping in the space between
penicillin and Henrietta Lacks,
gouging my great grandmother’s
We have met and met
4 dr. sims in our family.
He sighed between bulbs
and tears, origin and curse,
cross and fertility. Trial
and error have turned our
women into reaped whispers
carrying royal jellied tumors
uphill to the next generation.
I went to a diversity seminar:
18 people, three different races.
We were bats during the bias test,
occasionally peeked but hastily
cloaked our answers with wings.
He wanted our responses:
“privilege” and “entitled.”
What I learned from this seminar:
communication as body language
does my audio match my visual?
55% is sight
38% is sound
7% is speech
and that I must look tender for my students to feel
my words, are organza against their skin.
After discussion, I cornered him with confessions.
He boasted utility.
Teach diversity as utility.
I revealed my discomfort in weaving anguish
plus, these kids are smart enough
to know bullshit,
especially if it comes from an ox. God, send me
Ghandi dressed in a zoot suit to teach my class.
I need some tangibility for both oppositions.
I’m not close enough to dab their pulses in manure
No, next session I’m going to sit butterflied,
list my demands: I’ll begin with economics,
end on evolution. I have history, the brawniest
I fed them Kenneth Clark
and made them play with dolls.
After video and pictures, someone
passed around their rouge; it was
contagious. Red blush nearly stained
my blue sweater
Here comes that noise:
blood rising and its only been two
seconds since the yolk broke.
Outside it was so radiant,
every student’s face was a torch—
a heavenly sight of fire.
That is the biology of bearing:
hearing an earthworm cripple
in the sun.
Kimberly Williams is a Black southern poet from Virginia. She has received her M.F.A. in poetry from Cornell University in New York, where she presently teaches in the English department. Her current research and focus is the history of racialized trauma and its relationship to American dance. She has been published or forthcoming in Callaloo, Gulf Coast, Drunken Boat and Philologia.