As Us

A Space for Women of the World

Alexis Gumbs-Fiction

why be content with the lightning bug when you can have the lightning?1

she started with jars. stashed when no one was thinking about canning. when the sun was still in love and loathe to leave us and when sun finally did leave light winked back through the bellies of bugs. it was a heat she did not want to live without kissing her heartbeat hands. it was sweet childish lantern-making at first. expected. the intensity of her swoon sway dance with the grass and the insects was neglected by teenagers and adults who had other forms of love to attend to without seeming like it. in a way she was more honest than any of us. more faithful than most. and while the crushes of our summers flickered on and off at twilight she was already insisting beyond the season. she was unnatural really. unsuited for a world that dressed itself in lies, that allowed bodies and promises to shed themselves and die. she was not like that. but then on the other hand what is more natural than letting summer into your skin. and wouldn’t you keep it if you could. my sci-fi reading cousin says she had a special kind of melanin. i say she remembered something the rest of us forgot. my son says she’s the first mad scientist he ever heard about.

but this was all after the fact. all we know is we rarely saw her in winter and when we did she wasn’t dressed for it. and her red sundress always fit and her skin always stayed so smooth. and when her pretty man who no one knew and some said was too pretty to be a man at all left her towards the beginning of the fall that year a thunderbolt struck one time and split all the trees leading out of town.

1 Hortense Spillers, “Ellison’s Usable Past”, 65 in Black White and in Color

alexis pauline headshotALEXIS PAULINE GUMBS is a queer black troublemaker, a black feminist love evangelist, a prayer poet priestess and has a PhD in English, African and African-American Studies and Women and Gender Studies from Duke University. Her critical work on black feminism and queerness appears in many publications from the Routledge Companion to Anglophone Caribbean Literature to Mothering and Hip Hop Culture and from Obsidian to SIGNS and her poetry appears in Kweli, Vinyl, Reverie, Backbone and Proud Flesh. She is the 2013 runner up for the Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize. Alexis is the founder of Brilliance Remastered, a service to help visionary underrepresented graduate students stay connected to purpose, passion and community, co-founder of the Mobile Homecoming Project, a national experiential archive amplifying generations of Black LGBTQ Brilliance, and the community school Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind. Alexis was named one of UTNE Reader’s 50 Visionaries Transforming the World in 2009, was awarded a Too Sexy for 501-C3 trophy in 2011, Advocate‘s top 40 under 40 feature in 2012 and one of GO Magazine’s 100 Women We Love in 2013.

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