Friday, April 3, 2015

a poem by t’ai freedom ford

past life portrait

circa Summer 1980

Genius isn't free; there's a great price to pay. And Richard knew it.
    -Jennifer Lee Pryor

When fucking is the family business
you got two choices: hide the bruise

of your shame and cry or look at it
square on and laugh until the bruise

becomes muse or keloided battle scar.
When your daddy is a motherfucker

you learn to remove your pinky ring
before you slap, so not to leave a bruise

or break skin—there is already too much
blood invested in this business when

your granny is selling your mama
and other women’s bodies you learn

irony and fucking becomes funny
as fuck except laughter sounds like bruise

and you grow up thinking of women
as sweet things to cop like candybars.

Pussy is neither exotic nor erotic
but rather ordinary as a bruise

and what’s a boy to do but collect
panties and cursewords in a house

full of blasphemous Jesuses ricocheting
out of the mouths of tricks—bruised

lips that do not kiss, just suck. What
the fuck you gone do but laugh?

And make everybody and they mother
laugh too so you don’t feel crazy or lonely—

And the laugh tracks start to loop lovely
like the women loop lovely marriage

after marriage every year like some sort
of odd ritualistic undoing of the bruise

of your daddy as pimp and Original
Motherfucker: origin of your laughter

the golden key to your happily ever
after—the records, movies, mountains

of cocaine and fuck and nigger empires
until you understand nigger bruises.

When the laughter turns to voices
that won’t turn off when the routine ends

and the cocaine only quickens everything
to a blur of fuck, you must confront the bruise

but grandma ain’t there to kiss away the hurt
cause she dead along with mama and daddy

so you pick at the scab, grab the rum to silence
the humming in your head with a cigarette lighter.

Poof! You remember running—the skin
tight with scorch   baffling light  and bruise

and the clarity is scary as hell
cause you realize the price of genius,

the product of your laughter
and your happily ever after awakens

you in a hospital room that smells
of bandage and damaged blues.

t’ai freedom ford is a New York City high school English teacher, Cave Canem Fellow and Pushcart Prize nominee. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Drunken Boat, Sinister Wisdom, No, Dear, The African American Review, PLUCK!, Vinyl and others. In 2012 and 2013, she completed two multi-city tours as a part of a queer women of color literary salon, The Revival. t’ai lives and loves in Brooklyn, but hangs out digitally at:

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