My mom calls me a Negroe, stresses the second syllable as if it is an order, as if she is reclaiming the hanging trees and willing the branches to choke the sky until it collapses and becomes static, stuck on a night so blue we cannot call it anything other than black. Blackity Black Black Black, she would say as if the taste of the word is addictive, like if she stopped loving the color she just might starve to death. I think we, Black, are everything. I think when you close your eyes and see black that is God showing you what is unconditionally beautiful. I think stars are unnatural, white things meant to pollute the black of the sky. Yet we wish on them because we know they hold unwarranted power. When I first learned I had the right to reclaim the slur, I would sit up in my bed at night whispering Negroe to myself over and over, looking out the window as the sky grew blacker. When the stars began to blind me, I would bury myself in my own skin and soothe myself with the color God gave me.
A GIRL AND HER DEAD MOTHER AS A METAPHOR FOR GHOST TOWNS
Cento from metamorphosis by Ai Li Feng, insects and windows by Sunny Vuong, taxonomy by Mia Golden and Ghazal for Ghost Towns by Anoushka Kumar.
I say, I want to write myself into something beautiful. I want to burn my body and I don’t know if this is a metaphor. And I wonder if she would stand steel-faced, her mouth pressed into a disbelieving line, as if to ask, why, why didn’t you? And I wonder if she would remember that I am just a girl (trillions of blood cells, too many shallow breaths to count) and she was something like one, too, so how could she fault me for what I never did? She would say, when did you stop believing you could fly? And I see butterfly spirits, scattering in the torchlight, clouding behind my collarbones; I tip my head back and pull at two bodies trying to slip into the light: a loving mother braising her shadow and a girl as a luminous as the moon, or a requiem for ruination. They want to pass through the smoke and into another ribcage, an intangible thing. Sometimes ribcages are plateaus and I am just a girl.
Jaiden Thompson (they/them) is a young, Black American writer walking the line between poetic genius and foolery. They have work published or forthcoming in COUNTERCLOCK, Stone of Madness, Lumiere Review and perhappened, among others. Learn more about them here: jaidenthompson.weebly.com