BY KARISMA PRICE
SELECTIONS BY OMOTARA JAMES
Even if you’ve never endured the burn of a chemical relaxer, even if you’ve never sat still beneath the crackle of a sizzling hot comb, who among us hasn’t processed the body through a problematic paradigm? Hasn’t prayed for at least one part of the whole to be perfect? An inquisitive voice emanates from Price’s poems with all the authority granted by compassion. How the he tenderness of the phrase “to hold the seeds of you in my fingers” cohabitates within the same poem that mouths “the feathered kiss of suffering,” demonstrates Price’s lyric grace and propensity to translate every divine inch of the mortal coil.
God of burning scalp,
prevent the dollop of chemical from destroying my cousin’s hairline. She sits contently in the kitchen chair, unaware of the approaching fire. I watch how the loose strand swings, lands on her acne cheek and wonder how long it took her to master stillness. How many times did my aunt have to promise her an incentive for straight hair and itchy scabs? I frown when the smell of sulfur floods the room. When the hot comb couldn’t tame the wild, my aunt suggested a more permanent solution. This is a rite of passage. Maybe now it won’t look so nappy. When the thick, white cream loiters for too long on my cousin’s scalp, she bolts from the chair and plunges head first into the kitchen sink. This must be what a proper baptism looks like.
Demeter, Reimagined as a Black Woman, Speaks to Persephone
Please do not come back to me
suspended in the sky’s quiet
diorama, or in umber pieces
that require me to hold the seeds
of you in my fingers
like an examiner holds
a tooth to an x-ray. Baby, I have broken
the trees for you. I will curse every
person that yells, “A man was lynched
here yesterday,” but refuses to acknowledge
his wife. Did they ever cut her down or
does she still swing above us like a broken
promise? What of the mothers afraid of being
mothers of daughters and fear the feathered
kiss of suffering? I asked God
for mercy. There was no answer.
I’ve decided you don’t have to answer
me either. Because I love you, surrender
to the only darkness heavier than sleep.
Do not come back from it.
Omotara James is a poet and essayist. Her poetry chapbook, Daughter Tongue, was selected by African Poetry Book Fund, in collaboration with Akashic Books, for the 2018 New Generation African Poets Box Set. Her debut full length collection, Mama Wata, is forthcoming in the Fall of 2018 from Siren Songs, of CCM press. She has been award fellowships from Cave Canem and Lambda Literary. Currently, she is an MFA candidate in poetry at NYU. For further information, please visit her website: www.omotarajames.com
Karisma Price was born and raised in New Orleans, LA and holds a BA in creative writing from Columbia University. She is an MFA candidate in poetry at New York University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Four Way Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Vinyl, and Leveler. Karisma lives in New York City, and along with Kwame Opoku-Duku III, she is a founding member of the Unbnd Collective. Find her on twitter at @itsKayPrice and here.