Black Girl Magic
Maybe Black girl magic is a farce.
Maybe Black girl magic is
just a hashtag for my best selfie
for the pic of me and my Black girl squad
and we all smiling
sun bouncing off our brown skin and infinite hair
beautiful enough to make a white girl burst
in a fit of thunderous envy.
Maybe Black girl magic is a mask
a suit of armor I put on every day
to protect myself from the truth
a lie I say in hopes that one day I'll believe it.
One day I'll believe there are magical powers
somewhere in the intersection of my oppressions
something superhuman in me
that'll make all of this strife worth it.
Maybe Black girl magic can freeze bullets midair
with the blink of an eye,
heal the unjustly dying with the wave of a hand
Maybe Black girl magic can transcend time
save her ancestors from getting on those ships
then Black girl magic would cease to exist.
Cause Black girl wouldn't need to be magical anymore
and finally Black girl can just be Black girl
and call herself enough.
52nd Street after Death
After my father dies
my mother drives his truck down 52nd Street.
The truck is red and all of West Philly is gray
but no one sees it except us.
My mother drives his truck down 52nd Street
and people from around the way
honk and yell my father’s name
like they always do
like they’ve always done.
They do not know yet that my father is still,
and gray as all of these mourning storefronts.
After my father dies
every man at the 52 bus stop
with dark skin and a beard
and coarse hands
and a thick silhouette
and a voice, more laughter than loving,
is an apparition that don’t know it.
And I can’t tell if the nightmare is
my father’s ghost,
or the thought that he might actually still be
After my father dies
every bus ride is filled with faces
that might have known him.
When the lady does a double take
I wonder if she recognizes me
from way back when.
Will she tell me she remembers me
much smaller and much shyer,
clinging to the pulse
in my father’s wrist.
Last summer I stopped breathing
and almost died.
All the air turned water
and most days, I was dead weight
All the air was thick with living
and I choked and suffocated in protest.
I try not to write about last summer.
Instead, I say the tiles on the bathroom floor
were drained of color.
I say even the doctor’s voice
was sterile and white.
I pull the covers over my head
and call it a closed lid casket,
but I’m never ready to say why she died.
Why I kept trying to drown myself
when the sleeping pills
were just another thing
to wake up from,
when the parties soaked in poison ended.
The high always came down,
always gave way to sobriety
so I found myself submerged in a bathtub.
Silence, like a stone
tied around my chest.
But, sometimes, the weight of
silence is just figurative.
And metaphors mean nothing to
the body and it’s damned will
to keep on living despite you.
Eventually the lungs start to convulsive,
the muscles revolt
and push and push and push
you up from out that water.
And you start to breathe again.
Find your sins a murky pool beneath you,
that maybe this drowning was
a baptism in disguise all along,
that almost dying
makes you a prime candidate
for a revival.
And the body was a lesson on resilience,
how it absorbs all the trauma
you put it through
and still, it keeps on
fighting to stay alive.
The body has no interest in dying.
And who are you to say otherwise?
Who am I to say otherwise?
I was designed to survive this.
I emerge from all this water
Jasmine L. Combs is a poet, performer, educator and event organizer from Philadelphia, PA. She received her BA in English from Temple University and is a Babel Poetry Collective alum.
Jasmine is the 2015 Grand Slam Champion of The Philly Pigeon Poetry Slam, a 2015 National Poetry Slam semifinalist, and a winner of the 2016 College Union Poetry Slam Invitational. She also won the 2015 Apiary Magazine STUNG Writing Contest and her winning piece "Night Child" was turned into an animation.
Currently, Jasmine is an organizer for The Philly Pigeon Poetry Slam and Spoken Word Editor for The Fem Lit Magazine. Her work has been published in Apiary Magazine, Vagabond City Lit, and her performances have been featured on Button Poetry, Slamfind, Blavity, and The Huffington Post. In 2014 she published her first chapbook Universal Themes.