weight of this cage crushes and peels back soul to bone, devours the marrow too
maybe leaves the edge of a hint to torment foggy nostalgia
maybe not, maybe just leaves an ache in the spine so strong you must sit upright
it pounds and beats and howls to break through time’s corseted hold, to
bend out of it, to crawl on all fours
to meet the sun creeping through the earth and up and vanish in the heat
move with the smoke unnoticed to beat the day
Imma, Queen of the Insects
The water was thick with earth, and alive. It moved with unseen creatures. Small ones with legs that scattered, or ones with out legs that slithered. It never mattered to the girl that she wasn’t one of them, that she moved on two feet and was covered in skin, she let her body sink into the muddy pond anyway, and pretended.
She practiced moving like an insect, contorting her limbs into angles and moving fast. Her skin grew soft from the minerals and her muscles strong from all the crawling and burrowing in dirt. Soon she secretly referred to herself as Queen of the Insects.
“Imma!” Her mother called. And Imma emerged covered in the stuff of the ground, nails caked with dirt, hair wet and tangled, handfuls of earth worms for her to play with in her mother’s garden.
One day Imma’s mom called her home early, the sun still high, and Imma was confused. Her mom grabbed her by the shoulders and said, “Look at you, you’re filthy! Your aunt is here to see you,” and rushed her to the tub where she was scrubbed red. Imma’s hair was combed and braided, skin oiled. A dress pulled on and ribbons tied.
Cabbage and potatoes and onions were spooned into wooden bowls and the three– Imma, mother, and aunt– ate the meal in silence. Imma wondered what her dead father’s sister was doing at the small house in the woods, eating food Imma and her mom pulled from the ground, food the woman wrinkled her nose at. The rings on her aunt’s fingers were the same hue as the mead made of dark berries they drank at every meal, but worth far more as as she pointed out. “One of my fingers is worth more than this whole forest,” said Imma’s aunt.
That was the last time Imma saw her mother. A three-story house sat on a street with no trees. A pillow embroidered with Imma’s full name waited for her in her new home.
Imma, Queen of the Insects, grew into Imma, Home-coming Queen. She covered herself in make-up and jewelry and naked boys.
“Come on, Imma! Pound it!” The girls sat around a table topped with plastic bottles of cheap tequila and vodka, paper cups, and countless cigarette ends stubbed into ashtrays. Music rose and fell with their pulse and laughter. Imma took a bottle and tipped it into her open mouth, bent her neck back and spilled the rest of it down her throat. It burned her sick and sweet in the stomach, and lay a hazy blanket over eyes, face. Some of the liquor spilled down her legs and she felt someone lick it off, it tickled and she laughed. Everyone else laughed. She said she was hot, her voice echoed in her head. Hot, hot, hot. Hands touched her. Sweat, sweat, sweat. She let the hands take her shirt off, and fell back laughing.
Sun fought its way through the closed blinds and Imma groaned and rolled over into a pile of clothes. Shit, she thought. It was past noon, her aunt would be waiting for her at the salon. Grabbing a black halter top and stepping over sleeping bodies, she found a bathroom. Imma looked in the mirror, her hair a mess of black curls. Like her mom, that much she remembered. She splashed water on her face and pulled the halter over her head and forced it over her breasts. The maxi skirt she wore touched to the floor and hid her sticky legs, and that much she was grateful for. Her aunt would be mad enough.
Imma burst into the salon where her aunt sat waiting at the front desk flipping through magazines. “You’re a mess,” she said, “They’re waiting.”
Imma felt something crawl inside her, she wanted to wretch. The men waited on tables for Imma’s hands. “The hands of an angel!” They said. Or, “She knows how to heal a body, that Imma.” She felt the familiar contortion of bone, lost herself in the mud of memory, and let her body hint at the creature hidden inside.
Oh man, I love Girls Aloud, the British pop phenomenon girl group that has created some brilliant music over the years. I love girl groups; these girls aren’t famous in America, but I don’t think that’s their goal. The Saturdays are fun, but they don’t have anything on my girls! This is their comeback/reunion single after a three-year hiatus, called Something New, and it really does get me going. I think there is power in being a strong woman who can command an audience, and these girls beat out a boy band on British show Popstars: The Rivals and have made amazing careers for themselves outside of the band.
Speaking of wild and girl groups, no one can tell me that the Destiny’s Child reunion at the Superbowl was anything but brilliant. Think about this: a huge sporting event shown around the world had all African-American female performers (Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, Beyoncé, Destiny’s Child). You want to talk power? Strong women of color commanding a global audience is the height of power. Even Beyoncé’s band was all female! So yes, I went wild when I watched it, and I’ll be jamming to this for at least a week:
Who run this mutha?
They say I’m different. They call me wild.
They don’t know the half of it.
I heard today on the radio that the lead singer of this band died today. I don’t know any other songs of theirs, but I really like this one, and would like pay some kind of tribute by making it part of the Collective.
I have something living inside me. I can feel it moving, in the quieter moments. Moments that belong to the stirring breeze. It feels to be about the size of an egg, if I could hold it in my two hands cupped together. But it always unravels, in the quieter moments, sending out its long living tendrils to follow the paths my arteries and veins take to my vital organs.
The breeze is sweet on my neck, a kiss. It stirs, the living thing, it growls.
When we are alone together, the living thing makes for very genial company. We are almost friends. I sit in the garden and dig my feet into the earth, toe by pink toe, and listen to it gnatter on about all our grand plans for ‘life’, as if it is not a happening thing. I blow bubbles with my own spit and let the ants crawl up from the concrete path onto my legs, and I listen to it spouting dreams, like smoke rings into the clear day.
But there are times when I don’t want to dream, or even listen to dreams. There are times when I am distracted, by lights, and sounds, and conversation occurring outside of my mind. I do not pay enough attention to the living thing, and sometimes it can become frustrated, or resentful, and can sour my mood. Sometimes it will express itself in different ways; I will find myself laughing louder than I meant to. Or diving into the ocean still wearing my party dress. Or asking people if they wished that magic was real, and the promising them that it really, truly, is, it just doesn’t happen like it does in the fairytales. It makes me ear three pieces of birthday cake and wash it down with three flutes of champagne and I cannot control it unless. Unless there is music.
Through music I can inhabit the living thing, I can tap into its magic. And when we dance together I can step into the dreams, I can absorb the colour and touch the petals and taste the sweetness. When we dance, I feel like I am brave enough to start living them.
Sometimes I am scared of this thing that lives inside me. I am scared of the consequences of its actions, and I am scared of it getting fed up with my soft yellow belly and leaving me for good. It is the wild thing, and without it I am just dead wood.
Dearest Creature, No. 4
Memories of you ghost in the wintry air.
Might I be your haunted phonograph?
The grooves of your story are etched into mine;
Would that I could switch the needle elsewhere.
Since I saw
And still I remember
And the things you said
Before you kissed
And I’m sure
Because our time
Was so minimal
My heart is reckless
I still smell you
While I sleep
I still want to talk to you
While I wake
I still want to ask
Chained in iron bars
Locked with skeleton key locks
And still you slipped through
Just as I was believing
You wouldn’t be that guy
And my heart went wild
Slam jam cram kablam
Because that’s not supposed to
When a heart is so well protected
From the intentions of another soul.