photo by Alex Lear





I Want To Talk About You

(for my sister Czerny)


this poem was supposed to be

for/abt you but as i was thinking

i felt another need

& know in order to truth talk

abt you i had to truth talk

abt how our hours

on this earth spot

some call a civilized nation

has been bitter centuries long

long, long after the chains fell

our unhealed scars are serious sores

still too tender to touch


abt how few

of us really comprehend the enormity

of our history of captivity

not only the horror of what was done to us

but what the residue of that historic undoing

continues to do to us today


our genitals were

put on public display


if you were white

you could see cleotis' thing

silent in a sealed see-through coffin

howard kept the sinister cylinder at his shop

behind the unpainted cypress wood counter

out of plain sight but was always proud

to hoist the mason jar

with the shiriveled, pickled penis

into the surprise of sunlit delight

and the carefree hoots of the gathered

good old boys, although we never knew

who actually did the cutting

we all knew where the evidence was kept


they say in france they got

the vagina of our sister entombed

(for medical research of course)

venus, the "hottentot venus"

they sarcastically called her,

and when she was alive they paraded her

naked on a pay per view basis

and people paid to see how big her butt

was, and later after she died, how big

her vagina was, and the worse

part was that crowds of humans

actually went and oohed and ahhed

and paid money to see something

the creator gave to all of us


could my name be cleotis

could your name be venus

& why should anyone want

to trophy our genitals?


i turn over naked

in my nude sleep sometimes,

hold myself hard with my hand

and imagine the pain

and wonder how does a man

live without himself?


what i really want to talk abt

is how we lived despite

the mutilations

i am so impressed by the beauty

of a people who can survive

the public display of our privates,

who could rise the next morning

face the pain and still believe

in living a good life


you are one of those old ones

the women who tear-washed

and bare-handedly buried the broken bodies

cauterized wounds and stitched together

some kind of tough, tough love

that mended men

and raised the manchild even after

the man was gone


this poem is

for you and all the race

women like you who continue

to feed us reason to live

when suicide seems unavoidably sensible


me and all my manhood

bears daily witness

i would be nothing were it not

for the redemptive love

of certain of my sisters, my mothers

my aunts, grandmothers and 

women friends securely umbilicaling

sustenance into my soul


all the remaining years of my life

i will never cease

wanting to talk abt you

needing to talk abt you

to talk abt you

talk abt you


—kalamu ya salaam