MY EIGHT-YEAR-OLD COUSIN ASKS IF I'M STILL A LEZBEAN THE MORNING AFTER GRAMMY'S FUNERAL by Nicole Shanté White

 

 

I.

 

I wonder if my locs look like roots, my skin - cocoa, pinto, or coffee. I am painting blue the nails she begged me to file short. Of course we are listening to Frank Ocean & she wants to know about the baritone that swam through her bedroom vent last night. I wonder if I sound like I’ve been watered, if a girlfriend is supposed to be the sun in this metaphor. She wants to know why his car stayed parked past her midnight snack. I imagine being stirred in a bed of rice, cuddling next to a dripping slab of jerk chicken. She tells me about the girl in her class that was supposed to sleep over this weekend. She’s doesn’t like like the pretty girl like she heard TT Toni say I like like girls or whoever made me drown pretty last night. I open the refrigerator & can’t decide which pan of leftovers to reheat.

 

 

II.

 

I don’t know how hunger works, only that it is never not about the bones. Hours after Grammy’s funeral I am undressing a man I spent a teenage summer pretending to love. He wants to talk about the times I rode on the back of his motorcycle down by the lake. I want to hike his hinges for heat, for pulse, for folds of tissue to mop my tears. He pins me down, pleads for Grammy’s absence to be a reason to stay. I kiss her name out of his mouth & gasp for hair, pull his pelvis into the gut of the gloom. Fucking him is as straight as pulling grief. I don’t want his children. I’ve run out of things to do with his heart. We stop making the bed whine when we hear footsteps paddle from the kitchen. A piece of plastic whistles before a crunch & I make out Grammy’s ghost & watch my chest float, proof that something in me is still sprouting.

 

 

 

 

 

NICOLE SHANTÉ WHITE is definitely the quiet one yo mama warned you about. Currently residing in Brooklyn, this cluster of Midwest accents and Southern hospitality writes, dances, and teaches from a black queer womanist lens. She is a recipient of fellowships from Poets House, Willow Arts Alliance, and The Poetry Project. Her work can be found in The Feminist Wire, Wall Street,Word Riot, and several other journals. Nicole Shanté was a contributing staff writer for Sula Collective and a Writer in Performance at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center. This Brave New Voices alumna has performed at several notable venues, but would rather you be impressed by her functional addiction to ice cream.

 

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<Hazem Fahmy ** Kristin Chang>

 

 

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