Friday, April 3, 2015
a poem by t’ai freedom ford
past life portrait
circa Summer 1980
Genius isn't free; there's a great price to pay. And Richard knew it.
-Jennifer Lee Pryor
When fucking is the family business
you got two choices: hide the bruise
of your shame and cry or look at it
square on and laugh until the bruise
becomes muse or keloided battle scar.
When your daddy is a motherfucker
you learn to remove your pinky ring
before you slap, so not to leave a bruise
or break skin—there is already too much
blood invested in this business when
your granny is selling your mama
and other women’s bodies you learn
irony and fucking becomes funny
as fuck except laughter sounds like bruise
and you grow up thinking of women
as sweet things to cop like candybars.
Pussy is neither exotic nor erotic
but rather ordinary as a bruise
and what’s a boy to do but collect
panties and cursewords in a house
full of blasphemous Jesuses ricocheting
out of the mouths of tricks—bruised
lips that do not kiss, just suck. What
the fuck you gone do but laugh?
And make everybody and they mother
laugh too so you don’t feel crazy or lonely—
And the laugh tracks start to loop lovely
like the women loop lovely marriage
after marriage every year like some sort
of odd ritualistic undoing of the bruise
of your daddy as pimp and Original
Motherfucker: origin of your laughter
the golden key to your happily ever
after—the records, movies, mountains
of cocaine and fuck and nigger empires
until you understand nigger bruises.
When the laughter turns to voices
that won’t turn off when the routine ends
and the cocaine only quickens everything
to a blur of fuck, you must confront the bruise
but grandma ain’t there to kiss away the hurt
cause she dead along with mama and daddy
so you pick at the scab, grab the rum to silence
the humming in your head with a cigarette lighter.
Poof! You remember running—the skin
tight with scorch baffling light and bruise
and the clarity is scary as hell
cause you realize the price of genius,
the product of your laughter
and your happily ever after awakens
you in a hospital room that smells
of bandage and damaged blues.
t’ai freedom ford is a New York City high school English teacher, Cave Canem Fellow and Pushcart Prize nominee. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Drunken Boat, Sinister Wisdom, No, Dear, The African American Review, PLUCK!, Vinyl and others. In 2012 and 2013, she completed two multi-city tours as a part of a queer women of color literary salon, The Revival. t’ai lives and loves in Brooklyn, but hangs out digitally at: shesaidword.com.