A Bondage Nocturne

In darkness / empirical evidence underhand / a fingertip rubs black / but not ink.

A porcelain doll / he squints and thinks. / Drags a thumb across yellow English teeth.

A tug of war / with ownership rites. / A girl fears a feral man / who talks

abed narration / whispering temptress / while her eyes stammer back neophyte.  

While her eyes stammer back neophyte / [he] whispers temptress. / Talks

abed narration. / A girl fears a feral man / with ownership rites; / a tug of war

under yellow English overbite. / Dragging a thumb / he squints and thinks / a porcelain doll black

but not ink. / A fingertip rubs / empirical evidence underhand / in darkness.

Branching

The stomachs of daughters erupt

like burls on stalky trees.

Within a body, a sacred whorl curls

 outside it, a kettle whistles steam.​

              You branched her where I could not reach / crossed good to annex evil

              while I still parted hair for braids / plowing lines from nape to brow.

Chills quake a slave mother’s heart

for what happens beyond her gaze.

Her girl fourteen, “Yellow” Milly fifteen

singled out under the planter’s mien.

“To mulatto” v: a ritual distillation

removing color and taint

from plantation bait

budding yet another beige slave.

A Meditation on the Toppling of the Confederate Statue “Silent Sam”

(UNC Campus 1913-2018)

Sun-glazed statue too hot to climb

little orphaned rebel whistling

the Old South will rise. Collective whiplash,

when a woman lies sprawled beneath a grill;

in Charlottesville Nazis bear gruesome grins.

Sun-glazed statue too hot to climb

cooked up in America’s kitchen over time.

The metonymy of warfare: a lad and gun,

a whiplashed slave, the Old South’s son.

From the stairs of the Wilson Library

I spy ribbons of Do Not Cross tape

and one less sun-glazed statue to climb.

I reopen a sealed wound, the files of slavery,

each day a reckoning with ancestry

and whip-smart visions of the Old South’s demise.

More news of another blackface moment,

Virginia Gov’nr caught culturally misspoken.

Sun-glazed statues circumventing time

still taunting freedom with the Old South will rise.

Artress Bethany White
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