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In Us

by Jenny

By Arsimmer McCoy

I just want to go home,
Where it smells like my father’s Marlboros wrapped in my mother’s perfume,
Just want to smell butter teasing a cast-iron skillet.
I want to see my mama curled twice in a blanket, with the TV glossed across her eyeglass frames,
Her toes wiggling as a response from sleep, creeping up her chest,
That she fights,
’cause she knows I haven’t made it home yet.
My mama worry about me,
And with good reason,
’cause I’m a Brown-skinned female
And always feeling.
Feeling good, feeling mad, feeling joy, then feeling sad,
My feelings get me in trouble.
Get me laughing,
Get me fighting,
Get me smiling while blowing things out of proportion,
Get me breaking shit, then creating shit,
Building and destroying.
My Black mama,
Raised in the South.
Picked tobacco after school in her saddle shoes,
Picked on because of her Indian features, fair skin and thin waist,
And a complete square. Wouldn’t let the boys in or let the girls out.
Can you picture me, explaining to a woman whose granddaddy had to get
down on his hands and knees to cut tobacco leaves then had to head to the back of his land
To cut bodies down from poplar trees, a woman,
Who had cousins
That would race to the theater with their shiny brown pennies,
To watch Blackface commercials of White people warning each other to watch out for wild pickaninnies,
This lady,
Whose uncle preached the gospel,
Only to get into shootouts with klansman
Had to ship himself off to safety in a coffin lying on top of a dead man,
How do I say to my mama, I’m carrying their trauma with the addition of my own?
I find it,
In the men I call brothers, who stopped what they were doing to embrace the shoulders of this Black woman,
’cause in me they saw they own Black mamas.
Healing means I ain’t necessarily whole,
It means I’ve found a way to cope with the ills of this world.
It is in those things that I find comfort
And it is in all things
We must find

Adapted from Arsimmer McCoy’s original poem In Us. McCoy is a South Florida native, spoken-word poet and activist.

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2020 Issue.

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