content warning: sexism, racism, homophobia, ableist slurs, ****** assault, alt-right political commentary, abuse, prostitution
The okra stalks
the winds of America’s plains.
As I’ve occupied myself with
a Yankee college’s schoolwork,
my means of feeding myself diminish
as I don’t have the time or energy to
**** the bad bugs,
retie the plants to their rightful stalks,
and finally clean myself off.
Although my family qualifies for “government handouts”
as my momma calls them,
she sends it back every time.
Hunger gnawing at my stomach,
basic needs left unmet,
my “liberal” professors failing to grasp
what their own students face.
But women don’t deserve an actual education,
because in America’s Bible Belt
the woman’s future is confined
to a Southern home full of sweat and pregnancies.
I can always tell when my momma
runs a deficit on bills.
I can hear it,
although I try not to—
“Thank you for the tip, honey.”
and I know her bedroom door
Before I knew what she was doing
when I was too young to know—
I caught glimpses of the different men
as they’d leave.
I don’t know why,
but I hated them all.
One would smoke cigarettes on the porch,
and later I’d kick around the used butts.
Now that she’s older,
she has resulted to
pimping me and my little sister out
against our will—
whether she intended for it to happen or not.
I’ve come to understand that
at least in America’s South,
virginity doesn’t exist.
A woman’s only purity
lies within having the right skin color;
some STDs can be overlooked
as long as they can still populate the Southern landscapes.
For the first time I had seen my momma
in over two weeks,
I greet her with a happy smile while washing dishes.
Her look of disgust remains unchanged.
“You need to register to vote!”
She says, yet I don’t have my driver’s license.
I remain silent.
I can hear the political commentary over the radio:
“String ‘em up,
shoot ‘em down!
Stop being so autistic,
and abide by the Party doctrine!”
Being in the South,
I know what the Southern gentleman meant
over the radio,
yet I still find its charged language alarming.
String ‘em up: Hang the Yankee professors who help me
Shoot ‘em down: Put down the “rioters” and “looters”
Autism refers to following rules of governance,
and the Party…
When my little sister registered
as a lesbian liberal,
momma never raised that much Hell.
She went off with a man for a few days to cool off.
I remember crying,
kneeling before my nativity set and the cross in my room,
hands clasped in prayer,
begging God to inform me on what to do.
I’ve tried to be a good Southern girl my whole life,
despite not being white,
being born into a single parent household,
and living in poverty.
I tried to be educated as a means of providing for my family.
However, my grandma tells me that’s unnatural.
My momma tells me to stop being stuck in my books
and to get some fresh Southern air.
I am left to ask, pleading for God to tell me
as humanity itself has failed to help me:
How can I be redeemed
from the sin of being born?