Jean M. Kane
Damaged Black Woman/ Standing On Tiptoe/On One End Of A Seesaw/While A Caricatured Figure Jumps On The Other
Robin Coste Lewis, "Voyage of the Sable Venus"
They didn’t show her damaged
parts in the photos of exemplary black
women who differed not at all from the model woman
pale of course in heels, with beehive hair or a stiff bouffant standing
with perfect posture. Walking tiptoe
the exemplars had in addition to balance on one end of a seesaw
(earning Girl Scout badges, speaking French, mastering numbers) while
a jackdaw, caricatured figure
hawing white up and down up and down jumps
with lit dynamite on the other.
Wouldn’t be polite.
Angela Davis, Vivian Malone, and others who followed
Michelle Obama, 2015: Pastiche Pantoum*
I never dreamed I would visit such a country
when I was a girl, coming up in Chicago.
That anything could happen to a woman
we pretended not to see. Mothers’ locked faces,
when I was a girl, coming up in Chicago,
alerted us. On unfamiliar streets
we pretend not to see mothers’ locked faces
and open our mouths: Our daughters will not have to know
what alerted us. On unfamiliar streets
we moved into houses built by slaves
open-mouthed. Our daughters will not have to know
how hard the first step over a threshold was
when we moved to houses built by slaves
where anything could happen to a woman
who took the first step, a threshold.
I never dreamed I would visit such a country.
*Both poems take the words of others as their materials. In "Michelle Obama, 2015" phrases are drawn from speeches Obama gave in Mumbai, Concord, and Philadelphia. The poem is an adaptation.