Adrienne Danyelle Oliver: Poets Corner

Welcome to MoAD Poet’s Corner, a space where our network of poets speak to their place in the African Diaspora as it exists today. The poets featured in this series are connected to MoAD through our MoAD Lit programs, which includes Poets-in-Residence, Third Thursday Open Mic, and Authors in Conversation. Here is a space where you can nourish your soul, feel inspired, and relish in the words that narrate the African Diaspora. In the words of the late, Toni Morrison at her Nobel Prize address, “We die. That may be the meaning of life.  But we do language.  That may be the measure of our lives.”

Poem:

:a poem about fibroid tumors

the black woman body carries Afrika’s womb

in her belly

and this womb remembers

the cargo of bodies

waiting to be crucified

or set free

remembers how the strongest cargo

knowing freedom is death

jumped and returned to the ship

as angels

while the abused

with eyes adjusted to darkness

nose to the smell of shit

cultivated another strength

to pray for the angels to save them

 

my womb carries

ghosts

 

a returning

 

a watching

 

over corpses

and living bodies—

 

learn’d to shrink

as an accommodation

to the feeling of

the world

collapsing on

shoulders

developing knots

from squeezing closed

around lungs restricting breath

quick. shallow.

cultivating another strength

in the absence of the will to jump

for the sun

 

            when the white lady doctor

                        tells me I need to have

                        a hysterectomy

                        I overstand that

                        what she is really telling me 

                        is this

 

womb carried over

in a ship named Good Intent

has been wearied by this

voyage

and she don’t understand

how a w(omb)und stretched

across the Atlantic and

crucified

can

still                  bring forth life

can

remain in

consummation

with

hope

 

I listen to her

read her intentions

and her pussy hat marches

as well intended

but know she will never

understand the plight of

Mother Afrikan to African-American

to make sense of the plumaged womb

the terrorized baby lamb

slaughtered in Gethsamene

after hours

praying

sweatinthecottonfields/tearsinblackboycoffinsandblackgirlchurchbombings/turnedbloodintheFergusonstreets

seeming to do nothing

 

like slave ship my body

carries: life and death

rotting carnage and breathing captive

suffers: the mos damage

knows: “it”—she—the universal black womb is crying ouin chorus.

 

and the white ladydoctors’ response

ishurriedsuddenly after 350 years:

 

rip out the wo(und)mb

toss her out

in a hazardous materials

bag

 

matter-of-factly she offers solutions

as if talking to a child

anticipating a magic show

where pain disappears like doves escaping a black hat

 

I have two other options

besides the illusionist’s show

one.

I can live with bleedng

bleeding

bleeding

bleeding

blood in the                             stre/she/ets

two.

I can be cut

with her help                           have tumors removed

empty in the ship in Amerikkka

“land of the free”

and wh/try blood clean up

shit smell cover up

and sweeping shackles to corners

still anchored in arkansas so(u)il

 

how can I ever be

healed of tumors

anchored in cancer

cells

hosting ghosts

created with white hands

but not entirely

I decide on option two

—the bleeding river too much—

to be cut

to dance with the haunted wo(und)mb

on troubled water

 

 

 

 

:the body has memories

I.

 

Don’t touch me there

I forgot…

 

Don’t touch…

Stomach

an organ of which membership

belongs to the digestive

system, consisting of

muscle, lining, acid

movement

Would you the pass the potatoes?

They are easy on my stomach.

Yes, please.

Thank you

Are they dairy free? Pure potatoes?

I’m not supposed to say

that

no special requests

I’m not special

Don’t touch me there

I forgot

Don’t touch…

Heart

An organ of which

membership belongs to the cardiovascular system

consisting of muscle

lining, blood

 

When I was 12…I…I forgot…                      1991.

When I was 13…I…I forgot…                                              1992.

When I was 16…I…forgot…             1994.

 

1997 – present day =

 

Sing us a song throat

Don’t touch me there

Voice

trying to escape throat

scream

whisper

 

Don’t touch

hand, throat, hands

Don’t touch

dreams about church–

now it’s not a specific place

it is an experience

 

I am standing in the pulpit

singing Patsy Cline and Aretha Franklin;

the congregation goes

“ohhhh” and chuckles

 

The body remembers that the face

has been touched tenderly

in six places:

 

Head

“Do you have a fever, honey?”

Yes, your mouth remembers sounding

The body’s longing for whatever

Tenderness ensures

Nose

(nose to nose)

And you knew that your daddy

Loved you

Cheek

You have pretty skin, you hear

followed by a light caress

Can I have that dimple?

A playful pinch

Chin

“I love you,” he says.

Before leaning in for kiss

Collarbone

The starfish necklace

that invokes summer

rests there in the sun of June

Navel

What happened to your belly button

he asks and traces

your scar with a gentle thumb

 

Below the waist there is forgetting

all the way down to the feet

 

:echocardiogram

a nice white couple comes

to pick up                                her cherry

wood desk

shaped for a corner

while in the corners

of her mind

a story needs [to] be set                                                                      f           r           e            e

picked her first

 

day                                                                              bleeding

a day   for                                                                               light(en)ing incense

for [the] story between her hands

in her mind she frees

herself from

corners

into the center

where incense dances to the [glass] ceiling

alongside interrupt

-ed dreams

where her postcard from the other side

was delivered

where she signed her freedom papers

in a past life

a premonition wafts

in night sweats

behind windows

facing an industrial sunset

pipe dreams killed with pipes smoked

 

strange fruit’s cousin

blowing smoke over bridges to history

 

when the Black lady doctor explains

that my womb bleeds into

the wrong places

and that the body attacks the blood

I overstand that

what she is really telling me

is this

 

heart

has run

to love

in all the wrong places

been attacked

hardened

into an eternal echo

 

It’s hard to hear

 

I know

through

the scar tissue

 

Can I see your belly?

 

Unable to move my lips anymore

I raise my shirt

 

they keep using me

same incision

 

At least it heals up nicely

 

Yes, the scar was smoothed last heartbreak

shovel smoothed over the dirt

patted into a mound

under kind

fluorescent

 

she explains tenderly

that attacks harden the blood

into

an endometrioma

a six syllable word

foreshadowing

a fifth surgery

 

Inside myself I tell her

it will be okay

assuringly this time

it will be okay

to convince myself this time

it will be okay

usually you have painful periods

No, my pain is an echo now

 

muted

 

whiplashed

from

whips

lashed

I/she was raped

and kept the baby

a slow bleeding

a letting go

a deep inhaling of

dreams

wafting slowly up and through

carved holes in a coffin-shaped box

 

a sun sets in West Oakland

with cranes and bridges

in the sky

and she reminds herself

that death is a letting go of

I in exchange for we–

 

we stand in dreams wafted

through coffins overseeing

slaves trapped in cherry groves

holding at gunpoint

all contemplating

a return

corners where

strange fruit is

rotting

where they wait

while Black and White postcards

of the lynching show eyes full of wonder

and delight

 

our freedom papers

are not calligraphy on parchment

we hung them on the line

we dried white sheets in the sun

we watched blood dry up

in the ocean

in our wombs we

sing

Artist Statement:

My poetry collection in progress features a section entitled “:the body has memories.” I began working on this collection one year before my 40th birthday, in reflection upon what my physical body has endured. I have undergone multiple surgeries as treatment for chronic illness from the young age of 13. This experience has offered me ample time to consider and explore what it means to be a re-abled body in the context of Blackness, within the diasporic context. Within this context, the body has memories of the violent disruption of its wholeness via the slave trade. Thereby “:the body has memories” becomes a reflection on how one’s physical healing process is dependent upon the healing of spiritual trauma. Injury to the spirit of a people is a form of generational trauma that impacts the healing process. Thus, this work also explores what it means to heal from displacement whether that be from physical organs being displaced or spiritual connections being displaced as a result of diasporic trauma. In the end, this work celebrates the ability of the physical and spiritual body to heal. As an artist, I feel it is important that my work speaks to my personal experience, as these meditations have been an important component of my own healing process. This work is an invitation for my community to join me in this process and spread the healing.

Biography:

Adrienne Danyelle Oliver, MFA, EdD, is a writer, hip hop scholar and educator living in Oakland, CA. She is an interdisciplinary artist-educator with her academic work being published in Storytelling, Self, and Society and Systemic Collapse, both in which she uses creative writing to theorize about a more just education system that honors hip hop culture. Her creative work has been published in Digital Paper and The Womanist.

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Categories:  MoAD Lit