Teri Ellen Cross
A PIECE OF TAIL
from their apartment's balcony
my girlfriends and I could see their pale skins
hear the clipped accents the soldiers were British
and drunk with money flowing the Kenyan women became
willing every stare every intoxicating
their tore shirts, teased skirts revealed panties
gyrated and taunted those English boys who'd never
seen chocolate breasts nipples tipped almost ebony
hips that rounded to such a swelling
you needed two hands to grab it all
but they'd heard how wild black cats can be
scratching backs lusty animals in a vaguely human skin
it brought me back to Ohio University's frat row
drunk white faces leering and eager to believe
emboldened voices calling out and I became afraid
I was that exotic again kin to these Kenyan women
and we were all dancing on bar table tops
for dollars or pounds whatever brown bodies go for these days
EVERY DARK NECK THAT CHOKED A BRAIDED ROPE
Adorning the bookcase, its shelves overflowing with cookbooks
was the one picture, iron wrought frame, sepia toned photograph
of a slight man, in uniform. Dagmar told me of her father
his title, rank in the Austro-Hungarian army. Then more
of her native Austria, her voice trembling, excited
to have a hungry ear. How she was only 16 when Hitler
came to power, of her family's distinguished life in Vienna.
"Hitler wanted us to see where our food came from..."
So she and other city students lived with farmers
worked the fields under the earnest idealism of a new leader.
For six months she was witness
to the way calluses steady a rough hand;
to dirt's unwieldy and stubborn stain.
It was there she learned the breading
for schnitzel, the right parts vinegar for a proper kraut
the way to preserve the sweet tart in apricots.
In the dayroom of her Delaware home
her words flooded the lines between
history books and history, reaching under the beds
of my absolutes making me wonder
if one lie can breathe what other truths are stifled
under the black and the white
if history becomes flesh
Within and Without
Mixed media on paper; 7x10"; 2003
see more work by Richard Dana
holing 6 pounds
What the fine rain does not hide and cannot wash away
are coal fingers shrugging slicker strings together,
protecting just straightened hair. The humidity
is deadly to this delicate process,
and can nap the nape along the kitchen instantly,
reverting to the natural curl she dreads.
The girl beside her wears no slicker but has a ponytail
like Barbie's and is just as fair. The pubescent boys stare.
She's an urban Venus, impossibly waiting for the same bus.
The hooded girl is not Venus. Dark brown is not beauty--
darker still a death sentence if you are young, waiting
for a bus, a long appreciative glance, even catcalls, "hey redbone"--love.
The hooded girl hopes the Korean store up the street
will have a sale soon on fading cream and human hair,
because beauty here is serious business.
...........................(based on a CNN.com newsbrief)
science tells me
you are still whispering
inside my bones
that years from now
cut me to the marrow
and microscopes will read
the rings of your insistent story
no matter the inconvenient
coupling of timing and desire
no amount of dilation and suction
hemorrhaging and fever
could've erased you nor
the pulp of your carved initials
made with the solid grasp
of a still forming hand
even now when the bloody show
disappoints our sharpening hunger
do you still cling or are you willing
to let another call my womb
The needles lie unused, my hand grips
the table. I shudder to expel what I long
to keep--the pain sweetens to cleanse in long
steady strokes. The nurse tightens her grip.
Soft suctioned skull holds the warm spot,
size of a fingernail. The pain keeps me still.
Fill the silver pan ringing now silent now still.
Cramps for your epitaph, your gravestone--this bloody spot.
Haunt this empty space if you will.
Come again, dancing bringing life and death
to suffocate this pain and hide its blooms.
Come again baby and consume me whole, I will
keep your life, hang mine in chance for death
to birth you and be life and death blooming.
my thighs have found a new language for softness
stirring a new sound for need
not the moist sap of him leaving me
the sudden cold and vacancy
but need like dry running wheels
with no oil need that makes
the finely-honed rhythm
of moon, tide and woman
have purpose in me
need that grows stronger in each touch
to consume us whole
cycle 3 (chart 5)
the finger dipped in juices
(does it stretch more than three inches, is it crumbly and white?)
my grandmother says, "I didn't know you can plan these things"
but without plans what are we?
elderly fathers, adolescent mothers
how else do we explain tectonic shifts, thermal currents sunspots?
without planning, the yawning chaos swallows us
and darkness stretches like Arizona sky,
and we discover ourselves to be small and meaningless
do we not plan when we think our god will welcome us in heaven?
Teri Ellen Cross was born in Cleveland, Ohio. She moved to Washington, DC in 1998 and quickly fell in love with the warmth and openness of DC's writing community. She has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, and a Masters in International Affairs from Ohio University. She will be graduating in May of 2004 with a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, Poetry from American University. She is an alumnus of Cave Canem, a week-long workshop/summer retreat for African American poets and her work has appeared in Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Anthology, and four Cave Canem Anthologies. She currently produces The Kojo Nnamdi Show, a two-hour public talk radio show on WAMU 88.5 FM. She resides in Silver Spring, MD with her husband, poet Hayes Davis, and their Jack Russell Terrier, Id.
Published in Volume 5, Number 3,
To read more by this author:
Ellen Cross: Intro to The Evolving City issue, Vol. 8, No. 4, Fall
Ellen Cross: Split This Rock Issue
Teri Ellen Cross:
Tenth Anniversary Issue