Venus Thrash



big boned brown baby
wif great boomin voice like God
talkin through bushfire

girl, whatchoo gon do
wif all that voice, all that ass
no place to sing/sit

leave home at fourteen
thinkin you grown but aint
voice more grown than you

ma named you mabel
they renamed you Big Maybelle
nobody ask you

you gon swallow pain
shoot death in your veins, whisper
resist on your lips

sing don’t you wish yo
woman had great big pretty
ol brown legs like mine?

gon wish you was some
body woman in this great
big world not your own

aint nobody gon
know you put others to shame
wif your singin self

made billie say i
aint goin on after her –
find another fool

showed the Apollo
to respect immense talent
when you filled their stage

brought women to tears
caused men to kiss your flat feet
sing for your candy

sing for your supper
sing for small dimes in small dives
sing for salvation

like how they found you
big boned brown baby wif great
boomin voice like God.


for blues legend Willie Mae Thornton

Death come
aching early
before sunrise burns breath,
before crust blinks from sleepy eyes,
before Big Mama belts
one last sorry
blues song.

Death come
knocking early
before one more ‘Hound Dog’
buys a big house in the country –
by god’s grace – land enough
to grow gardens
of greens.

Death come
stalking early
before daylight catch her
pissy drunk, beat bloody, or rocked
tender-slow in the arms
of women who
love her.

Death come
crawling early
strip her pockets bone bare,
force lovers into liars, hush
legend from her lips – robbed
of royalties
and fame.

Death come
creeping early
steal her cotton-picking
blues, leave her well mighty dry. Earth
still spinning round while she
dead on her back
flat cold.



Hershey-kiss colored Joseph
with Diana Ross eyes,

the only boy majorette
in the Mighty Wolves marching band,

wore sharp white slacks, crisp white shirt.
His grandmother sewed him a green-sequined vest.

Batons spun in his hands as propellers
on a twin-engine jet –

high flung over taunts, jeers – butterflies alighting
on the tips of his precise fingers

while he balanced upside down on one leg.
Joseph whirled around in a chartreuse satin gown

on Homecoming Day. A “Miss Band”
gold-glittered sash emblazoned his chest.

Silver wands wheeling beyond
sparrows and clouds were snatched from mid-air

like a magician’s trick while Joseph, green sequins and all,
twirled furiously into the sparkling sun.



for Tim

We are fierce
adventurers crisscrossing
Chocolate City,

hitting clubs just after sundown,
avoiding big-armed bouncers
demanding money at the door.

We traverse more terrain
in search of sin
than John Newton sailed

on the Middle passage
hauling human cargo.
We sing Amazing Grace

Before a black, gay God
on back row pews we bless
with our own holy water.

Our dark kisses
thick and humid
as DC summer nights.

We stand as the Sphinx
by the dawn of day,
built of ashes and dust,

Malcolm X Park, our Giza.
We are Pharaohs –
untouched, unharmed by time

or haters of men like us.
You, Khafre. I, Djedfre. Brothers.
In war. In blood. In love.

We have been here before,
our brown bodies laid bare,
embraced in the warmth

of this ancient sun.


give her space
give her room
a platform to stand on
some depth of field
line to her vision
broad open shoulders
steady legs for support

her spine is two
sweating knots
of dusky bronze
midnight charcoal
for her shock
of kinky hair
her black pubis

birthmark back
jet black

she is small hands
over large feet
she is breathing
beyond this room
burnished copper
woman engulfed
in blue flames
wearing vulnerability
tight as a bulletproof vest

fists raised in the air
head thrown back
down on her knees
she lies on her side
then a boxer
ready with the one-two



Venus Thrash earned a BA in Literature and an MFA in Creative Writing from American University. She is the DC Creative Writing Workshop Writer-in-Residence at Ballou Senior High School and Adjunct Professor of English at the University of the District of Columbia. She is intensely at work on a short story collection, Soul of a Man, and a novel, Hole.


Published in Volume 8, Number 3, Summer 2007.

Read more by this author:
Venus Thrash: The Wartime Issue
Venus Thrash: It's Your Mug Anniversary Issue