by Kwoya Fagin Maples
seeing you   see me

-after RaMell Ross

as if we are       here meeting       eye to eye, consider
not assessing       as I am infinite beads
past your abacus       and you cannot know

——-this road       or the soft business of my hands
or how the trees study sheltering
& know joy is not merely       transcendence

cause    I  don’t  think  about     european-americans
—-at any variation    of Cookout
where the bass opens for Betty Wright to sing a song
even her own Mama told her not to sing
(on account of how free it is)

as if we could never be       eye to eye, you keep watching
——–while you look       like you smell like outside
————–you look       like you been throwed away
————–you look just like       a tinderbox dog with eyes big as saucers

not to mention, your head’s so big it almost eclipsed my picture

what I’m trying to say is, I let my music breathe air, free to wander
——-while yours     breathes like a slow-dying bass

this joy, like a yellow brighter than sun
I hope you get something like it  (some off-brand loop fruit not quite the same)

the light basks in my hair       and cannot be known
—–like the truth         that my boot size is

a number,        the ground is damp enough to mark my tracks,
——the road is clear
and you should really worry about     where I’m going

Shaquan, 2013

RaMell Ross

Kwoya Fagin Maples is a writer from Charleston, S.C. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama and is a graduate Cave Canem Fellow. Maples is a current Alabama State Council on the Arts Literary Fellow. She is the author of Mend (University Press of Kentucky, 2018) a finalist for the 2019 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry and finalist for the 2019 Housatonic Poetry award. In addition to a chapbook publication by Finishing Line Press entitled Something of Yours (2010), her work is published in several journals and anthologies including Blackbird Literary Journal, Obsidian, The Langston Hughes Review, Berkeley Poetry Review, The African-American Review, Pluck!, Tin House Review Online and Cave Canem Anthology XIII. Mend tells the story of the birth of obstetrics and gynecology in America and the role black enslaved women played in that process. This work received a grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation. Maples is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing in the MFA program for Creative Writing at the University of Alabama, home of the Black Warrior Review.

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