A Queer Black Girl Defines 'Experience’
(1) I awoke one morning, possessed. And so, it began: Pray for yourself until you’ve embossed your knees with the shape of the altar. This is how you ask for forgiveness. This is how you beg to know why me? This is how to get turned on by the sight of the Virgin Mary statue: because you like ivory skin, and know her breasts must be pale, the nipples gummy and pink; this is how you know that you are sick. This is how you know that you are going to hell.
a. This is how you exercise apathy.
(2) This is how you tell your mother. This is how she fights you. Make sure to put ice on your eye to avoid swelling; I’d kiss you but I do not agree with you right now. Place gentian violet on your forehead wounds. I’d kiss you but I do not agree with you right now. This is how you watch lesbian porn out of your good eye, and cry out of both.
(3) Walk on the same side of the road as the man approaching you. This is how you appear the same as he: your chest flattened with duct tape; sleeping with encyclopedias on top. This is how he follows you, reminds you of your weakness, disadvantage as a womyn, and tackles you. This is how he thinks you are a young boy. This is how he finds your pussy hiding behind that sock ball. This is how he rapes you. Button up your coat so that the chill doesn’t give you pneumonia. Yes, momma. Catch the 39 bus because they start running every hour instead of half after midnight. Soak yourself in a tub of warm water and do not sit in your own blood for long. Yes, momma.
(4) Make sure to put ice on your torso and the outer lips of your pussy to heal the swelling. I’d kiss you but I do not agree with you right now. This is how you convince yourself that you are cursed. This is how you pray. This is how you change. This is how you lie.
(5) Subtract two shoe sizes to know how to buy men’s sneakers. Measure your shoulders, your waist, your neck, the length of your arms, your inseam. This is how you look good in a suit. This is how you get a buzz cut. Do not use duct tape (again) if you have a large bust, or if you have sensitive skin. Use gauze to bind and something soft to pack. This is how you feel right for the first time in your life. (This is how you feel like your desert rose has been watered). This is how you steal her away from her abusive boyfriend. This is how he fights you. Make sure to put ice on your cheek and opt for anesthesia at the dentist. This is how you file a police report: you’re told that you asked for this. This is how you never obtain justice because fighting seems useless; because there are so many of them and one dynamic you. This is how you feel alone.
(6) The middle road begins here: always buy a gun from a gun show because they never ask for ID. Make sure to purchase the bullets with the most power and set an insignificant date...No, not today. Wait until after your youngest brother graduates. It will be his first time in the suit you helped him pick out. This is how you wait. This is how you finish dinner early, and load Jeff Buckley into the record player, and take those pristine pills, and load the gun, and position it, and close your eyes.
i) This is how he knocks on the door.
b) This is how you throw the gun into the Hudson River: at night, with your escort friend, too high and drunk to realize anything.
(7) And your bad feminism is atrocious: walk, with swagger, into the gay clubs. The strip clubs. Grope her. She likes it. Put out five dollar bills instead of 1s because you respect her, need her - more for validation than the sleazy men do - and have your way. This is how you feel good. This is how you archive your unwashed fingertips into a scent memory. This is how you sleep with her sweat caught in the creases of your jacket: peacefully.
(8) But you find small love: sit closely beside her. Touch her hand. Make sure the nuns do not see you. Did you dream about kissing her last night?
(a) (8.1) You fucking dyke. Act afraid of the ferris wheel. Beg her to join your carriage. Did you pray for it to stop at the top where no one would see you two kiss? You fucking dyke. Hug her tightly. Place your lips on her neck. If she doesn’t respond to your advances, don’t cry. There will be other women.
(9) Write a letter confessing your love before she enlists in the Marines.
(a) (9.1) Make plans to see her when she returns from basic training. Buy her a ring with a blue sapphire. Ask her about North Carolina. Listen carefully for the mention of her mother, whom she hates, her father, whom she doesn’t know, and her sister, whom she misses. Lean in to kiss her. Endure the stick of a slap. Apologize. Profusely. But do not cry...there will be other women.
(10) You spend fourteen to nineteen purposely walking behind other women your age. Checking them out. Offering to help someone with their bra strap after basketball practice. This is how you copy the mannerisms of their boyfriends. This is how you seduce them at bus stops. This is how you buy white paint to cover over the ‘DYKE’ written crudely on your garage door. Do it quick before momma comes home.
(11) Note what happens when you love your first man: he leaves you for another man. ha. ha. Light candles and place them by the bathtub. Remember your old scriptures. Beg (even louder, now) for forgiveness. Burn all of your ‘man clothes.’ Be sure to wear makeup now, but do not make it so that you come across lived in; overused; whoreish. This is how you succumb. This is how you learn to be a woman again.
a) This is how you wear a rubber band, left wrist, to sting yourself when you look at another woman with desire.
i) Do this for at least a year to get them to stop talking.
(12) Sleep with men you do not know.
(13) Sleep with men you do know.
(14) Sleep with men that bore you.
(15) Sleep with men that were once exciting.
(16) Sleep with men that snore and cry out for their wives during nightmares.
(17) Stop sleeping with men.
(18) Stop desiring everyone.
(19) Take cold showers after sitting near attractive women. Never tell a girl she looks good - she will think that you like her. [But I do]. You fucking dyke. Never walk close or offer to open the door for her. Never wait for her at the end of the stairwell. Never stay in the room when she is changing. Never be flirtatious with her even if she considers you a good friend. You fucking dyke. Never sleep in the same bed - even if she insists.
a) Never move her hair out of her face when the wind hits it so that you see her better. Why? You fucking dyke...this is how you survive. This is how you stay safe. This is how you die, but live.
(20) Go to church and beg (much, much louder now) for forgiveness. Sleep with the Holy Bible underneath your pillow. Steal your grandmother’s Holy Water and drink it. Sprinkle some on your head. Eat your rosaries, if you must.
(21) And remember where it came full circle: never wear dresses in this place - you can’t trust other people’s male children. Don’t spend any time with that family down the hall; the mother used to be on drugs and all of her children have silver caps in their teeth from cavities. They are not your friends. They are not like us. [But, what are we?] Better.
(22) This is how you kiss the lips of the daughter of the former addict that lives down the hall with the kids that wear the shoes two sizes too small and hunger in their gaunt faces: so tender. This is how you love it - the kiss - an you do it four more times in a week. This is how you shower with her in a steel tub and have your first wet dream and tell the therapist and the therapist tells your mother and...this is how the daughter of the woman who used to be on drugs that lives down the hall gets relocated to the third floor.
i) Don’t cry, there will be other women.
(23) Repeat (21)
(24) This is how you are told to not be ‘so open’: they steal your journal and ridicule you. Topple the lunch desk you sit at by yourself and pummel you as though you don’t have a spine and flesh and eyes and a memory. Jellyfish girl.
(25) Make sure to put ice on your shoulders to relieve the pain of welts. Place gentian violet above your eyelid to stop the bleeding. I would hug you, but I do not agree with you right now.
a) I did not ask to be abhorred. This is how you hide.
i) This is how you give up.
(26) Repeat (21)
(27) And tapered off, right around here: when others are talking about sex, don’t contribute to the conversation. Disguise yourself so that they do not recognize the fucking dyke you have been cautioned against becoming. If you still have a penchant for men’s clothing, wear it during winter, so that you can hide from those who delight in judging others.
(a) (28.1) Do not reveal the real reason why you cut your hair so short (again); wear your Legalize Gay t-shirt under your other t-shirt, which is under your sweatshirt, which is under your purple windbreaker...or wear it to bed, when you are most alone, and never around your mother’s fiance.
a) Be a body.
b) Not a person.
c) Hide your strap-on at the top shelf of your closet and cover it with old blankets.
(28) Here are a list of places to tell your mother you are going to instead of her house:
a) a concert
b) the coffee shop
c) to a job interview
d) to church
e) to get a burger at that new place on so and so.
f) Always go alone. Never mention that there will be women. Use gender neutral names if she inquires. Cover up your hickeys with makeup from the time you were a ‘good woman’ for a year. Mask the smell of pussy with perfume.
g) And: when you meet The One, the angel, wet your desert rose, yet again; this is how you propose: on one knee, in the dark, to hide it from God. This is how you tell your mother. This is how she nearly kills you: with her car, at a busy intersection, near your childhood home. Put ice on the scratches along your back. Be sure to put gentian violet on the cuts to make them heal quicker.
(28.1) I would apologize, but I hate you for the DYKE I always knew you were insistent on becoming.
(28.2) This is how you can only remember your toes encased in sand, and not your life that’s supposed to flash before you.
(28.3) This is how you call off an engagement: make breakfast, do not eat it, wait for The One, the angel, to emerge from her slumber, write it on a post-it note, watch her scorch your thighs with hot oatmeal and tell you to ‘Get Out.’
(29) Coming to this conclusion:
(a) rise and settle, like Napalm.
(b) your soul is finally disfigured.
(c) and the world turns Buddhists into bank tellers
(d) dreamers into prescription pill poppers
(e) artists into headstones.
(f) Manhandle your desires and threaten them; will them to never return like an unwanted child, and howl at the moon without remission. Be the wolf mother’s white unicorn.
(g) Be a body.
(h) Not a person.
Afieya Kipp (she/her) is a queer poet, editor and text-based artist born in Brooklyn, NY. She lives in northern New Jersey where she carries poems in her wallet and is an MFA candidate at Lindenwood University. Follow her on Twitter @AfieyaK