“Tell me why you love me.”

I’m listening to Marc Rebillet sing that line. I’m listening to last Sunday’s “Brunch” FB stream. Rebillet fascinates me. Fascinates me in the way getting to watch any artist create in real time fascinates me. Watching him is scary. He just does anything, does everything. He’s so … visible. I can’t fathom letting anyone watch me in the way he let’s himself be watched. Crazypants. And beautiful and amazing. And terrifying.

I tried something with tonight’s poem, and it didn’t really work, but I’m leaving it as is and posting it anyway. The source text for tonight comes from Lucille Clifton’s poem, “my dream about being white.” I want someone to create a silent meditation retreat — maybe only for Black women — where all participants do is read Clifton for hours and hours every day and see where their minds go. Yeah, definitely only for Black women.

What I Might Want (Take 2)

It's more than a year and
I'm wondering where we go. I'm
wary, perhaps even scared. I'm wearing
confidence, self-assuredness -- a mask that looks like a white
flag. I'm giving up, giving in -- to you, to history.

Giving in, giving up. But
still, there's
magic in this surrender. No,
not defeat, not stagnation. A glimpse of a future.

National Poetry Month 2021: the Golden Shovel

As I’ve done for the last forever, I’ve chosen a poetic form, and I’m going to try to write a poem in that form every day for the month of April. I don’t always succeed, but I always give it my best shot. The “Golden Shovel” was created by Terrance Hayes in tribute to Gwendolyn Brooks. I learned about it from my friend Sonia (aka Red Emma). I’ll be using Lucille Clifton’s poems as my starting point this month. Here are the rules:

  • Take a line (or lines) from a poem you admire.
  • Use each word in the line (or lines) as the end word for each line in your poem.
  • Keep the end words in order.
  • Give credit to the poet who originally wrote the line (or lines).
  • The new poem does not have to be about the same subject as the poem that offers the end words.

If you pull a line with six words, your poem would be six lines long. If you pull a stanza with 24 words, your poem would be 24 lines long. And so on.

Should be interesting!

Taking Time, Making Time

I am tired. I realized yesterday that I have spread myself beyond thin, that I have said “yes” too many times to too many things and that I haven’t left enough time in a week for me to just sit and think and be with myself … except late at night when I’m already sleepy. This isn’t tenable. I started making a list last night of all my commitments, and today I started sorting it into the ones I need to get rid of first, the ones I probably need to get rid of but want to think about for another minute, and the ones I need to get rid of that won’t be jettisoned so easily.

This won’t be a simple list to check off. All of the things on the list are things I want to be doing/participating in. But I also need time to write, time to think, time to finish everything early enough to go to bed before midnight (before 2am, if I’m honest).

I wish me luck seeing this one through.

* * *

On the Golden Shovel front, I’m still slogging away. Choosing a line or a few lines to use has gotten easier, and I’m absolutely enjoying reading through Clifton’s work in search of source material, but … I’m not feeling more in love with the pieces I’m producing. A line here or there, but that’s it. And some of that may be my physical and mental exhaustion, but it’s more because of the “forced-ness” I feel with these poems. I can’t seem to get past that sense of the things I’ve been writing not really being mine.

Sigh. It’s been a strange month so far. This isn’t a way I am used to feeling. I may not always love the poems I write in April, but they always feel as if they are my own work.

The source text for tonight’s poem is Clifton’s “leda 1.”

What I Might Want

It's more than a year and
I can't call up your voice. I look at
your pictures, think of the night we met, the night
we drank and laughed and I put my
wariness away for a minute, let dreams
secret themselves in. Now I find they are
still there, buried deep, hands and mouths full.

National Poetry Month 2021: the Golden Shovel

As I’ve done for the last forever, I’ve chosen a poetic form, and I’m going to try to write a poem in that form every day for the month of April. I don’t always succeed, but I always give it my best shot. The “Golden Shovel” was created by Terrance Hayes in tribute to Gwendolyn Brooks. I learned about it from my friend Sonia (aka Red Emma). I’ll be using Lucille Clifton’s poems as my starting point this month. Here are the rules:

  • Take a line (or lines) from a poem you admire.
  • Use each word in the line (or lines) as the end word for each line in your poem.
  • Keep the end words in order.
  • Give credit to the poet who originally wrote the line (or lines).
  • The new poem does not have to be about the same subject as the poem that offers the end words.

If you pull a line with six words, your poem would be six lines long. If you pull a stanza with 24 words, your poem would be 24 lines long. And so on.

Should be interesting!

Hey baby, hey baby, hey!

Hey baby, hey baby, hey!
Girls say, boys say
Hey baby, hey baby, hey
Hey baby baby

Can you make it make sense? Why would anyone think sending me a private IG message trying to hook up was a good idea, was a sensible idea, was an idea that should actually exist in any reasonable version of a universe that I inhabit?

I love that Gwen Stefani song, and those lyrics fit this dude so perfectly. Let’s factor in some additional data:

  • You “met” me in a zoom meeting this morning.
  • During the course of that zoom meeting, you twice mentioned your wife. TWICE.
  • While I do have the most gorgeous virtual background in the history of fake rooms, there is absolutely nothing about me in that space that looks anything like flirting or an invitation of any kind.
  • To open your message by saying, “I sure had to do some digging to find you online!” is super creepy. Yes, I’m sure you had to make some kind of effort to find my IG. Why would you do that?

Ugh. Needless to say, I rejected the message and creepy dude is blocked. I am most definitely too old for this nonsense.


It’s the 14th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

A Real One

Tonight’s slice is a snippet of conversation overheard as I waited to cross a street on my way out for drinks with a friend after work. I was thinking ahead to how nice it would be to see her — we haven’t seen each other in maybe five years — and then I became aware of the young women beside me. Two young, Black women, surely no more than 20, deep in a conversation that I was entering without context.

A: “And she doesn’t even have an ass, and he still wants her!”

B: “That’s what he says. All that matters is does she have a mind and is she Black. That’s what he wants.”

A: “That takes a real man to say that, to know that. These other ni***s out here only care if she pretty and will she do what I tell her.”

B: “So you know who to talk to and who you should walk on past.

And if you didn’t know, now you know.


It’s March, which means it’s time for the
13th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Curious? Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

Cute AF

I am cute. I haven’t always believed it, but I’ve grown into that awareness. While I still say my cuteness peaked at two years old, when I was so adorable I should have been declared illegal, I am happy with the face I have now. (It is, actually, very much the same face, but it has shifted a bit with age.)

I’m not cute all the time, of course. Sometimes I’m grey and exhausted and look just as bad as that sounds. I don’t usually photograph well, and the left side of my face is most emphatically not my good side. Still, overall, I put myself solidly in the “cute” category.

When I say “cute,” I am not being coy because I don’t want to say “pretty” or won’t allow myself to say “beautiful.” There are days when I could cross-post myself under “pretty” – primarily on spectacular-hair-day days – but those are moments. Cute is my steady state. Beautiful is off the table. It was never on the table, not even back at my toddler-fabulous peak. Beautiful is out of the realm of the possible primarily because of my button of a nose, the cuteness of which used to be a cause of consternation, but with which I am now at peace.

I’m not hoping people will read this and respond with choruses of, “You’re so pretty!” or “I think you’re beautiful!” It’s entirely fine with me if people think these things, but I will not be persuaded. This is an I-know-my-lane situation, and I’ll be staying here.

I know what I look like, and I like what I see. That’s the first point. The second point is that my cuteness matters not in the slightest. I acknowledge that there is “pretty privilege” and that I occasionally benefit from it. In many cases in which I might expect to benefit from it, however, misogynoir and/or fatphobia erase the benefit. In things that matter to my life and happiness – am I capable at work, do I have a solid friend circle, can I walk pain-free, do I know all the lyrics to my favorite songs … – the cuteness or not of my face gives me nothing. The ROI on cuteness reveals itself most often in things I don’t much care about.

So, nothing particularly valuable gained from my looks. That’s the second point. And so we reach the third and ultimate point: being told that I am cute (or pretty or beautiful) does not mean I owe the teller a single damn thing. And this is hard for some people to fathom.

When I say “some people,” it will surprise no one to know I mean men, or to know that (some) men think the mere fact of them paying me what they assume is a compliment entitles them to my name, or my number, or my time, or anything at all. Maybe, possibly, it entitles them to a “Thanks,” but definitely nothing more. Those same men then get angry when their acknowledgment of my face yields nothing.

I need to say here that I’m obviously not talking about all men. If I know you, if you and I have been talking and you want to tell me how pretty I am in your eyes, I’m probably going to be just fine with that. If you and I are friends, and you decide to tell me you think I’m pretty, that’s okay, too. Because you’re my friend. Because you’re a man I’ve been spending time with. Because you aren’t expecting me to put out in exchange for a call-it-as-you-see-it compliment.

Not long ago, as I was headed home after a fun evening out, I heard a man on the train say, “Damn, you’re so pretty.” I was reading and didn’t look up. He moved from wherever he’d been sitting to sit beside me, poked my arm (poked. my. arm!) and said, “It’s you I’m talking to. I said you’re pretty.”

N.B. First: if you speak to someone, particularly a stranger, they aren’t required to respond. Second: if you speak to someone when they haven’t already engaged with you even as far as making eye contact, you have no reason to think they will know you’re speaking to them and respond. Third: while it might be acceptable to pat a stranger’s arm to get their attention so you can speak to them, it’s not okay to poke them really hard the way you’d poke a reluctant elevator button. Fourth: why the fuck are you talking to me at all?

I looked at that man. I was in a good mood. I was coming from a reading where I’d shared new work. I’d spent the evening with people I adore. So I gave him half a smile, said thank you and went back to reading.

He slapped my arm. (Slapped. My. Fucking. Arm.) and said, “That’s it? That’s all you can say?”

So much for my good mood. Please refer to the nota bene section above. If it’s not okay to poke strangers, you know it’s not okay to slap them. What in the all-encompassing, over-entitled fuck?

It was night. Not super late, but still nighttime. There were folks on the train, but no one was paying us any obvious attention. (Besides, I know full well not to expect anyone to step up for me if a situation gets ugly.) I didn’t want to set that fool man off. I was almost home. I just wanted to be home.

But I also couldn’t make myself give him my power, couldn’t smile sweetly in my fear of his anger and give him whatever he might want from me. Couldn’t do it. That’s not smart, but it’s real. It’s definitely not smart. There are too many stories of women beaten, women murdered because they didn’t give in to some man they didn’t know. I used to think my size might deter men from thinking they could take me, but I’ve learned that that isn’t true. So I know that to refuse to give in to this fool on the train wasn’t smart. I needed to balance my need to stay myself with my desire to get home.

I looked at him. “That’s all I can say.”

We looked at each other for a minute.

“I was wrong,” he said, sneering. “You’re ugly as fuck. And fat as anything. Should be glad anyone spoke to you.”

Because of course. We are supposed to set aside the fact that he is the one who proclaimed my beauty two minutes ago. Or, we are supposed to imagine that he did it so that a) ugly, fat me would feel a little better about myself and/or b) ugly, fat me would be so grateful for some male attention I’d be willing to give him the validation he wanted. Because, you know, fat women are desperate and easy to pull.

“Yes, exactly,” I said.

“What the fuck’s that supposed to mean?”

“That I’m agreeing with you.”

We were close to my stop. I thought about riding further in the hope that he’d get off soon and I could circle back home. But what if he was headed to Coney Island? I didn’t want to take the chance that he’d be annoyed enough to ignore his own plans and follow me up to the platform, to the street. I also didn’t want to leave the train at an unfamiliar station. I thought about my long-ago decision to carry a smaller key chain, not the school custodian-style monstrosity I’d lugged around for years. My current chain has only two keys. So much easier to carry, but not an effective weapon. I thought about the fact that I hadn’t had any dinner and how that meant I couldn’t use the last-possible-scenario advice of a self defense instructor I’d worked with: vomiting on myself and him to gross him out and distract him.

He stood as we pulled into the next station. “Fucking nasty bitch,” he said as he moved to the door.

I am cute. I’m cute enough. I’ll go so far as to say I’m cute as a button. Even cute as fuck. And I don’t give a fuck. What I’d rather be is left alone. What I’d rather be is free from dealing with scumbag men. What I’d rather be is thinking about my own shit and not having to make safety plans on the fly. Acknowledgment of my face doesn’t entitle you to a damn thing.

The doors opened and my would-be suitor spat in my general direction as he exited the car. Not a single other passenger looked up, looked in my direction. I rode to my stop and walked myself home.


In 2017, I took up Vanessa Mártir’s #52essays2017 challenge to write an essay a week. I didn’t complete 52 essays by year’s end, but I did write like crazy, more in 2017 than in 2015 and 2016 combined! I’ve kept working on personal essays, kept at my #GriotGrind. If you’d care to join, it’s never too late! Find the group on FB: #52Essays Next Wave.