The Ladybug by Audrey Senior After Nikki Giovanni

her skin was orangish-brown
not red like I expected
I was sorry

I saw her crawl across the sheets
the shroud
and grabbed her between my monstrous fingers
capturing her in my grasp
inescapable
drowning
drowning in the creases that make me who I am
who I expect myself to be
I was not sorry

I had the audacity to make her stand on the oily finger tip
while I photographed her with no reasoning
forcing her to stand still
full aware
the torture of being frozen and alone
I was not sorry

then I let her run, run, ran as fast as she could
tiny feet scampering away
as far away as she could get
from her predator
from her abuser
I was not sorry

I reached to grab her again
but when she extended her brown wings to escape
I feared—I flinched
without thinking
pushing my oily fingers together
now she was mine forever
but was no longer of value
I was sorry.

I am sorry I did not understand you
it was not my place to make you mine
I do not think I am allowed to kill something because I am frightened
she was harmless; she was pure; I was the aggressor
I am sorry

I am so sorry
that you were not red like I imagined

All Too Normal by Jasmine Mans

All too normal
how we let our boys go,

and try to find them
after they’re gone,

and the longing.
All too normal
the tremor of longing

and how it fits
uncomfortably

in our everythings
everywhere

All too normal
how we don’t know

What we…
…until its…

And the skin,
the skin
they be wearing

all too normal
how it stays perfect

for the morning,
and mourning after.

 

the lost women by Lucille Clifton

i need to know their names
those women i would have walked with
jauntily the way men go in groups
swinging their arms, and the ones
those sweating women whom i would have joined
after a hard game to chew the fat
what would we have called each other laughing
joking into our beer? where are my gangs,
my teams, my mislaid sisters?
all the women who could have known me,
where in the world are their names?

Strength by Ijeoma Umebinyuo

i am writing for
the women
who were once girls
judging themselves
through the eyes
of souls
who couldn’t comprehend
their light

i am writing for
the women
who stammered
just to speak
and
who forced themselves
into silence
when ugly words
were once thrown at them

i am writing for
the women
who keep kneeling
screaming at their phone
as lovers leave
as friends depart

i am writing for
all these women
who still
show up
with a smile
after battling their demons
the night before.

i am also writing
for the women
who do not smile
the next day,
the women who
need
a day or two
to recover
from the brutalities
of the world.

Patis by Romalyn Ante

If there is one vivid memory I have of Batangas,
it is of a favourite dish: sheen pieces of bullet tuna
wrapped in banana leaves, with earth-dark kamias,
simmered in a terracotta pot.

If there is one vivid memory I have of that house,
it is the plastic table mat. Floral-printed, sleek
in the light sifting through the window rails.
I cringed at the thought that the mat would coil
when the hot pot was laid.
My grandma’s specialty. Sour-salt to the bone
best eaten with boiled rice, using bare hands.

Two decades on, no one cooks patis anymore.
My grandma, in her wheelchair, calls me ‘sister’.
The locals no longer nap in the afternoon.
The grove of mango and bilimbi, the cornfields,
the water buffalos – all replaced by tiles and lifts.

There is a certain sour-salt taste
I always long for.