I think of my father
vodka-laughing: Aw shit,
when Daddy said go pick out a switch
from the lemon tree we knew
that switch better be good.
My father was a drunk altar boy.
My father was a Southern boy.
My father is a good man.
When you grow up in the South, you know
the difference between a good switch and a bad one.
Pick what hurts best. The difference between drinking
to disappear and drinking to remember.
Be polite. Be gentle. Be a vessel. Be ashamed.
As a child, I begged to be whooped.
I pinched myself with my nails when I was wrong.
I tried to pull out my eyelashes. I said, Punish me
I said for I have sinned I am disgusting.
Here is the order in which we studied the Bible
in second grade: 1: Genesis, or, God is a man
and he owns you. You were bad. Put on some
got-damn clothes. 2: Exodus, or, you would still
be a slave if it were not for men. Also, magic.
Magic or, never question a man’s truth.
3: Job, or, suffer, suffer because it is holy.
During the classes on Revelation, I think
I drifted to sleep. I think I dreamed
trumpets when I touched my hot parts
then touched the cold steel of my desk.
I knew what it meant to be wrong and woman.
When I walk into the world and know
I am a black girl, I understand
I am a costume. I know the rules.
I like the pain because it makes me.
I deserve the pain. I deserve you
looking at me, moaning, looking away.
Son of a bitch. My rent is due.
No one kissed my tits and read the Bible.
Good and evil. Pleasure and empty
curtain grid of dawn light.
I call this honor. I call this birthright.