Two Poems by Crystal Wilkinson

Crystal Wilkinson is Kentucky’s Poet Laureate.  The following poems are from her most recent publication entitled Perfect Black, a memoir in verse which elegantly explores rural Black girlhood, religion, sexual abuse, and growing up in Southern Appalachia.

Many of her poems model the courage it takes to shed expectations and worry, while concurrently accepting the reality of living in an imperfect society.

To be free from societal expectations for our bodies – “Black & Fat & Perfect”
To be free from worrying about our children’s safety – “Mother’s Day”

Black & Fat & Perfect
by Crystal Wilkinson

He knows there is truth in silence,
in the stillness of perfect black,
perfect balance-bliss from the kiss
of ancient chants. They are patient
as the clouds of dust in the corners-
remnants of the sloughing of old skins
reborn in the us of them. Round tree to bark back
they lie in moonlight & haze till day breaks
& the dust floats into the light above them
a magical veil to cover their faces
a balm to heal all wounds.
Light dances in the window
& the work of morning begins.
He brews the coffee. She churns the sausage.
He scoops her waist from behind,
cups the girth of her belly & she is black & fat
& perfect in his capable, warm hands.

Mother’s Day
by Crystal Wilkinson

Last night
i dreamed
my son joined a gang
A gang
one million strong

This gang
these brothers
spoke Swahili
& street talk

& nobody was afraid

This gang walked around
in broad daylight
& after midnight
hair kinky crazy

& nobody pointed their pistols

This gang
they wore kente durags
around their foreheads
cowries around their necks
didn’t take no shit

& nobody was afraid

This gang
one million strong
These sons
were intelligent
like they always been

& nobody said they were not able

This gang
they were the future
all about the business
of being correct

& nobody was afraid

This gang
they walked the streets
in great numbers

& nobody cuddled their purses

This gang
they stood up
& spoke up
when justice showed
its true colors

& the swat team didn’t come

This gang
they went to schools
where no teachers made them feel
worth less or like criminals

& nobody cried rape

This gang
they praised god
their way
& remembered ancestors
in old as time ceremonies

& nobody was afraid

beat drums
They beat drums
& beat drums

& nobody was afraid

This gang
sang their
warrior songs
baritone voices
stirring all those
with ears bent

& nobody was afraid

Last night
i dreamed
by son joined a gang
a gang
one million strong

This morning
i woke up
said a prayer
& prepared him
for another day
in fayette county public schools

& was very much afraid

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