poem inspired by a clip of a film called Illusions, a 1980s Julie Dash film about a black woman in the 1940s passing for white.


Truth be told

You are neither butternut

nor my baby

You are the fruit they all deny

While looking in the eyes so familiar

Coulda sworn you was their own

And reading over and over the contents

of brown envelopes

Quiet as its kept

You are the secret that reveals itself

A Generation down the line

As you bud

Curiously Dark and delicate skinned

yet bitter and foul mouthed

necessary for all seasons

yet right for none

Truth be told

Quiet as its kept

It’s Best to pick you while young

Taste be better that way

Quiet as is kept


unlatched from your thorny throat

truth be told

Quiet as its kept

it don’t really matter

to the fruit who

the donors were

it never mattered

cept to the one

planted the seed

truth be told

they’ll never find all of you

can never turn over all those leaves

Quiet as is kept

You ain’t hiding really


hey cripchick,

we met at the t-shirt transformation in Pembroke, NC. i’m feeling your post and your deft moderation. (this is where you click the link and read her post first)

re: do we own our bodies?

i certainly have been trying to own mine, or at least hold it for a little while. the problem however, is that there are almost constant thefts, disruptive interventions in my attempt to hold me–a mouthy, queer, poor, rural, black, woman, artist, with no health insurance, clothed, fed and educated with the “help” of state, federal and private aid– together. a reel of these episodes was rolling through my head while i was processing your post—my sometimes futile attempts to wrestle flesh
and bone
and hair
and womb
and cure
and word
and blood
and love
and sisterhood
and memory
from who/whatever might have it out on loan, or from whomever might employ debt or blame or paycheck or the law or public health strategy to scare me into believing i never even owned none of it in the first place.

that’s why i can’t help but be reminded of the connection between ownership and privilege. i find it interesting that the most enthusiastic supporters of a pseudo-radicalization/sublimation of selfhood, the most ready to bury the hatchet, are often the most experienced thieves, the ones who have practiced owning other beings so well for so long. i am angered at their attempts at exercising paternalistic control over the discourse of dismantling ownership for the greater good. They often appropriate the knowledges of people who reject selfish ownership and capital, romanticize, excise, and graft them out of context onto a discourse which still ultimately serves oppressive power. This tool is wielded this time against the people who once were owned, excluded and silenced and their attempts to reclaim what was taken are called selfish, vindictive, destructive, or hung-up. this is and absurdly painful violence.

a denial of accountability

i felt this most deeply when commenters expressed distress over their apparently limited options: “own yourself (as master owns/makes slave or as nation owns citizens) or be violated with no recourse, no protection.”

i think it is extremely poignant that the first thoughts went to bodily safety (as opposed to say, intellectual property) and begged the question, “how will i survive without even the residual privilege of a penal system which, while i suffer the threat of a freedom-less existence or death, might also punish people who would otherwise destroy me?” even more poignant is that the experiences of this small group show us that fear alone will not protect us from violence.  i feel these expressions speak no only to the limitations of the proposed non-ownership future but also to a fear-ridden past and present lacking justice and accountability.

what would the conversation look like if we it were controlled by the people out seeking their own self-recovery (womyn,disabled,poc,queer,3rd world)? what definitions have they lain down around ownership that do not invoke enslavement, exclusion, dis(ease), colonization, isolation, humiliation, and punishment? what useful alternatives are there to non-ownership without safety and/or to fearful ownership? is there an answer that makes love and justice more possible?

those are questions i add to the pot.

re bravery and anger: the appropriateness of women of color having conversations amongst themselves about their anger. (OR why cripchick is not alone)

anger as a response to injustice it is still a useful tool. it is not destructive. it is not counteractive. it is creative.

please, anyone interested check out lex’s brilliant collective reading project, currently discussing Audre Lorde’s “The Uses of Anger.”


so if anyone still reads this blog, you should check out this link to an article my sista friend lex wrote for Spark Reproductive Justice Network

people, i don’t think i’ll go that long without posting. if you peep the blog and like it, link me to your blog.


i woke up the day after carnaval feeling soooo tired–like i had
walked to rio from durham. there were parties every 4 hours last week
and people actually were trying to go to all of them. i went to a
few. but this is probably the real reason i felt like that:

i went to the sambadromo on sunday night. like the name implies, it’s the
auditorium where the super-bowl of samba parades takes place. the
largest samba schools compose songs, called enredos (samba with a
plot). each school designs an hour long parade based on their theme
that both follows the plot of the samba lyrics and honors the samba
school. the themes this year were: nelson mandela, africa “from the
royal birthplace to the brasilian court”, photography, norwegian
codfish, games of chance, and other randomness. it’s a 3-day contest.
as each school parades down the 3/4 mile long corridor, the schools
are judged on their song, the enthusiasm of the entire cast of 5000
(yes) samba school participants, the lead, flag bearing couple’s
dancing, the lead singer’s voice, synchronization, and whether or not
the 6-9 floats (alegoricos) adequately illustrated the samba plot. on the third
day, the scores and the winners are announced and there is another
parade of the top 5 samba schools.

we haggled for tickets in the best section of the sambadromo. while i
was there, amongst all those mostly-dark brazilians, i got a glimpse
of how much this means to them. there were people screaming for their
favorite schools at the top of their lungs, there was crying, everyone
was singing the enredos over and over and over again (chanting…praying really)
and there were fights. i was amazed by the number of heavily pregnant women dancing in the parade–i stopped counting at 15.
apparently, you do not miss the parade for anything, not even labor.
this happens once a year and is the culmination of an entire year’s
worth of work and expense.

the family of black women who adopted me (literally. my last name is not curtis anymore–they didn’t like it) told me they had
each paid 250 reis ($175) for their tickets and that some people paid
more. they had also been sitting there since 8pm and would stay until
the end. they hipped me to how these schools get so many people
to volunteer for the samba schools and to give them so much money.
every one of the 5000 common participants pays for their own costumes (300reis or more for these concoctions co feathers and foam, glitter and glue called “fantasias”), practices for free, stays in shape according to the samba school rules, pays for
hair, makeup, plastic surgery, helps build the floats or make costumes, etc. there are also celebrities in the samba schools who get special treatment and much press after their appearance with a samba school.

the entire experience–actually being there looking up at this thing,
this monster, this beautiful terrible creature parade
by–was…wow…unbelievable. i didn’t know i could be so easily
seduced by feathers, sequins, greased naked bodies(yes, some weren’t
even wearing that jeweled bikini) and loud overly-patriotic music.
everything is soo much larger than life. so much more grand and
colorful and shiny and touchable but just out of reach. the images
scrape across your eyes like braille–absurdly vivid yet

the last school, beija-flor, who’s enredo was about the mystical african roots of the school and of all brazilians,
threw some d’s on slavery and on racism and on violence against women
and on oppression and on the whole myth making business. seriously, they had it on lock. the music video industry could really learn a lot from them. they had me
leaving the place, singing their song, on the verge of forgetting, or
at least excusing, the overt racism and sexism that i face on the
streets here–whoa! they won the grand prize, by the way.

sou quilombola beija-flor
sangue de rei, communidade
obatalá anunciou
já raiou o sol da liberdade!

at the end, there is a telling refractory element. when the music ends
and the thousands of people parade out of the open-air auditorium, the
streets are filled with an eerie silence like the dreaded and yet
inevitable end of an orgy. the only difference is, in the case of the
silence between post-climactic (hopefully) naked bodies, the silence
is fleeting–most always one of the bodies will try to moderate their
discomfort with an impotent interjection (“so…how was it?”).

this silence after the sambadromo, however, is much more sustained and alienating. no one dared speak. meanwhile, the entire fantasy was being unceremoniously dismantled right before my eyes. the very costumes that had been worn with such pride just minutes before are strewn all over the streets; drunk street children ride the heads of paper-mache giraffes that had not long ago walked upright on stilts above the rest of the world. it is a very violent scene to the uninitiated eye.

i walked out into the morning air. the sun was rising over rio. it wasn’t particularly bright but i couldn’t help squinting. my eyes were adjusting to something–getting used to the absence of something like trying to recognize a woman without her makeup on. there was a one-sided intimacy in that moment. i was the interloper having seen too much. i rode the bus home at 6am wondering, “what just happened? what was all that for? what have i just witnessed and been a part of?”, sure that any audible question would have been deemed sacrilege. i think that’s what finally sapped my energy.

who walks the passage
down and through
our lady
finds her wide
lewdly splayed
and propped up
a glistening wound

i enter and feel
memory jog
my whole being
tau(gh)t organ licks
foamy suck of saline undulations
of sweat stained sand and (breathe)
piss and (breathe)
tobacco and (breathe)
day after street market and (breathe)
red clay and (breathe)
18th century iron and (breathe)
rum and
rum and

i am awash with womb fog
too thirsty not to breath it in deep
to drink the remnants of spilled petitions
from hollowed out libation flask
and make demands of my own
(chega! pare agora!)

unstable suspension
though water eludes

there is nothing to keep the flies from gorging deeper on this shiny tumenescent carcass
except their own supersticions

they tilt close and bear witness
to lardy marble
becoming soap