Mowing this three acres with a tractor,
a man notices something ahead-a mannequin-
he thinks someone threw it from a car. Closer
he sees it is the body of a black woman.
The medics come and turn her with pitchforks.
Her gaze shoots past him to nothing. Nothing
is explained. How many black women
have been turned up to stare at us blankly,
in weedy fields, off highways,
pushed out in plastic bags,
shot, knifed, unclothed partially, raped,
their wounds sealed with powdery crust.
Last week on TV, a gruesome face, eyes bloated shut.
No one will say, “She looks like she’s sleeping,” ropes
of blue-black slashes at the mouth. Does anybody
know this woman? Will anyone come fourth? Silence
like a backwave rushes into that field
where, just the week before, four other black girls
had been found. The gritty image hangs in the air
just a few seconds, but strikes me,
a black woman, there is a question being asked
about my life. How can I
protect myself? Even if I lock my doors,
walk only in the light, someone wants me dead.
Am I wrong to think
if five white women had been stripped,
broken, the sirens would wail until
someone was named?
Is is any wonder I walk over these bodies
pretending they are not mine, that I do not know
the killer, that I am just like any woman-
if not wanted, at least tolerated.
Part of me wants to disappear, to pull
the earth on top of me. Then there is this part
that digs me up with this pen
and turns my sad black face to the light…
Copyright 1989, reprinted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.