Dominique Christina is a force of nature, a shaman of language whose words take a pilgrimage through the malignancies of oppression: the structure of false histories that claim to own our classrooms, our politics, our sexuality, our bodies, our spirituality, our stories, our blood. Christina brings this tumbling fascist, racist, sexist discourse to its knees through the bloody truth of African American boys killed by police who see only race and their right to shoot; but not the life, the child, the man. Christina writes and rips us open: heart, spleen, lungs, psyche, to reveal a relentless avalanche of grief through the eyes of the Mothers who bore, lived, loved, bled these children out. These poems are thick with flesh and blood. They are deeply anchored in the injustice and how we, as a species, must reclaim our power, our anger, our voice, our fire through unleashing these festering lies and secrets and flushing out the continuous atrocities that hide behind our fears of calling them out for each other and ourselves. Christina is not only writing poems that are fraught with absolute mastery, syncopation, and unforgettable metaphors of a prodigious scholar and mesmerizing genius. Christina offers up something priceless. Her body of work, the aftermath of flames and sweat from her corporeal pen make us believe even more strongly in the intoxicating passion of words and that this world can be changed if we dig up those graves and haunt ourselves with the light of scrutiny.
The Period Poem
Mothers of Murdered Sons
Dominique Christina Interview, with Meg Tuite
Can you speak of your childhood and how you came to find power through words?
*My family is quite matriarchal. They matriculated to Denver from Little Rock Arkansas after a significant amount of trauma from their direct participation in the Civil Rights Movement. (My aunt has a congressional Medal of Honor for being one of nine students to desegregate Central High School under the loose protection of federal marshals) and my grandfather played in the Negro Leagues before baseball was integrated. He is in the Hall of Fame. My mother and grandmother were educators and supernaturally woman. I grew up in a context where mediocrity was not available to me. My family loved poetry. They walked around the house reciting it all the time. Lots of canonical literature: Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, T.S Elliot, ee cummings, but also Langston Hughes and Nikki Giovanni and writers from the Harlem Renaissance like Countee Cullen and Claude McKay. They introduced me to how possible language is; how delicious it is.
Does place wield into your poetry?
*I grew up in Denver Colorado in a middle class neighborhood that still had its drunks and pedophiles but certainly also had the church-goers, the school teachers, the folk who perform miracles daily. The community I grew up in certainly seeks to be seen in my poetry. Or at least reckoned with in some way. I lived in a place where I could feel entirely safe one minute because of all the grandmother and auntie figures who made sure I wasn't doing anything too "unladylike" while at the same time uncle figures were occasionally beating their wives and remarking on my growing breasts (when I reached adolescence) which made me feel utterly unsafe. That dichotomy, that tension, those dueling realities inform how I write for sure.
How does a poem come to you? Is it a word, a thought, an image, a vision? Or something else?
*I write every day. It feels...ancestral. Like falling in the dark and all of a sudden there are arms to hold me. I sit down and wait on the words. When the first line comes I usually don't know what it's telling me or where I will have to travel to locate the meaning but everything that follows the first line is about chasing down the meaning of it and trusting that my consciousness is working on my behalf.
Please let me say that, YES! You have a blaze of a trail! When did you get into stage presence and slam poetry?
* In 2011 after a good deal of kicking and screaming. I didn't want to participate in slam at all but elected to try after a childhood friend kept prodding me. I don't slam now. I was a National Poetry Slam Champion in 2011, Women of the World Slam Champion in 2012, National Underground Champion in 2013, also Southern Fried Champion in 2013, and after I won Women of the World for a second time in 2014, I got out before I became too cynical. I don't necessarily "need" performance. I do it and am pretty good at it but I don't need it. I do need to write though. No matter what.
Your words have deep resonance and poets do create revolution. When inspired and putting a poem together, what are your thoughts?
*Say it all. Bleed if you have to. Don't die with these stories locked in your body.
Can you give me one line that has sustained you throughout this hurricane of endless idiots? I could be more specific, but I’m sure that you know of whom I speak!
From my 8 year old: "Nobody is bigger than my beating heart. Not even a president."
Who are some of those beings who have inspired you, whether poets, artists, musicians, family, friends?
*My mother, Professor Jackie Benton. My children. My family of origin. My sister friend Rachel McKibbens. John Coltrane. Josephine Baker and Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. Luciano Pavarotti. Harry Belafonte. On and on.
Can you share one line that inspires you and keeps you moving forward?
*"The precise role of the artist, then, is to illuminate the darkness, blaze roads through vast forests, so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place. James Baldwin
In response to the Question "If 2017 was a poem what would it be called?"
The year is no poem.
It won't be called anything
With light inside it.
It snatches milk from
The mouths of infants
A lion, devouring shrines and sunlight.
2017 is a weapon.
A low groan in the dark,
A woman in the basement
With a wire hangar and a baby
No bigger than a mustard seed
That she will meet as an ooze in her palms
2017 is the lynch mob discography:
All strung up like
Mardi Gras beads on Main Street
The stench doesn't stop the parade
2017 is a funeral procession.
A lunatic's marching orders
Celebrity Apprentice on
A terrible loop,
2017 is no poem.
It's the bastard child of
Interred bones in the Tallahatchie River
A severed spine in Baltimore
A boy's brain on the street in Ferguson
The last breath of a man in New York
Traffic stops that crescendoed to murder
2017 is a dustbin
Stacked with protest signs and court orders
The lickety split shudder
Of a nation that ran into its ghosts
And only the women were
Acquainted with being haunted.
Empty cupboard soliloquy queens
Snatching their children
From public schools and
Handing them switchblades
Mommy is sorry.
This is what the teacher won't show you.
These bastards need mortality.
2017 is the state house glittered now in menstrual blood.
Girl children baying at the dawn limp moon
Oak trees decorated with brassieres
Nazis with their teeth knocked out
A linguistic resistance
With no room for words like "alt right"
When "white supremacy" is story enough.
2017 is no poem.
It's a pipeline trying
To breech an ocean,
A woman in a wheelchair
At a protest rally,
A tear gas canister on the steps of the Capitol.
2017 didn't bring my God with it.
Just hexes and hurricane winds
A democracy doomed by
The wrong weather wreckage of
Rich men and their crucifixion fetish
We gon all carry a cross
You better believe it
Let whatever happens be biblical then.
Let the locusts come if they must.
America is a murdered woman
Ghosting the world
With her cracked levees,
Her burned out mosque,
Her shot up church,
Her impossible promise
Her unmarked graves,
And I am dumb with calling her name.
Despite the yelps of history,
My wobbly faith splits heaven wide open
Reimagines God as mammy,
Starch white apron and a shotgun,
Babies suckling at her unremarkable breasts
Pushing scripture out from the rubble
Saying the battle is finally over and me,
War-walloped and heaving,
Rummaging through debris looking for
Something that glitters...
(If that is your real name)
Take these bones and perform
One last miracle
Take these hands and give me
Back my mouth
Take this mouth and give me back my feet
Take these feet and give me back my courage
Dazzle this uncaptured girl that I might
Live long enough to tell my grandchildren
About the year I stopped beseeching God and
In the trench grew my own temple.
God of the in-between,
God of the firing pin,
God of the slaughtered lamb,
God of a risen god,
Unspell me, here.
I am singing you the hymn of my skirt.
I am burning yellow dahlias on my
One good altar not splintered by shrapnel
Or singed with smoke...
If there is any prayer left
In this world let it be
What is left of our hearts,
Our coliseum hearts,
And the stupid hope that
Regulates the metronome
Of our blood machinery.
The orchestral thrumming,
The insistent rumble,
Of our broken, impossible hearts,
The only evidence I've ever had
That mountains can be moved.
Period Poem Part 2:
Be not deceived.
We ARE witches.
That, is no hallucination.
Don't let the pink hats fool you
We get busy
West Indian slave woman
Born this time with bigger hands,
Haunting the men who've loved me,
They will never stop saying my name.
We, loose women
Crawl out of graves
The cemeteries in Salem
Are all empty-
The slight of hand magic
The charred bone bayonet
Waiting beneath the earth...
We DO ride the wind,
Conjure and tilt the world,
Croon a midnight curse,
Sizzle a blood ritual,
Curate a menstrual anthem,
Pull peonies from between our thighs
Middle finger in the air matriarchal madness
We get busy
What matters is how we don't die
What matters is how many of us died
What matters is Eve's sworn statement-
The apocryphal testimony of
A borrowed rib
The sweet meat symphony of forbidden fruit
When a woman defies God,
Everything after, is blood.
The greedy chattering
Of cervix and uterus
Of shedding and reinventing
Of cramping and oozing
Of maxi pad and diva cup
On a sky blue jumpsuit
On a busy street corner in Jersey
That was conjure
I spouted like a geyser on a stage
In Philly and never stopped reading
That WAS my poem
My genius body
That's how I woman as a witch.
You gon have to confront my blood.
I took an oath
From my mama's
Inherited a war between my legs
There will always be stains on the sheets.
So let the good girls who cross
Their legs in church howl a red stitched amen
Let the women teetering on the edge
Of menopause tabernacle their
Wet labia to star shine
Blessed be the blood and
How it runneth over
Blessed be the slipknot crimson chaos
Blessed be the Red Sea riddle
The dragons we ride
The scales and clots
That know when to leave
Blessed be the body
The cult magic of woman
The pomegranate molasses
The scarlet chariot
The needling harp
Blessed be the 28th day.
Blessed be the full moon sonnet of woman
Blessed be the beleaguered body
The lexicon of survivors
There is no shame in
Letting the body be the body
No shame in
Honeying the hive between our legs
I Jezebel the blood
I Medusa ANY man
Who says we should bleed in secret
I Magdalene the god box under my skirt
I let the nectar decorate my thighs
I curse the curse
I roll the stone away
I night sky broom stick ride and ride
I make my blood my belonging
I witchcraft bleed and bleed
My Sisyphean uterus repeats itself
Every month I say, amen.
Sacred tongue, give me
A better word for sorcery
That, is the story of my blood.
Sacred heart, give me
A better word for woman
That, is the story of the world.
Be not deceived.
We ARE witches.
That is no hallucination.
Resurrection is always insurrection.
We are no longer afraid
“The victim remains anonymous…”
If the Old Testament means what it says,
If women can be stoned but
“Thou Shall Not Kill”
If the only crucifixion that matters
Is the one 2000 years ago,
If God is God anyhow
If man is in His image and likeness
And women a borrowed rib,
Can these bones live?*
Should they be returned?
Up from dust and back again
Each martyred godless girl
Unzipped from flesh
Ghosting your towns
Looking for boys to burn?
Shall we show you what reparations
For Salem look like?
Shall we mispronounce your birth?
Shall we trouble the water?
Do you know how many burials
How anchored we are to resurrection?
Are you looking for a way to kill me?
Chain me to a fence,
Throw me in a river,
Pin me down behind a dumpster,
Rummage my body,
Ignore the pine needle crown of thorns
Stitched to my head?
Dig nails in deeper?
Claw the pink
Til the girl is gone,
The archeology of mice and men.
They never get the story right.
Pontius or Judas,
Nate Parker, Brock Turner …
See? How you keep your names?
Behold the boy who made a mistake
He was a good kid
He was a great student
The monster gets to be human
The woman, a junk pile of bone…
Anonymous means invisible erased unstoried unpeopled untribed unfamilied unfamiliar unwritten undone unannounced unexplained undetermined unnamed
You all never get the story right.
I stopped being a woman
When it meant destroyed
When it meant forgive,
I know how to dig a deep grave
I know what bodies to put inside
Shall I show you what it means
To give the bones back,
To die with a boot on your throat,
To go namelessly into the deep…
Do you mind a little blood, boys?
How about a lot?
Women go missing.
Is a curse.
*In the Book of Ezekiel 37:3, Ezekiel has a vision where he saw himself standing in a valley filled with the bones of many people. The bones had been there a long time. God asks Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?” To which Ezekiel replied: “Lord God, you alone have the answer.”