Saturday Nov 18

RemicaBingham Remica L. Bingham, a native of Phoenix, Arizona, earned an MFA from Bennington College and is a Cave Canem fellow. Among other journals, her work has been published in New Letters, Callaloo and Essence. Her first book, Conversion, won the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award, was published by Lotus Press and shortlisted for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. A book of her selected poems, The Seams of Memory, will be translated into Arabic and published in 2011 in conjunction with the Kalima Project. Currently, she serves as the Writing Competency Coordinator at Norfolk State University. For more information on her work and upcoming events visit www.remicalbingham.com.
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From “What We Ask of Flesh”
 
I.
 
IMPORTANT SAFEGUARDS
Close supervision is necessary when any appliance is used by children.
 
A toddler is screaming
and there is no other sound
in the studio apartment
on the wrong side of a dwindling city.
 
This voice will ravage
your sleep, for years,
you will not be able
to tame it.
 
The room is full
in some dreams. In others,
there’s only you,
 
the absent mother, and the hands
that lift the child from fire,
even the scorched girl is barely there.
 
This is how apparitions live—
coming and going, rising
and disappearing like smoke.

Extreme caution must be used when handling an appliance containing hot oil.
 
The pan is filled to the brim
and set on High (300 degrees).
When she steps, the child is immersed
in hot oil up to her ankles.
Liquid makes a trail from the foot
of the bed, to the cracked tile,
past the TV, sullies an old towel, the lip
of the bathroom sink.
 
Do not use appliance for other than intended use.

Her mother always begins the story
the same way
 
I was just trying to feed my kids,
we didn’t have a stove
she calls on God, asks for help,
never mercy.
 
* * *
 
II.
 
The girl does not smile
in the portrait
of the grandchildren.
 
She cannot stand
and wears no shoes.
She stares into the camera
 
from a makeshift pedestal,
stoic, resembling the others.
Her bandaged feet swell
 
beneath the wool
someone has bought
to shield them
 
and sapphire dye runs
by day’s end, threatening
what must be clean:
 
the dressing’s white linen,
regeneration, her rare blood—
backdrop of all within
 
* * *
 
V.
 
She coats her new skin
with shea butter and cotton
 
woven soft as gauze.
When you take her to the ocean
 
she wants to run along
the sand, Like in the movies
 
she says, but instead of baring
her body like other girls,
 
she shades what is
unforbidden, hollows
 
most often left to light.
She finds a jogging path
 
and stretches for mere seconds
before bolting out
 
onto the dunes.
In time, she returns complaining
 
that the land is unforgiving.
She is already weary
 
and has the whole shoreline to course.
She sits a bit defeated, near you,
 
cradling a shell in her hands.
It's harder than it looks, she says,
 
turning her back to the horizon
asking too much  
How can we get anywhere
starting here?
 
and you must mention sunset
before she’ll rise again.