Sunday May 26

VictoriaNewtonFord Victoria Newton Ford is a poet and essayist from the South, currently living in Washington, DC. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Jai-Alai #9, LitHub, and Winter Tangerine.  

Why I Write: Victoria Newton Ford

I write to tell the truth, and the truth is often hideous. And though it feels good to write, I don’t write to make the reader feel good, particularly. I write to make you feel. To honor my own feeling, which is another way to honor the fact that I exist. And so, it is my duty to witness and speak while I'm here.

Upon Visiting Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, My Mother Invents the Everlasting Gobstopper, 1971

The black girl is a confection featuring matter of law as her principal ingredient.
She cannot drown. This intrigues the thieves in him, though rumors endure: black
girls cannot swim. When my mother visits through a backdoor, she’s escorted
by small creatures who know life only as labor. Labor only as minstrelsy. Wonka
asks for her story. She is seven. Born in the District, known then as Chocolate City.
Wonka loots her birth, calls it a river. Likens genesis to water. The vein of his factory
tempts white boys who resemble your father. He is a common little masochist,
drowning small men in sweet things. Everything black builds a canal out of a white
man’s roots. Thus, the black girl invented craving. He’d have known this if he weren’t
made of forfeiture teeth. Their ache creates a solid to lock the jaw, the design
really just a child they consider brute sugar. Meanwhile downstairs, all the little
white children sing: We want the world. We want the whole world. Give it to us now.

Self-Portrait with the Mother of a Dead Black Child

A still-film camera is made of three basic elements:
the chemical element, which translates
to the film
of the murder in some manuals. A mechanical element,
or in an effort to be precise, the body of the mother herself.
And lastly, the optical element, which is a gentle way
to acknowledge the d ead black child without waking the dead
black child in the photograph. At its simplest, a dead black child
is just a curved piece of glass. As for the body of the mother herself,
you—being the photographer—see the same scene exposed
and can adjust the film of the murder by turning dials
and clicking buttons. Your job is to take the beams of light
bouncing off the body of the mother herself and redirect
the light to form the plot in front of her dead black child.
The process is actually very simple. Light waves travel
more quickly through air than through a dead black child.
Therefore, a dead black child detains light.

This is like colliding a patrol car from pavement into
a dead black child’s skull—at an angle. The right wheel scatters
the debris of a mother’s only and subsequently, slows down
while the left wheel idles on the pavement—where you stand–
before the bone is pronounced transparent. This consequence
is the same as light enters the body of the mother herself. Light
bends in the same unbearable direction and bends again,
almost breaking. Remnants of the sun then enter the air and rise.
This effectively reverses the path of light between both
the body of the mother herself and the dead black child you
shot. The light source will then emanate in all directions—
she is infinite and throughout. It is your responsibility
to take the bricolage that it might converge at one point
and capture, finally, the perfect angle. Or, in layman’s terms:
a real, crisp image.

Elegy for Clitoris

Save water is one of the last things I said to my mother before she passed.
She’d started to cry, but not for me. She’d started to cry, but neither of us

knew she was dying, her heart arranging its own petite famine that November.
Save water please, I asked, referring to an old war between us:

my mouth and the soft pink land it longed to drink
vs. a mother’s instinct—You’re a dyke. Aren’t you.

I say instinct and not repulse because every day the world reminds me
I am accountable for the stones I let cast inside my body.

Instinct and not hatred, in the last words she said:
You’re dead to me, which I took to mean, You are my daughter.

I made you, my own brutal idea. I am trying to be responsible
for somebody who was not responsible. Out of instinct.

You did not know her, of course. You cannot consider the clots thickening
in her thighs, her bitching at the farewell moon, the trouble hosting

a wild concert on her face. You’re dead to me, meaning I am lost,
come keep me company. Every alcoholic needs a dyke for a daughter.

A bank to contain the waste of a hideous marriage. Before the flood,
a levee rises to earn a bruise after flushing the vodka before warming

the milk to feed the youngest child who cannot stand. This is inheritance.
Learning there’s little difference between a moan and a whimper

for the black girl holding herself away from herself. I translate
You’re dead to me to Write a beautiful song. Bring a choir

to the deep river. Of course, you might still read the word dead.
But it is my responsibility to cast this stone. The water succors

my feet & I am still alive.