Sunday Nov 19

GreenJakiShelton Jaki Shelton Green’s books include Dead on Arrival, Dead on Arrival and New Poems, Masks, Conjure Blues, singing a tree into dance, breath of the song, and Blue Opal, a play (all with Carolina Wren Press) and Feeding the Light (Jacar Press, 2014). Her poetry has been choreographed by the Chuck Davis African Dance Ensemble, in conjunction with the Kennedy Center and the Nasher Museum at Duke University; Two Near the Edge Dance Company; ChoreoCollective; Danca Nova Dance Company, in conjunction with the Colorado Naropa Dance Institute; and Miami City Ballet. In 2003, Jaki received the North Carolina Award for Literature. She is the 2007 recipient of the Samuel Talmadge Ragan Award for her contributions over an extended period to The Fine Arts of North Carolina. In 2014, she was inducted into the NC Literary Hall of Fame. A community arts advocate, Jaki Shelton Green creates and facilitates programs that serve diverse audiences and populations: incarcerated, homeless, chronically and mentally ill, survivors, elderly, public and private schools, teachers, hospice care providers, substance abuse counselors, literacy programs, libraries, universities, humanities councils, immigrants, community economic development, and social justice nonprofits. She is the owner of SistaWRITE, providing retreats and travel excursions for women writers.
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mothers



become shroud dirty rags of a holy book that supposedly forgot to stand vigil over our children ransomed to sun beneath each month’s moon hidden or full the daughters of other mothers themselves likely near death send us prayer shawls send us poems send us slabs of crystals a mother opens her mouth it is always wailing blood metallic bullets ride the mucous in her throat tease the pregnant ball of fire brewing inside her head we open our mouths to allow the blood to speak through light that does not choke the blood speaks through light that out races breath mothers swallow all the blood their stomachs can hold licking sidewalks playground swings back seats of dirty cop cars we become vampires who have no fear of light who have no fear of sexy silver bullets trying to crawl up our thighs we no longer fear the photographs of our children dying with mouths wide open their last sentences holographic prayers caught in between flash and light we sprout swords smiles that curse the memory that your first word was light is the balm traveling quieting a hysterical womb your first word was light now you swim with dolphins feeding them tiny particles of light filament your small teeth would chew and chew all the light your mouth could hold you later fed the ice to your baby brother calling crushed ice stars for a baby brother it has been a year full of a thousand years each month each day chasing the other inside my womb pulling grasping cramping for a blood birth of history herstory already told already buried already rotten a year full of limp apology dead proclamation faceless monsters breaking the shadow dance of other children more mothers drink the blood appear in daylight wild eyes speaking searing truths our daughters hold so much of the mothers grief inside their own wombs that become tombs for babies that scream no i’m not coming to this world this plight this revolution that is brewing inside a vampire’s apron pockets inside grandmother’s kitchens where they are stitching witching weaving brewing ancient fodder to feed another storm of harnessed lynched shackled light mothers become a season unto themselves storing winter blood mothers have become too familiar with death as personal as the found wisps of a son’s single strand of hair or the stale perfume stained handkerchief folded hidden inside your child’s pocket we are reminded in between each touch of warm lavender jasmine lemon cypress water cleaning stroking kissing soothing the cavity created by nine sexy silver bullets that we are mothers swimming strong in rivers so ancient they need no names in between the honey and rosemary balm massage in between each finger each toe we are reminded that we have always buried our dead and we have always raised our dead we are ancient vampires reckless eating stars lights full moons sexy silver bullets blue monsters we are strange language strange face strange dance we are the ghosts of all the children speaking through the smoke.







a feast of whispers



elizabeth keckley was nobody’s back woods whisper She knew that even the clothes-pins sparrow feathers blue glass all whispered in the night like the spider unlacing a full moon web She gathered the very blood line of cotton damask silk linen She worked inside of the stillness of the night Knowing that this stillness was deeper than death waiting She becoming more of the notion of free.

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each stitch prick between torch flight and night’s light knew how to measure a sky of neck hips wrists thighs each stitch taught her how to tell rock from bone each stitch whispering bone hangs close to the needle rock pushes slices color pattern like the soles of her feet out racing the notion of freedom.

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the unrecognizable sound of her own voice crying for the loss of her son’s skin weaves into the dancing sleeve of a white woman on the brink of becoming more of the notion of free like birds who fight the shadows of their own wings.

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soft dawn whispers crown a morning that pushes back the blush of shimmering thread against the paleness of a dancing southern mistress stupefied elegance stretched across drowned indigo-stamped chemise soaked in a music that erases the gentility of surrender.

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mary todd lincoln prayed for rain clouds against a bloodstained horizon that would not bend Her only salvation in the hands of her modiste lizzie slave bonded as confidante Her words carrying empty potions unrecognizable as the taste of Her own bondage.

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the master’s tools will not dismantle the master’s house… lizzie offered a prayer for the prayers unanswered for the torched scorched torn damned soul of her captor Her womb soothed a thousand lashes that wounded the sky the grass the river the fire of her breath.

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as the story unfolds beneath her cloth She holds the few strands of what remains of another story hushed folded unwritten like the path from arrival to departure from hem to bodice She sews glass buttons in between the hours that grow inside the desert of her unrecognizable heart.

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two women hold back sinister nights drink from the same cup that spills disintegrating the only blank canvas between them They reach for the same light one hand burned the other holds heat so close it frays the lace the landscape of her whiteness so close it becomes an airborne divination.

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face to face silhouette to silhouette They feel each other’s breath but too many years have stripped them bare of any notion of the freedom they stole from each other They are the reflection of the same offering to a hungry god.

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conjuring new skirts for new dancers the prick of the thumb unleashes more than blood stained seams unleashes more than the shrouded dance floors of slaves in unmarked cemeteries more than the unbearable notion of unrecognizable freedom crawling through the very eye of Her needle.

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mary todd lincoln wears weary well like an undressed sunrise bulging with veins of poverty throbbing beckoning with the unraveling voice of fallen petals it becomes her well She steps out of her skin for an unmeasurable fitting of her soul.

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one last lift of muted organza that hugs the waist perfect SHE becomes her own modiste dressing for the dance of freedom dressing for all the denied dances of her mother dressing for all the denied slaves whispering from her unrecognizable voice.

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from a rooftop She imagined she saw him but then she never could decipher between bone and stone the smell of her abe lincoln still lingering in the bloody fabric pressed hard against her chest flooding parched untamed rivers weighing more than her drooping breasts.

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each stitch taught her how to tell taught her how to measure the heaviness of her own war each stitch created a forbidden game a forbidden weapon She learned to dress and undress the shadows of her own ladies-in-waiting the shadows of quivering stardust hanging from shackled branches.