Self Portrait with a Line from Black Panther

Brionne Janae

                      “Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships because they knew death was better than bondage” — Erik Killmonger, Black Panther



when I am more channel than full stop

more conduit than opening

both waif and water witch

when I have been hollowed and struck

been the gazelle killed and resurrected

as drum      my skin pulled taught

across brittle bones and the rage of my mothers

and my mothers’ mothers sounding with each blow

my flesh rotting quietly from the inside out

when I have been both instrument and tune

and learned grief      how it can work its fingers

along the chords of a throat and split the sky in song

in invitation to the spirits to draw near

when I have walked alone in the surf —

the atlantic a dark dancing mass before me

the waves extending to kiss my ankles

my feet sinking deeper and deeper into the sand

the free people of that sunken city reaching out to answer

to pull me closer to call me home

when I am just a child of ancestors

of the drowned of the voyage from hell into hell

when there is nothing left but to wade into the water —

troubles rolling from my skin to salt the sea

the wind shaking my hair    the setting sun in my teeth

a warm and gentle farewell


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