Tribute to Jayne Cortez & a Poem

Rest in Power
Rest in Power

So so moved and honoured to be a part of this line-up. Voices like Jayne’s returned my voice to me through their works – the one that permits me to be the Artist and Woman and Human of African descent I am wholly meant to be.
The voice that permits me to raise it from the swampy depths of marginalisation to a valid place in world history. I cannot thank enough Jayne, Sonia Sanchez, bell hooks, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Jean Binta Breeze, Sapphire, Zora Neale Hurston, Octavia Butler (RiP), Toni Morrison, Audre Lourde, Margaret Busby, Miss Lou, Gloria Naylor,  Gwendolyn Brooks, Toni Cade Bambara,  Lorraine Hansberry, Phillis Wheatley, …..

Permission to “Feel Me though?”

It was when I began to read poetry
that I found the Aunties and other Mamas who knew me

It was as if they laid their hands upon me.
It was there in the voices of their words
their deep sigh,  a ladder for me between the lines
to guide my step, providing a foot hold for my voice to climb.

Shooing pidgeon carrier lies from the pillory square
pushing back the crowds of prying eyes, pressing me into their possession,
press-ganging my psyche into oppression, to follow some gaudy blood addled procession.

The body of these Auntie’s words cushioned me –
a ring of shock absorbers, barricading the grope of clawing disaffection
when the persistent winter alienated me, froze my melanin ink flow
A quarter inch above the pages
of my young heart beginning to fail at birthing them.
They came in the nick of time.

They fought for the sand I could write my name in
permitted me not be afraid of the brutal winds
that would inevitably come to blow my signature away.
But by then, these Mamas had given me my pen.
It could not be taken away from me – an impossibility.
You can’t give back what you know.

And the corner of the page apportioned me?
The single story of a loaded democracy telling me I was free?
They said fuck that. Write in whatever space you find yourself.
And let it be known, that you do not have to be
tracing over any script, provided since birth, by anyone else
except your Mother.
She will kiss the paper cuts and refill your cartridges –  her story,
a spring sourced by the underwater river of these Womens’ words

I imagine I had not lived an authentic moment
till I felt the word of Maya or
mm-hm-ed the vex of Sapphire

Stuck between the cracks of Englands creases.
If you truly pressed them out you’d be sick for two bicentenaries
Even now, I’m not ready for that kind of sick alone.

No, I needed to find succor
in the page rages of Sanchez and the kaleidoscope of Jayne
the vistas of Alice, the cradle and dawn of Jean –
her Caribbean swing low – what comes down
must come up again cos that is how we are designed.

I had been denied my imagination till Octavia’s cosmic fantasia
exploded my dna, or Ms Neal Hurston’s bohemia permitted me
to live fantasy and Vodun of Oshun on the ground.

And O, the platters, the banquets of stories stories when you are starved!
Such sweet stanzas that held my small hands, blew on them, cooled my brow,
the go slow magma flow gave me breathing room
to magic up my own genie  whose buddah belly rumbled with
a hunger for poetry the sound of my own voice

spinning into threads of light woven into the long nights,
the over-now-but-wait-a-minute abuse
and the made-it-through-another-day blues
portioned to go round everybody, with an extra side order
of ignorance meant for women, meant for brown-skinned ones,
meant to be collected round the back of the building.

And when my  tongue tasted like the thorns of white roses
their Poetry curled up from the page in petal curves about my limbs,
warning my ears against the curses and covered me eyes against stinging winds saying,
“Feel your size. Feel your groove.
Poems wail and sting for you
So you don’t have to. ”

Feel it?

Zena Edwards©


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