2 Poems

Poetry / Joanne Godley


:: The Hardest Read ::

Inspired by The Delectable Negro: Human Consumption and 
Homoeroticism Within US Slave Culture, by Vincent Woodward,
and after Catherine Pierce

In protest, I say the word delectable.
Woodward’s text-title has, for me,  
rancid-washed this word’s flavor. 
In protest, I repeat the word, delectable.
Craggy letter-bits stick in my craw.
Once a pleasing and delitable word,
for me, is delectable, no more.
I spit it out.  

In protest, I say the word, Negro,
and find me shadowed in a corner,
flirting with views past and upon me.
Years ago, at Thanksgiving, my brother asked, 
Why don’t they sell Negro turkeys?  
 No one in our family ate the white meat.

In protest, I say the word, voyeur.
I stare out the window onto the street
lush with jacarandas. My new country.
The purple canopied calles of my neighborhood,
are named for poets and statesmen.
Maimonides. Arquemides. Lamartine.
In protest, I say, I have done the thing.
This fucking thing. I crawled out
of the beast’s belly and slithered away. 
Breathing. Human. Black.
Gut juices painting my path.

My dreams creep back, 
enter my bedroom with caution, lest I relapse.
In protest, I reclaim the word ease.
I say the words copiousness and abundance,
in near disbelief. 
I nap, voraciously.
I am overdue for a leaching.
In protest, I say the word sinuousness.
I say the word luminescence.
I remember night-quiet, wintered Philadelphia,
ice-sliding Osage Avenue with R.,
translucent spears clinging to skeletal trees 
and telephone lines.

My grandfather steepled churches 
using wood gathered from the Great Dismal Swamp.
Watch me maroon, fellow maroons. Watch me prosody.
Watch me cacophony while incognito,
persnickety into clandestine.

I am the right brand of paranoid.
And with perfect tastebuds, no delectable for me.
Watch me polish the ‘I’ in thrive.

:: Gone ::

an Expatriate’s CV1
                                                                 1I was born
I was born  I burst                                bookish     into poetry & charismatic color
nearly blacklisted			      but hallelujahed by countrymen not my own
swam under sprouting clouds		           I was born
testing    testing			              in a place Neruda dubbed ‘Dawn’s Rosy Cheek’
I spoke Yiddish soon after		      I was born
schvartze means Black  		      I was born
I hankered for chitlin’s & oxtails   enjoyed forbidden fruits
I wailed the blues			      with an ear for opera  but no peonies or peace lilies for me
I grooved with Pete Seeger	      I worshipped Paul Robeson &
we marched we protested		      we believed                                       we patienced
I lusted for excellence		      I sought success (American style)
I was born justice-oriented	      for all
like King  I was born dreamer	      Like Langston I deferred dreams   too
After reading We Charge Genocide
at age 9				                      I plotted expatriation at the age of 10
realized I was born in a place ripe
with false promises & hoods	     my country tis of thee   sweet land   				
I embraced your values 		     I drank your tea
then dropped your mic		     this caged bird flew because
this country that birthed me	       the Amerikkka I know
does not love me back   		     does not want me Black

From the writer


:: Account ::

In 1951, the Civ­il Rights Con­gress pre­sent­ed a book-length peti­tion to the Unit­ed Nations enti­tled, We Charge Geno­cide, The Crime of Gov­ern­ment Against the Negro Peo­ple. This book doc­u­ment­ed (with graph­ic pho­tographs) hun­dreds of lynch­ing cas­es of Black Amer­i­cans known to have occurred in the eighty-five years since the end of slav­ery (the num­ber is esti­mat­ed at 10,000 indi­vid­u­als.) I hap­pened upon this book at the age of nine. I was a vora­cious read­er and had been giv­en carte blanche to read any book in my par­ents’ library. I was aghast and won­dered what could pos­si­bly pro­voke a per­son, or groups of peo­ple, to levy such cru­el­ty on oth­er human beings. I promised myself, that, giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty, I would leave the Unit­ed States to live in anoth­er soci­ety. As I grew old­er, I devel­oped a sense of dual self-per­cep­tion, of which WEB DuBois spoke, “It is a pecu­liar sen­sa­tion, this dou­ble con­scious­ness, this sense of always look­ing at one­self through the eyes of oth­ers, of mea­sur­ing one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused con­tempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness, – an Amer­i­can, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unrec­on­ciled striv­ings; two war­ring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asun­der” (Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, p. 2). This dual self-per­cep­tion was anoth­er rea­son for my leav­ing the U.S.

The con­cept of flight fig­ures promi­nent­ly in my poet­ry, par­tic­u­lar­ly, once my path to expa­tri­a­tion became clear­er. I have grown inter­est­ed in the con­cept of maroon­age and have researched exten­sive­ly the his­to­ry of maroons (enslaved peo­ple who fled their bondage and sought refuge in swamps or hills) in the U.S. and the Caribbean. I have also done research on the African Amer­i­can folk­lore about the ‘fly­ing Africans’, Blacks who escaped enslave­ment through flight.


Joanne God­ley lives in Mex­i­co City, hav­ing emi­grat­ed from the U.S. a year ago. She is a physi­cian, writer, poet, and a first year MFA can­di­date in Poet­ry. She is a Meter Keep­er in the Poet­ry Witch Com­mu­ni­ty and an Anapho­ra Arts fel­low in both poet­ry and fic­tion. Her poet­ry has been pub­lished in the Belle­vue Lit­er­ary Review, Man­tis, Light, FIYAH, Pratik, among oth­ers. She was twice nom­i­nat­ed for a Push­cart prize. Her prose has been pub­lished in the Mass­a­chu­setts Review, the Keny­on Review online, Juked, Mem­oir, among oth­ers. Her poet­ry chap­book, Pick­ing Scabs from the Body His­to­ry,fea­tures poems of wit­ness and resis­tance. Her web­site is: joannegodley.com