Scene: An Integrated Prom in Mississippi Circa 2009
Li’l crunk girl in a blue prom dress, tiny, not like me, hair up but long, laid, cute, krumping in a contest with a gigantic date, black, like me, but big and a boy. Li’l crunk girl gets down, hard, not like my hard, hers, a lazer sass, aimed to win. In the battle, round one, Li’l crunk girl does not drop it. She beats her arms out and her chest thumps. The gigantic date, already losing, does his thing, but it’s a prom and he’s limited by size, tuxedo, and dress shoe. Li’l crunk girl in round two repeats, goes harder, leaps and lands all brute. And since the gigantic date can’t krump, and would never leap or take his shoes off (if he did either, he’d have a chance), he falls to his back on the floor, submits. Li’l crunk girl rises into a sea of hugs.
When I was a kid, I was a horrible dancer. They used to tell me I “dance like a white girl.” “Oh, Hemmy (that’s what my grandmother used to call me), if only you could keep a beat. You’ve got no business here with all that irrelevant hopping about.” (She loved the word, “irrelevant,” especially as it pertained to the body’s movements or growths. She’d also say that a protruding strand of hair unnecessarily kinked was “irrelevant.”) My parents took action and sat me down in front of the video screen to watch Adrian Piper’s “Funk Lesson,” in which she, indeed, claims that “WHITE PEOPLE CAN DANCE” and I began to think there’s hope for me yet. It is from Piper, for example, that I learned that dancing is a practice and must be done every day. So, every day, I went to my mirror and turned on some “black music”–hip hop, r&b, soul, Michael Jackson–and tried to “get down.” But, more importantly, I learned “sass” and “letting go” or “abandon,” now all part of my poetic practice, making it, in my estimation, one of the blackest things I’ve ever done.
Wire-tooth black man on subway tonight along side teenaged boy-body doing flips to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” Also, a Froder-like speciman upon the roof of the train, riding it. So many eyes and three different kinds of hooch on three different breaths. I walk up to the wire-toothed one and hold out my hand, compare my color to his cracked grey skin and cannot find anything in common so I get off at the next stop. Mock socks are soaked from travel and I take them off and toss them into a garbage bin. My shoes feel soft and cool against my bare feelings. The boy-body comes back to me in a dream holding his head, held in his hand, fragile and graceful.
Sometimes I wonder about my name, Jemima, a distraction, or invitation, Blue, a call to arms, Jones, some unique history I’m too busy to unbury. I started this blog because my mom and dad are poets, and I want to be one too, but all my life I’ve watched them misunderstand my intentions, because they’re convinced that poetry is something briny, while I see it as a kind of untouchable surface, like a long kitchen counter, where I will one day see myself writing poems on top of, maybe on my back, singing them up into the sky, singing, “These joints, these wares are for sale!” More later, and if I’m brave enough, I’ll send a poem out into the atmosphere and hope someone comments on my future.