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  • Hagar's Fever, A Lament, and: Alice Paints the Moon Mad, and: La Tête du Soleil, and: Janie Talkin' In Her Sleep, and: Guitar Soliloquy, and: Celie's Notes: Dear God
  • Rachel Eliza Griffiths (bio)

Hagar’s Fever, A Lament

“Look how I look. I look awfulNo wonder he didn’t want me.”

—Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon

What will be left for me after you take the sparrows and your mouth? My empress breasts, gourds of ash and milk, not enough. These shoals of hair weigh my shoulders down, coils of water filled with myrrh, too nappy for you.

I smell like what I am: a woman. I gave you all the pears inside my womb. Nowonder. No wonder. You have chased the life away in me, as winter hunts the leaves of fall.

What is a mountain without clouds? You stuffed my fruit in your pockets. I should have known your holy pockets, full of nothingness, trifling arrogant nights. If my thighs were the earth, your life would be enough. How moonlight rivers the edges

of my lips, how fog tendrils valleys early, early in the morning, cold. Guitar say I’m pretty. Reba say I’m hers. Pilate knows what the earth is made of—bones and ugly shimmering things.

Where did the woman go behind the mirror?

Guitar say I’m pretty black. Reba say I’m hers. Pilate say Hush but I can’t see where that woman went, dancing across shattered glass lakes. The world gave me sight instead of eyes. Take that mirror away. Away across the lake.

The milk you left inside of me for safe keeping is not sweet. What’s growing now, ain’t safe. The mirrors—Hush baby lining up like gentleman, no they are buzzards. Away across the lake.

Mama, give me lipstick. Give me shadows for the lids of my eyes. Shadow blue and sweet as a drink of arsenic. Give me silk panties for this old music box. Give me garters, long and black as syllable. Give me spider lashes and poppy cheeks. I want to look like Cleopatra. Give me cologne, vanilla talcum and red lacquer for my toes. Give me the shine of gloss for my lips. Give me scarves and lilies, I’m young, Mama. Don’t hush me. Don’t hush [End Page 259]

this. I need heels. I need patent leather heels to cover my hooves. Give me lye for my roots. Give me songs that don’t make me cry out for him when I’m awake. Give me a magnolia-pink ballad that will make him weep my blood.

Mama, I don’t love like a virgin. I don’t laugh like a tree of dancing larks. I don’t stay wet and tight anymore when a man come knocking for what he don’t really want—music can fade like a braid of unwashed hair.

Look at those buzzards, world. Give me their knowledge, how to wait death out. How to rot with grace. Hush and listen to those buzzards. They have his Dead wings, his gift for flight and deceit.

No, Mama, he don’t want me. He don’t want me? Why don’t he like my hair? Why don’t he eat my pear? No wonder he can’t find me, buzzards high as mountains, all around, all around my fever.

Alice Paints the Moon Mad

“I met a dead man layin in Massa laneAsk that dead man what his nameHe raised he bony head and took off his hatHe told me this, he told me that.”

—Edward P. Jones, The Known World

She lifted her dress & the moon bowed. Shameful the barren womb in the sky. Pale as the horse-backed patrollers who brought her back to the fields, refusing to look where desire should have been. Between her legs, maybe, is the madness. A hemorrhaged world sliding down through her skull & liver. She arrived, a dent in her head where the mule had kicked her spirit into the middle of some unknown world. The other slaves watched as though they were gods. They tried to wrap the...


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pp. 259-265
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