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  • Commandment and: A Note from Pecola and: So You Recognize Survival
  • Tameka Cage Conley (bio)


after Fred Moten

So you don’t just walk on me. You slide behindto do the right thing on me. You blessme. You see past the chill of me to comeand lay warm beside me, look abovethe fiery mountain of meto the keepsake in me. Chase away the blueson me to shake the gospeldown in me. Tell me stories of trees and hills,family rotted in me. Know the past ghostof me to raise the dead of me. Put a hand on me.I found some history tattooed on meby a family that was lost on me. Gotholy ghost in me. Don’t go too fast on me.Strain your body all up and aroundon me. Push and pull on me.Wash the last cup of me.

A Note from Pecola

Trouble is, I want too muchsense out of life. The midnight bluecoat should keep me warm and dry,more beautiful than a blue eye wornweary by age and sought-after. I feelashamed in the light of unknowing, darkspot in a dark world, consumed. Protectionis the force that hides malice, in the handsof the wrong man, Father. Blackberrieshave only one place to grow, in weeds,on vines, wrapped around my head, juicepurple as me. My skin is the onlytranslucent skin I know. No shedding can hold it,neither does skinning, nor a father doing secreton me. I wander. Mouths move to frame metender-minded, suicidal, touched. None of this suitsmy fashion. I hold delicious, better than holy.I know contemplation on the edge, the shapeof foul. You go through hell, come backresurrected. I’d say it to you, but you too busylooking at me shine. [End Page 760]

So You Recognize Survival

You know how battle can be beautiful sometimes,in the movies, the way warriors thrust their blades

into human flesh made to bleed, how bodiesdance during war. My body

is a land of mouths, holes pourout and out of me. All the holes

are good, except the ones you can’t see,like where the fetus slipped out, way out

before time. I take it back, wrap it in mylong arms, the color of an Ashanti mask

carved from the right wood. Ever try to holdsomething dead in your arms? You must

have the right kind of vision for that,the right breasts for that, heavy

and proud. The dead thing you holdneeds rest and structure.

My open hands need feeding.Slim fingers ache to wrap brown song

around yellow leavesaglow from an August summer.

Accra got its eye all over me.I sizzle in its sun and bloom

into ten women, blessing, blessing, blessingme:     Hold on. Keep your splendid          back straight. [End Page 761]

Tameka Cage Conley

Tameka Cage Conley is a poet, fiction writer, essayist, and playwright. She completed her Ph.D. in English at Louisiana State University. In 2013, she was awarded an Eben Demarest Trust Grant. She is a recipient of the Advancing the Black Arts Grant from the Heinz Endowments and the Pittsburgh Foundation, and was a participant in the Cave Canem Pittsburgh Workshop. Her work has appeared in Fledgling Rag, Chapter & Verse, and Callaloo.



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pp. 760-761
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