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  • Rewriting, and: Dispatch from the Dark Continent, and: Ab Hinc
  • Chet'la Sebree (bio)


Only in fairy tales is disaster averted.
—Shara McCallum

A girl child is born. She is brown. She reads a book. She kisses her first boy. He calls her snow; she calls him charming. She has sex with him—in retrospect considers consent. Sic transit Gloria; glory always fades. She is lamb; she is slaughterer. She has sex with him again. She does this when she's date raped; fucks him five times to prove to herself she wanted it. She falls in love with an alcoholic. It's cliché, and all she's ever wanted was to be wanted. She tells no one. She forgets to tell herself. She writes a book about a woman—a girl child, who is brown.

Dispatch from the Dark Continent

It's complicated to like my hair pulled,to enjoy having a man's member

surrendered to the will of my teeth,the clench of my mandible.

You have to be twice, my mother said—womb-song-tune about how the worldwill kick you—so I don't scream

at the woman in line at Trader Joe's,who calls me nigger because I said I was first.

The same thing happens in bed;I stifle myself, pretend I don't [End Page 28]

love shower sex à la Négresse,riding a man into morning—sky blushing at our turbulence.

In bed, a white man tells mehe likes his coffee my color—this is supposed to be a compliment—

but I worry that instead of mehe just sees kinks to get lost in.

You have to be twice, Mom said, butsomehow I've become special-order

brown nesting dolls stacked into myself—scared to take up too much space

because I'm damned if I do,damned if I don't,

and am always askedto speak for a whole race. [End Page 29]

Ab Hinc

I am misshapen bottom and bouncing bosom, flat-footed,plump thighs, and long torso stretched over plain of organs.

I am raspy-voiced rumbling words like synecdotal,can taste ruin in a gait and tell you the merits

of double entendr-ing a line break. I'll continue totalk white and act right as I describe the exquisite

pecan-color of my areola and that semicolons are Italianconstructions, how I learned that through poems.

I'll teach you to pause for double consonants—ottantotto, piuttosto—how to breathe your way through

sun salutation, all while being a mistress in allmy incarnations, prepared to rule the world

—pen sonnets, bear babies—in an A-line frock and crotchless panties. [End Page 30]

Chet'la Sebree

Chet'la Sebree is the author of Mistress, forthcoming from New Issues Press in fall 2019. She was the 2014–16 Stadler Fellow at Bucknell University's Stadler Center for Poetry and has received fellowships from MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Hedgebrook, Vermont Studio Center, and the Richard H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies. Her work has appeared in Guernica, Pleiades, Crazyhorse, and Gulf Coast, among other journals.



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pp. 28-30
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