Two poems: "My God on the 9th street of Colored Town" and "Beneath a Child of Sun"

 

My God on the 9th street of Colored Town

 

This skin say nana swallowed the praise on 12th street

before the bulldozer hit.

 

On my arm is a freeway of distraction from the colored town

draped over this body. In order to pray right

 

Nana told me you must place two fingers

at the wrist and stomp your feet to conjure some kind

 

of beat. Some kind of voodoo she must’a learned in the conch

house. Somewhere beneath the interstates of veins

 

is a city unperturbed. I know this because

when I was young, the sun shone caramel

 

colored polaroid’s ‘cross my skin. I’d shake it to see if I was

seeing some true resurrection of a body, a city.

 

This body is an heirloom from my God who’d stay in Overtown

when he visited. A God who picked his women

 

from the trumpet tree. Somewhere in the Harlem of the South

is the woman who’s voice was velvet,

 

who’d cook so good there were saxophones in it. My God,

the one who smelled the goombay on me and breathed,

 

tenor notes for cussing into my lungs. My God

who asked me to hold onto this city that Babeled too

 

close to heaven.

 


 

Beneath a Child of Sun,

 

women gather, squat on banyans

& sing praise songs to Moses.

They think of babies in baskets,

and weave—

a choir of plats lay across their backs

like caskets. Each braid, crow-black

and still. Pockets of flesh gather

sweat as etymology, a data set

between breasts. Bits of ocean.

Each woman has hair that’ll shame

the roots of any tree. The sun sets

into their skin like a child, and night

creeps in through the shadows

of the trees. The women rest like crows

at the edges of roads narrow

as wires. They circle seven lampposts

before reaching Old Cutler, the only

street with a bus bench. Route 34 stops

in Liberty City, Little Havana &

Little Haiti; the bus lowers for each

murder. Before the sun rose

the women speak of Catholic schools

and hum. A contralto ricochets a B-flat against

teeth and tonsils, like the rapt of knuckles

to doors—The canal up the street drowns

a black boy, fills his mouth with rice,

offers his body to the gators—

She stirs a moment, hand to breast.

Some of the women knit, sew crotchet

braids into cornrows, humming tunes

too black for day-work. Too black to be

holy. They wrap their hands in banana

leaves, and pray over one another’s linen-

split callouses. At some point each woman

combs fingers through hair rough as wind,

nicknaming the naps Jordan, Till, Nile, Martin…


Christell Victoria Roach is a writer, a performer, born and raised in Miami, Florida. She is currently studying Creative Writing and African American Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. She writes to advocate for awareness, for social justice efforts, to foster new myths, and to create representation for the voices of black people. Her favorite bluegrass words are: I’m goin down South where the palm trees shake at night.