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 the GENDER issue / POETRY

"For Natasha McKenna"

by Sequoia Maner

For Natasha McKenna (1978-2015) who died in police custody while naked, shackled, and hooded after being tasered four times by members of a tactical unit charged with transferring her to a psychiatric facility in Fairfax, VA

If sometimes my mind gets to wandering from this plane to where sound gives way to silence

If sometimes my tongue talks as other tongues malformed, garbled

If sometimes my clenched fist craves the give & crack of firm flesh, soft organ

If sometimes there is no joy

If sometimes the cries of my babygirl cannot move me

If sometimes her eyes look like mine, almonds, but most times I see 

him & I think she have this thing that comes up out of me

If sometimes the pitch of black is a coppery conduit to brackish waters

If sometimes there is joy

If sometimes there is no joy

If sometimes the sweet smell of sumac sends me spiraling to dream & I wake up yelling again

If sometimes I don’t remember how my inside thoughts crawled out of me to land as spit

If sometimes I just need a muthafucka to back up

If sometimes I need the walls to reflect the funkiness of the human condition

If sometimes a wasting cannot be quieted

If sometimes I cannot be quieted

If sometimes it is what I always expected it was

You promised you wouldn’t kill me
I didn’t do anything

Sequoia Maner is a Mellon Teaching Fellow of Feminist Studies at Southwestern University. She earned her B.A. in English from Duke University and her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in English from the University of Texas at Austin. She is co-editor of Revisiting the Elegy in the Black Lives Matter Era (Routledge 2019). Her essays and poetry can be found in Meridians, Obsidian, The Langston Hughes Review, The Feminist Wire, and elsewhere.

Natasha McKenna.jpg
Photo: Natasha McKenna
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