On Classrooms and Ghosts (2018 Editors’ Choice)

This blonde girl          eyes green as St. Patrick’s day,

had the nerve to sit across from me   and the only other Black girl

in “The History of Reproduction and Contraception” in America.

and asks          body language spilling her disgust-

Why didn’t slaves just abstain from sex instead of birthing children into slavery?

and I’m just sitting there praying, like Sweeeeeeeeet Black Baby Jesus.

You gotta help me be a good Christian today.

That’s how we came to the talk of cotton root bark.

How a girl-slave would snatch some from the field,

gnash it between her teeth. Her attempt

to not have a child

by a master’s command to breed or midnight hunger

I wanna tell this green-eyed girl

I can’t even abstain from sex if I wanted to.

These men don’t care nothing

about no abstinence. They been in the business of take.

ain’t not one man thought about abstaining since

my hips spread           since my chest came to full bloom, but now

I’m the angry Black girl in class ready to raise hell

and kingdom come and send her to her maker

‘cause she got violent with her words

now I’m supposed to sit there all silent.

while she curse those wombs that ain’t ask for it

and even if they did, had the right to hold some

joy inside

and then         she gon’ question our maternal instincts.

The maternal instinct would have been to not want your kids to go through that!

and I realize                oh.        She just don’t know

she just ain’t never had nothing taken from her.

I’m sitting in this class / with my black body / full of holes / an empty womb / I’m in this class/ and my body is so much history / so much the woman from the field in the hut/ and so much the man too / that I’m damn near crying at this point wondering / what do we got to abstain from? / I know / she ain’t never had nothing taken from her / but here I am / with my momma’s blood / trying to give to her / kindly / cast her bones / while mine break / salve her skin / while the graves between us / peel mine back / force my legs apart / staple my mouth shut-

My professor changes the subject without comment.

the blonde girl     eyes just as green as St. Patrick’s day

still looking at me and the only other Black girl in this class

Like she know             she ain’t got nothing

to lose.

Ajanae Dawkins

Ajanae Dawkins is a Michigan and New York Native. She is a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Madison where she received a degree in English - Creative Writing, on a full tuition scholarship for her poetry. Ajanae has been published in the BreakBeat Poets Black Girl Magic Anthology, Winter Tangerine, The Underscore Review, Gramma Poetry, and Word Riot. Her work has been featured on For Harriet and Button Poetry. The only thing she believes in more than poetry is the transformative power of Christ.