For Water Women (the Black bodies that find the river)

By Alyesha Wise


My good friend posts her pre-chemo picture online.
Today, she is a head full of hair, a text thread of ‘I got you sis’ emojis.
Tomorrow, I imagine her a golden mermaid with a broken tail.
I am tad bit afraid to drown, but I am unafraid to dive in for…

Today, the body of a Black female Muslim judge
is found floating in the Hudson river.

Today, my friend’s pre-chemo picture is still online.
She says it’s leukemia, or she says it’s lupus.

No. Today, two     of my friends slip on hospital gowns on opposite coasts –
Black warrior women
in white garb
always extend our wrists and draw blood.

Today, no talk about the missing girls anymore.

Today, Sheila Abdus-Salaam’s dead carcass is pulled out of the Hudson River.
I am a tad bit afraid to drown, but I am unafraid to dive in for a dark woman.
                          Did no one see her flood before the water did?

          Today, I’ll wash my clothes.
          Today, I’ll do my taxes.

Today, I contemplate therapy, or scheduling a doctor’s appointment.
I contemplate             how this will is birthed out of the wilting.
I contemplate             how I still don’t trust white america with our bodies.

I think myself an empath
then ask             Is this just me naming a Black woman who is able to fix everything more than she is able to to fix herself?

Today, all apologies cease for appropriating our lives.

Do you want to appropriate the dying parts, too?
Do you wish to wrap yourself in our tears and our cunts, fuck & discard of both?

I logged off.
Today, I am hesitant to log on.
I am trying not to do that thing the white world does –
turn a blind eye so I can pretend it is not happening.

Yesterday, I logged off.
Today, I realize we are always logged on.

We are always this tired. We are always this want.
We are always this unaccounted for.
We are always this urgency to put our own life mask on first.
But, sometimes, you may find us on the bank of the Hudson
or in a hospital bed with our arms outstretched.
And I know       better              than to claim an ill thing,
but I am trying not to do what the white world does –
turn a blind eye. I can’t pretend we do not feel it.

                Today, I cooked a great dinner.
                cleaned my house.
                planned a workshop for a class of mine.
                prepared a healing circle in my living room.
                chanted for the broken.
                even the white ones.
                the stubborn Black magic I am.
                I wonder,
                if God gets this tired, too.
                or if They’re just choosing to anoint Their likeness this way –
                the dark beings in holy garb, blessing the river.
                the ones very few see drowning, until we do.



Alyesha Wise is a poet, teaching artist & TEDx speaker from Camden, N.J. who currently resides in Los Angeles. She is the author of Carnival (not a cult media).

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