Shakirah Peterson ~ Poets & Writers' Connecting Cultures

I think girls week on Monday someone's son puts his hand in his dirt covered jeans moves it to the rhythm of my thighs bouncing during a bumpy train ride on Tuesday a hard ego and his erection is thrusting against the crack of my slacks on a crowded bus on Wednesday someone's father stabs my piece with his eyeballs uses them to cut my clothes open through the window of his minivan at a red light on Thursday my brother apologizes on their behalf he tells me I should just over to work on Friday I cloak my curves with clothes two times my size I wear three layers of safety and someone's uncle tells me what he like to do with my lips on Saturday it is 82 degrees and lovely I wear black sweats and a hoodie so no man will think I exist for him on Sunday my package arrives from Amazon a gold folding knife a police strip pepper spray next week I'll be ready so my name is Shakira I'm really honored to be here I am from South Central Los Angeles I actually live five blocks away from Florence and Normandie and that's where the 1992 riots started also known as the Rodney King riots I have a book of poems and Polaroids so each poem has a matching picture that I took and this point Scott Florence and Normandie and the photo are the patients that sit on the phonelines a projection of 1992 screens on the clouds patients perch on the phonelines cooling the only names they can't remember the names they've picked from the new papers the pigeons don't know the names of the cop killers the innocent bystanders they don't stray too far from the destitute storefronts they've become daily designations to on shattered glass now mix it with concrete sparkling deceivingly like diamonds rubber tires roll away the blood exhaust pipes blow away old ashes but the city can't forget the pitches bobbed their heads to the rhythm of desperate feet shuffling into Tom's liquor store to the screams for comfort being drowned by alcohol the same street lights that shine on the night of April 29th will shine tonight but not any brighter the city still remains unseen the lines on the roof of my mouth feel like rolls in a cotton field only a descendant of a slave can make this comparison I carry the grief of my ancestors behind my teeth my tongue still speaks the name of their slave master every time I introduced myself hi I'm Shakira Peters son I am constantly begging my mouth to remember letters of a language from a home I've never known I've tried to trick my tongue and so remember syllables from the language that was stolen from me I carry the grief of my ancestors on my tastebuds I still crave the scraps and leftovers they were forced to eat I still eat place full of animal waste servings of guts of liver of intestines at every family mill trying to convince myself that this is food for my soul I carry the grief of my ancestors in my throats there are days when their hands claw up my esophagus their fingers pry my mouth open their anger rises from the graves and my genetics there is an anguish that has hung from my family tree for centuries if I don't control it it will fill up there room washed onto the walls bounce off the ceiling ricochet from the floor my body is a freeway of frustration and hundreds of thousands of My Ancestors our gridlock in a traffic jam during a never-ending rush-hour all I can do is be a vehicle for them I let them tune in to me they tell me to let the hurt go they talk to me about God they promised me that they're okay now they put a pen in my hand a journal on the table they sit me in a chair put my hand to the paper my ancestors told me to write this poem [Applause]

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