This week, a poem by Omotara James.

 

In Lieu of Ode
(for Tarana Burke)

 

When you are fat and queer and female and black
When no one has any use for you except
Your otherness

When your otherness is a currency
When no one wants what you’re selling
Because your price is too high

When your high is self-respect
When you are alone
And the bar feels low

And you are not rich
And you are not KWEEN
And you are not it

Not three fifths—
A dime piece,
Not new to this.

When you have no better offer,
Than to bargain with anaphora,
Abandon yourself:

To a new name, cut, wig, weave,
To a new book of poems, creed or country.
To anyone who heard Tarana say:

No one can take what was meant for us.
It can be used by everybody
and still be ours.

——

OMOTARA JAMES is the author of the chapbook Daughter Tongue, selected by African Poetry Book Fund, in collaboration with Akashic Books for the 2018 New Generation African Poets Box Set. Her poetry has appeared in Literary Hub, Academy of American Poets, Poetry Society of America and elsewhere. Her work has been recognized with fellowships from Lambda Literary, Cave Canem Foundation and the Nancy P. Schnader Academy of American Poets Prize.



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