The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review
littlereview

Poem for Tuesday and Longwood Orchids


A Louder Thing
By Tiana Clark

for Kenneka Jenkins and her mother

What is it about my mother's face, a bright burn
when I think back, her teeth, her immaculate teeth

that I seldom saw or knew, her hair like braided
black liquorice. I am thinking of my mother's face,

because she is like the mother in the news whose
daughter was found dead, frozen inside a hotel freezer.

My mother is this mourning mother who begged
the staff to search for her daughter, but was denied.

Black mothers are often seen pleading for their children,
shown stern and wailing, held back somehow by police

or caution tape —

a black mother just wants to see her baby's body.
a black mother just wants to cover her baby's body

with a sheet on the street. A black mother
leaves the coffin open for all the world to see,

and my mother is no different. She is worried
about seeing the last minutes of me: pre-ghost,

stumbling alone through empty hotel hallways
failing to find balance, searching for a friend,

a center, anyone, to help me home. Yes.
I've gotten into a van with strangers.

I've taken drugs with people that did not care
how hard or fast I smoked or blew.

But what did I know of Hayden? What did I know
of that poem besides my mother’s hands, her fist,

her prayers and premonitions? What did I know
of her disembodied voice hovering over the seams

of my life like the vatic song the whip-poor-will
makes when it can sense a soul dispersing?

Still. My mother wants to know where I am,
who I am with, and when will I land.

I get frustrated by her insistence on my safety
and survival. What a shame I am. I'm sorry, mom.

Some say Black love is different. Once,
I asked my mother why she always yelled

at me when I was little. She said I never listened
to her when she spoke to me in hushed tones

like a white mother would, meaning soft volume
is a privilege. Yeah, that’s right. I am using a stereotype

to say a louder thing. I am saying my mother
was screaming when she lost me in the mall once.

I keep hearing that voice everywhere I go.
I follow my name. The music of her rage sustains me.

--------

"I was haunted by the disturbing details of Kenneka Jenkins' mysterious death at a Chicago hotel in 2017," Clark tells Poets.org. "Teresa Martin's resolve reminded me of the gritty persistence from my own mother as well as Michael Brown's and Emmett Till's mothers...a poem can't bring anyone back from the dead, but in my attempted lament I wanted to investigate the contours of black mother love."

Most of my Monday involved laundry, dyeing my hair, and cleaning up from spring break, plus a project from an online group I'm in. It was a nice day until drizzle arrived in the afternoon, though it remained reasonably warm. I had plans to meet Angela and Carrie for dinner and wound up bringing Paul with me since he was bummed he never got his Silver Diner birthday coupon and that's where the gal's group ended up deciding to meet.

We got home for most of the Maryland women's game against UCLA, but the Terps lost in the final minute and that was so sad that I made Paul watch Closer, which I've meant to see for years but heard was depressing and required the right mood. It's free on Amazon Prime and well acted but definitely depressing and cynical. Now I'm watching infotainers try to deal with the Mueller Report, which is worse. From Longwood Gardens' Orchid Extravaganza:

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