excerpts from ‘A’ (What the Black Girl Found While Searching for God)
by Taji Senior
An Interlude Regarding Love
I want love like when Grandmommy work in the fellowship hall and slips me an extra piece of yellow cake after she told everybody else they can only get one. And love like “Did you sleep alright?” or “call me when you make it to the house.” I want someone to love me the way God loves babies—mercifully. And I know of all the pretty girls, I am not among them. Teeth not bone bright white, hair not particularly long, waist not particularly thin—no evidence even with your head tilted and eyes squinted—of miscegenation. Just regular black. And still, I want love anyway. Because I am here. I am real and I exist.
People tell you there are lots of ways to get love. You can consult the universe or soak the body, or stretch the limbs, or shuffle the deck, or extend the palm, or burn the leaves or welcome the silence, or train the mind, or track the constellations, or read the verses, or close the legs, or build the boundaries, or recite the incantations, or summon the spirits, or sing the hymns (with great fervor!), or cut the hair, or tattoo the flesh, or greet the lovers, or curse the self, but ultimately and impossibly the work, the healing, the quelling of the longing so to speak is yours and yours alone. I know so because it has been said for centuries, repeated to black girls broken by their search for solace in secular spaces, the it of course being: “If you do not love yourself, no one else will.” And this loving of oneself is real only if you are obedient. There is no sex with boys not lest there be consequences and the subsequent silent suffering. Volume is a vulgarity and to be managed at all times. The body is to be straight and curved, contained and expansive. Should the body blossom into a fullness beyond the mind’s own consciousness and comprehension of it the onus lies within the owner to protect boys from it. It is dangerous and they could hurt themselves. The hair is to be meticulous lest it be soft, loose curls and at least shoulder length and then and only then shall fall freely to frame the face. The mind is to be sharp enough to answer questions when asked but dull enough not to formulate any of its own.
This loving of one’s self is indeed rigorous work, a never-ceasing routine of mounting then untangling. It is to keep constant vigil over one’s warmth and light. It is the pruning of one’s hopes and expectations in order to fit the reality of one’s existence. It is the knowing that making him come will not make him stay and meeting the obligation of doing it anyway because, because, because.
Monday Morning Pt. 2
And you want to believe don’t you, girl?
In that great something
in the deep, dark distance?
You stand on your tippy toes,
Raise your arms
Open your palms upward
Trying to feel
The warmth of a light you cannot see.
This will make you whole and holy.
How they will marvel
At the scripture on your skin!
Who among them that did not see
His working within you
Could call themselves righteous?
In the quiet hours of day becoming itself,
Crack yourself open,
Pull all the sin out of you,
Bind your breast,
Ask God to make a new girl child of you,
Wait for a divine suturing.
It is only when the stitches won’t come
That old thing they say about Ham’s progeny.
Lower your hands,
Open your eyes,
Lick the sea salt from your fingers.
Taji Senior is a journalist, writer and performer. She has produced two solo works, AMENDMENT and ‘A’ (What the Black Girl Found While Searching for God). Her credits include TWENTYEIGHT (Gale Theatre Company), Doper than Dope (Heckle Her), Comedy of Errors (Austin Shakespeare Company) and the We Are film series (B.B. Araya), which is currently streaming on the Issa Rae Productions digital content site. Senior is currently earning an MFA in acting from UCLA.