Vashti - Marvin K. White
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Vashti

 

“Here, taste this”

She said, having just a stir

Earlier, done the same thing.

Her right hand

Guiding the spoon  

To the ohm

Of my mouth,

Her left hand,

Half a prayer,

Cupped to catch the spill.

It never spilled.

It was never a secret recipe.

All the while she blew,

To cool the surface

Of the gravy,

The soup,

The pot liquor,

The sauce,

The souse.

It never spilled.

“Here,” she whispered,

“Tell granny

What’s missing.”

Doldrums:

Trade Winds:

Horse Latitudes:

Prevailing Westerlies:

 

I was with the other women

In the woman’s place

In the palace

And it’s only

The letter “A”

That separates place

From palace

 

I was with the other women

When he called

I had been up cooking all night

And had just wiped

The last of the semolina

Off my forehead

And we were finally ready to eat

 

When he called

We were in our one hundredth

And eighty-seventh day of celebrating

One hundred and eighty-seven times

I was called up

Pageanted for him

And the visiting priests, provinces, and princes

He had been feasting for the last six days

Without calling

I waited six

I was queen

He told me that

I was clear

Or tried to convince myself to be clear.

I was picked

Like the prized pie at the carnival

Because I was the fairest

 

When he called

He never thought

I would refuse him anything

I was lucky you know

And yes

I heard him calling

Cuz I hear everything

I am a woman

Ears trained to ground and sky

I hear the women

Like myself

Rising and Flouring

I hear the women

Like myself

Breaking

Like the bread we made

And ate that day

Women

Who were picked over

For some beauty standard

That had nothing to do with us

 

I wasn't leaving this party

It felt right

Our big toes and titties

All up in it.

And yes

I heard him calling

But I also heard gods warning breath

Whisper my ear

With my mother’s fear

            “Say no girl

            Say no”

 

“Some vegetables” she said,

"Ain't a threat.

They will do exactly to him,

What they name

Say they gon do."

Sunchoke

Black Eye Pea

Kidney Bean

Runner

Split Pea

Beet

Leek

Bitter Melon

 

So, when he called

It was the seventh day

He had been drinking

His heart was merry with wine

He was drunk

And ordered

            Because that's what you can do

            When you make someone a queen

He ordered me

To him

In the crown royal

Now

He was read to show me off

And

I

Said

No

Because I a woman

And I am moved

Like the women I am with

And the women I come from

Are moved

And there is a place

And it’s only the letter “A”

That separates place from palace

In my belly now

Fuller than the feast

Whose grease

Lingers on my fingers

 

There is a place left

From gathering with my like

Telling me what to say

“He is not offering you a seat at the table.

Make a counter offer”

And I am finally ready to hear

This word

This bird

Flying out of my mouth

Turned song

And I am sure

Other queens have heard it

Put their tongues

To the roof of their mouths

And tasted it

My sisters

Esther

Ma’a’cha

Bathsheba

Jezebel

Sheba

Candace

Rahab

Tamar

Delilah

Deborah

Mary

Hagar

 

We who have all said no

And have not known

And known at the same time

Why

No

For our daughters,

Cast in iron,

The next in our broken royal lines

No

For their voices, strong and spirit led

No

We can say mother and father god

Can think

That in the company of women,

In the huddle of pots,

Quiet wars can be raged

Battles birthing women

Women birthing battles

Who don't forget their kindred

Or their people

When he called

There was new breath in mine

Pushing this defiance

Out of my chest

Like life

Collapsing in on itself

Like rock caught in the craw of my throat

Like tear and snot braced for pain

Like we are getting ready

To sing

Or preach

Or pray

Our mother

Instead of our father,

For the first time

 

Like I said

When he called

I had been up cooking

All night

Fish greased

Bacon dripped

Spit in hot skillet
To the tooth

And it all boiled down to this…

We had just wiped

The last of the semolina

Off of our foreheads

And

We

Were

Finally

Ready

To

Eat