THREE POEMS by LILLIAN RANKINS
Until the Next Time
Sometimes I play that song just to cry.
Just to feel you in the room.
Because now you are the room.
The bones of this house we’ll never leave.
So sometimes I take you in fully.
Your favorite song, your favorite movie.
I take on the full weight of you.
Every little fight that without loss I wouldn’t remember.
The small good times.
Now we’ll never have better.
I take it all in on purpose.
Just so I can come crashing down.
Because after the fall I am free.
I’m free from it for awhile, until the next time.
It’s easier than the sneak attacks.
That song randomly playing in a public place.
A picture unearthed on accident.
The smiling face of the girl that lived.
So sometimes I break my own self down.
Just to feel all of you, just to feel free from you.
For a little while, until the next time.
My favorite letter is an L.
I’m biased, I know.
But there is something comforting in the swoops.
The way it effortlessly comes out of my hand.
The only thing that I know.
The only thing that makes sense.
But I tried so hard to change it.
“Call me Lily.”
My dad always refused.
The name of his mother,
the love of his life.
Before it became me.
I am now the love of his life.
Maybe that was always the problem.
I couldn’t live up to the hype.
I never picked the cotton fields of Alabama.
I never raised 10 kids.
I do not have the strength.
I cave under pressure.
I cry too much.
Everything breaks me.
It should have been a simple hand off from her to me.
But who knew it was such a fragile thing?
And I dropped it.
I’ve been fumbling around for it ever since.
How could these bones hold the weight of that masterpiece?
That epic woman?
Her body held centuries.
But I’m ready now.
I ask for it.
I know it feels too late, but I want it.
Call me by her name.
I want to know what it feels like.
Her hands in that dough.
The strength in her fingers.
Whatever feeling it brings you to say her name.
I want it.
I’m jealous that you can look away from this. That you don’t scroll with anxiety and fear. Scared to see another black body crumple to the ground. You barely see it in me. Black but not black. “You’re not like one of those typical black girls,” she says to me at a fucking college event. Surrounded by black girls. Embarrassed. Scared someone would think I thought myself better than them. Scared I thought it. She’s the type of reason I ask my dad to never give me braids. The reason I would turn my hip hop down. The reason I would pull myself in real small. Smile. Stand up straight. Look like I’m actively shopping. Look like I have money to spend. Keep my purse closed. Hands out of my pockets. Don’t use slang. Never say nigga. Don’t be a nigga.
How many layers did I put on? When can I stop peeling? How buried am I? Another life lost and it still seeps through every layer. Do I have any right to be sad? Am I still a threat with my valley girl voice and my Star Wars shirt and my hip hop turned down?
Another body falls and I’m shielding my eyes. I can’t breathe. What does it feel like to not be a secret? To go about your day the same way? Every day of my life they taught me to hate myself. And I easily complied.
Lillian Rankins is a black writer, singer, filmmaker, and witch. She is stuck in the early 90’s, halloween obsessed, only happy when everything is purple, and is struggling to deal with the fact that her birth chart says she’s a Pisces when she’s always been an Aquarius. Words are magic and she’s been trying to cast spells with them since she was 9. She shares a birthday with Toni Morrison and can only hope to be as freaking awesome. She was born in San Francisco and lives in the Bay Area. You can catch her on instagram @teapotsonfire and a random rare post on www.teapotsonfire.com