t'ai freedom ford

past life portrait

                circa 1989, for uncle Mel

That night you came knocking—boogeyman haunting
the whites of your eyes, 

when you came inside eyes flitting about the room
like a cooped pigeon, 

when you unplugged the VCR—wrapped the cord
with a tornado of hands,

when you said I’m sick, I’m sorry—we forgave you.
When I opened the door,

let you in, more concerned with some version of perfect—
maybe it was The Cosby Show,

or some other Thursday night rerun my eyes refused
to release—I turned my back

and forgave you as I plopped on the couch next to Tiffany
watching as you whipped

the wire into a frenzy—the VCR’s black bulk against your chest,
your eyes a blank page

yearning. Our mouths forgave you even if the only word we knew
was: no. Our slow motion

heads blurring the screen blue. We forgave you—your back,
the door slamming us silent.

We watched the rest of the show as if you had been
a commercial. A familiar ghost—

my mother’s brother, Irish twin—she 11 months your senior
singing that same ol’ song: I’m sick…

we forgave you: ain’t like we had no videotapes anyway
and at least you didn’t take the TV.



            after Glenn Ligon & Zora Neal Hurston

my tongue two-faced tongue-tied tired and—i
dunno what it be sayin half time—                 feel
like shit in my mouth unfamiliar—                  most
these folks don’t expect it cuz—                    colored
sound like blue notes not dictionaries—         when
i speak sometimes words look like flowers—  i
gotta nother voice sound like Sally—             am
silly to be bullied all proper—                        thrown
into green gardens   mouthful of thorns—     against
ebonics lurking behind dull teeth—               a
weapon awaiting redemption song—             sharp
as Sunday morning       a blackness turned— white
these wild words of mine sing in the—          background

t’ai freedom ford is a New York City high school English teacher and Cave Canem Fellow. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Drunken Boat,Sinister Wisdom, No, Dear, The African American Review, Vinyl, Poetry and others. Her work has also been featured in several anthologies including The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-HopIn 2012 and 2013, she completed two multi-city tours as a part of a queer women of color literary salon, The Revivalt’ai lives and loves in Brooklyn, but hangs out digitally at: shesaidword.com.