The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: “My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter” by Aja Monet

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“for the mothers who did the best they could”

she does not know we are sisters
even it be years we don’t speak
on my spirit, sacred as a smile that survives
a good cry, i hold her close

just before the sun rests
on the building across the water
spills a shoulder on the streets
and we lean on love for the first time

in a long while, since two open palms ago
praying or holding a framed memory
i am somebody’s daughter again,
i speak like i belong in her echo,

i watch chaos control a heart,
a wild repression from a distance
loving everybody
from a distance
ease me from spending too much time
with my likeness
from a distance
the cross-fire carnival of childhood
reappearing images
a pinch in every dream
silent as a paper cut
from a distance
a single mother alone
making due with what may
what madness comes of survival of the fittest
if spirits prove we reach beyond
can we love at a distance?
i am rueful and wicked to wait
so long before touching my mother
this soft like i lay our avenue down
for her feet and we walk toward the bus
a skyline humming in our hug
embracing the drops between us
i have kept each tear
never fully fallen
choosing this dimpled
woman as a portal
what i meant was
i am vulnerable
i am a daughter
if i do not hear
my mother’s laughter

it could go years
every room is a prison
every love is a lie
every friend is a foe

i cannot tell the difference
between her wailing and mine
my mother does not know
we are sisters


This selection comes from the collection My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter, available from Haymarket Books. Order your copy here. Our curator for May is Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie.

Aja Monet is a Caribbean-American poet, performer, and educator from Brooklyn. She has been awarded the Andrea Klein Willison Prize for Poetry and the Nuyorican Poet’s Café Grand Slam title, as well as the New York City YWCA’s “One to Watch Award.” She is the author of The Black Unicorn Sings and the co-editor, with Saul Williams, of Chorus: A Literary Mixtape. She lives in Little Haiti, Miami, where she is a co-founder of Smoke Signals Studio and dedicates her time merging arts and culture in community organizing with the Dream Defenders and the Community Justice Project. Her first full collection of poems My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter was released this month.

Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie is the author of Dear Continuum: Letters to a Poet Crafting Liberation (Grand Concourse Press) and Karma’s Footsteps (Flipped Eye Publishing). Her work has been published in North American Review, WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly, Black Renaissance Noire, VIDA, Crab Orchard Review, BOMB, Paris/Atlantic, and Listen Up! (One World Ballantine). Ekere has travelled across the United States sharing her poetry and ideas about healing. She has taught in New York, London, Amsterdam and Rundu, Namibia. Ekere earned an MFA from Mills College in 2002. She is a mother of three girls and an enthusiast of plant medicine making. Her cinepoems, herbal classes, and other work can be found here.

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