The mouths of babes
She hit herself
he insists, with her own hand
And now I’m in here.
For three days, he proclaims
innocence while he sings old R&B love songs
in the middle of class “I get so weak in the knees”
Everyone in jail is innocent
He broke into truth today
She was sitting on the toilet
Her and her university self
And I said to show me her hand
and I went whack, whack with it.
Don’t you ever disrespect me again.
She was like O.
sometimes I forget that students
become so used to the teachers
they, too, forget we are alive.
They imagine us as walls, which hear and do nothing,
or stones or maybe insignificant ants.
Sometimes, they remember we stand
shocked, listening, wondering how to direct
them to the work. Yo, Ms. León, how do you feel
about a woman-beater?
Another student pushes.
He’s just a woman-beater.
After a while, under my breath,
I whisper-slip No woman likes to be hit,
because the first
student argues that it was her fault again, that some women
like to be abused. No woman likes to be hit.
I know it.
I still dream of my devil’s face, the man who choked
when he wanted love. I think that I have gone to hell
with the face of the devil all around me, taunting from the bodies
of children, of angels.
Raina J. León
, Cave Canem graduate fellow (2006) and member of the
Carolina African American Writers Collective, has been published in Xavier Review,
(edited by Evie Shockley), Torch, Poetic Voices without Borders,
Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem's First Decade, Growing Up Girl:
An Anthology of Voices from Marginalized Spaces, AntiMuse , Farmhouse Magazine,
Furnace Review, Constellation Magazine
and Tiger's Eye Journal