Five Poems by Mary E Weems

Five Poems by Mary E Weems


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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I want cars to stop, lipstick to change its color—you /

in a heart-shaped bed with a red bow around your neck—skin / sweating like I’m the desert.




Books by Mary E. Weems

Public Education and the Imagination-Intellect: I Speak from the Wound in My Mouth  / Tampon Class

An Unmistakable Shade of Red & The Obama Chronicles

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Five Poems by Mary E. Weems

The Story of Marriage  Luscious  “Self-Portrait”  Don’t Walk  Gregory Hines is dead

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The Story of Marriage


1. Tanka


This was their happy.

The stone reads my eyes.

She reaches from the ground,

tells me the story of marriage

in exactly thirty-one breaths.


2. Third Finger


You wear a size 15!?

Jeweler says, sizes stop at 12.

You swallow my hand

I feel your left palm years later

when it is old and wrinkled.



3. Wedding Day


The Limo is white.

We are groomed and on time

Graceland waits like love.

We embrace the minister,

dine at the top of the world.



  4. Love Note


When I look into your eye

the other one opens lightly

its brown becomes our river

where I swim in you naked

searching for the road not taken.


5. Wedding Night


There is only one night

vibrating with single stars.

We name each one joy,

dance on the dark of the sky

memorize our light two-step.



6. Morning Tanka


The back of your head

rushing out of our driveway

highlights ears shaped

like the coffee cup you left

half gulped on my moist back.



  7. Footnote


All of the drawers

and doors you opened watch.

I follow your steps.

Mumbling about messiness

I caress each place you left.



8. Anger


When the clock strikes one

we say more than we mean. Hurt,

you leave without eyes.

Home before the clock reads two,

we say what we mean together.


9. Dessert


My sweet tooth’s a tongue

licking the crumbs from cakes quick

hidden like secrets

in places in our kitchen your

hand has made easy to find.


          10. Rescue


My car sits alone

in the lot like a left child

your truck is a steed

I carry poems from the kids

read them as you change the tire.


11. Breast Food


Inside I practice

living alone in Death’s house.

I say I’m not afraid,

you sit staring still as stone.


Your sudden tears on my t-shirt.



12. Heartbeat


I walk to your bed

holding my own hand. You start

ask Are you alright?

I rush to answer: My lips

kiss your smile, my eyes flowers.


13. Recitation


Your secret desire

spills from your mouth in a dream.

Asleep you recite

McKay’s “If we must die” and

the audience applauds forever.


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You turn me on like a black light

with your strong man’s hair everywhere

your hands can’t reach.  When I see you in red

I want cars to stop, lipstick to change its color—you

in a heart-shaped bed with a red bow around your neck—skin

sweating like I’m the desert.


Your mouth is a too ripe peach cobbler pie.

I’m the crust.  I trust you with everything I have to give love:

care, body fluid mingling.


Give me your funk, let me write a song about it, play

it next fourth of July on public square—nude except

for my new tattoo—an image of you.


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              Jean Michel-Basquiat, 1980


Painted himself

inside out

Black as the middle

of the night.

Deformed hip, too big

foot, impotent as

George Washington Carver.


Shot horses

a black-on-being-black

pain killer.  Canvassed

the world in living color.


His work just-us

on brick walls, wood, napkins,

toilet paper.  Used


useful in white

folks’ basements

work, work, work, jerk

work, work, work, jerk—the sound

of snatched wet paintings living

on rich walls next to Warhol


now that he’s dead.



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Don’t Walk


Crosswalks don’t have word-signs

anymore—something about illiteracy

and more and more people who come

here unable to read or speak English

like most of us who’ve been

here too long.


If you don’t understand “Don’t Walk”

you’ll understand this:

a red hand appears,

flashes three times

freezes in mid air just before

cars whiz by like flies

after a cow in the country.


When it’s time to leave the curb,

a naked white man makes the hand

disappear, like Indians in America—

appears to walk fast like time,

lets everyone know

who’s in charge.


*   *   *   *   *


Gregory Hines is dead


somewhere in the U.S. a Black

            man is figuratively lynched.


Red sneakers line up to dance around Hines’ grave,

Savion organizes a tap session—a eulogy of feet

digging their toes in signature moves

like Hines as Bojangles.


He said when he knew he was alive

in the world, that his parents were his parents—

when he could talk, he could dance


Over this,

he and Mr. Davis challenge each other

between clouds, calling God inside to check

out the moves man—the moves.

Mary E. Weems, Ph.D. is an accomplished poet, playwright, author, editor, performer, motivational speaker, and imagination-intellect theorist. Weems has been widely published in journals, anthologies, and several books including Public Education and the Imagination-Intellect: I Speak from the Wound in My Mouth (Lang, 2003), developed from her dissertation which argues for imagination-intellectual development as the primary goal of public education. She won the Wick Chapbook Award for her collection in 1996, and in 1997 her play Another Way to Dance won the Chilcote award for The Most Innovative Play by an Ohio Playwright. Her most recent chapbook Tampon Class (Pavement Saw Press, 2005) is in its second printing. Mary Weems currently teaches in the English and Education departments at John Carroll University, and works as a language-artist-scholar in k-12 classrooms, university settings and other venues through her business Bringing Words to Life. Contact Professor Weems,, for readings and more information.

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



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Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All

By Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock  market. True wealth has more to do with what’s in your heart than what’s in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America’s shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, “Happy can make you money, but money can’t make you happy.”

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama’s political success and Oprah Winfrey’s financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today… than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as “the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field ‘cut their teeth’.”

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 20 December 2011




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