Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind

90 Poems I Didn’t Write for Jasmine

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#update! the day I sent this poem, Jasmine was released!  it worked!!! gratitude to the collective working passionately for our freedom!  welcome home Jasmine!

2016_0615j_90 poems I didn’t write for you

for Jasmine Abdullah

by Alexis Pauline Gumbs

the one where every butch i’ve ever loved doesn’t have to live in the prison of other people’s fears

the one in the forgotten African language where we could have said exactly what we meant

the acrostic one where I spell your name like justice always seems more invisible now everywhere

the one that is really a plagiarized poem by june jordan for angela davis with the dates changed

the one that’s a carefully curated list of your awesome t-shirts

the one where i imagine that you are just like me

the one where i admit we are completely different

the one where i interview your friends about you and give them back the poem so they can cry

the short one we can stand outside the gates and scream


the quiet one where I pray that you are safe

the one that Medusa could very easily sample for a hip hop song

the one where i compare you to all the birds, first hawk, then raven, then canary, then crow and finally phoenix for the ways you grow

the one shaped like a cake with a secret saw baked in

the one where i kick the guards in the face and you run to freedom

the one where we sing your name so loud that the walls fall down

the one where you find a portal in there and walk through it to chill with Assata in Cuba and walk back out 90 days later with a tan

the one that makes sure you never feel alone

the one about your sneakers


the one that anticipates the report you publish after you come home about how they cage us to make the sun forget us, how they envy our melanin like trolls

the palindrome the same forwards and backwards home home coming coming home home

the one that shames the judge and the legislators

the one that makes the people feel invincible

the one that makes your mom and aunties feel like i must have known you before they strung your name up in headlines

the one that accidentally makes your girlfriend jealous even though i don’t know you like that

the femme poem that is soft enough to help you sleep

the hard femme poem that grows your muscles from the inside

the one with so much bravado it breaks your heart


the one with that breathtaking last line that you get as a tattoo

the one that references decades of west coast rhymes

the one that everyone reposts and then forgets once the next hit comes

the one that gets everything wrong about you except my need

the one that i already wrote for you years ago because i knew this would happen i just thought it would be me

the one that i think you would write if you were in the mood to write poems right now

the one about you when you were a brave little kid and nobody could tell you nothing

the one about how you are going to tell us about this as a wise-ass fine-ass elder

the one laced with fear about what they are doing to you in there


the one that i made from the salt of your tears that spelled out love in Aramaic

the one that i made from the sand in your shoes about how the ocean loves and remembers your feet

the one that i made from the floors of the barbershops you graced with your graceful face

the one that i made out of all your favorite foods

the one that i made out of the stress sweat streaking your clothing

the one i made with florida water to wash us all clean

the one that i made from the missed calls and text messages

the one where i matched every shade of your skin to a digital color code palatte

the one where i just took every word you ever said that started with j and put them in chronological order


the transcript of the dream where you can fly

the transcript of the dream where the veins in your arms are exact maps of rivers

the one about the dream i have of putting my palms on your palms and taking 91 deep breaths

the spell for how to outbreathe the system

the spell for how to spell black in blood

the spell for how to spill justice everywhere

the spell about the deep wells of your shrugged shoulders

the spell about the reservoirs of your open eyes

the one that tries not to rhyme magic with tragic and fails


the one where you and Claudia Jones are holding hands and laughing

the one where you have on glasses like Malcolm X

the one where your voice booms and teases like Muhammed Ali

the one where Tupac gives birth to you in a dark and windowed room

the one where Fanon is analyzing your brain

the one where Zora is measuring your heart

the one where Aaliyah is singing your name and lending you her sunglasses

the one where Nanny of the Maroons oils messages into your scalp

the one where you talk to yourself and become everyone


the one where i rhyme your name with win and begin

the one full of the words wish and sorry and if i could and why

the one that shamelessly steals imagery from orange is the new black

the one with the refrain from a love song from before we were born

the one that is just the same line over and over again: come home

the one that makes you hang your head and cry

the one that makes you hold your belly and laugh

the one i wanted to write already before they locked you up

the one i did write before they locked you down and lost when i moved


the one that is all curse words and anachronisms, including the word whitey

the one where it is all i can do to pull back my punctuation

the one that i rip up and tape back together and fold and hide somewhere

the one that will only make sense in the world we deserve

the one that will only make sense in the stench of our unfreedom

the one that makes sense to you but not to our uncles

the one that’s already on the wall in my grandmother’s kitchen

the one that heavily samples a lightfooted jump rope song

the one that hurt to write like breaking ribs

the one i wrote every morning and forgot every night

the one all about the moon held and sharpened by the dark


those are the poems i didn’t write

and this is the one i did:

we love you we need you

it is enough

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