After Angela Davis by Brionne Janae

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy

that thick afro rocking sista in the pictures existed
only for me. her black power fist

fisting the sky or standing open mouthed
freedom song raucous on her tongue

as if to say girl be mighty.
even before I knew her name I was, sometimes, mighty

I could stop the sun setting in the sky
keep it shining a little longer or shove the blazing ball

all the way back to high noon.
there was just that much power in her eyes

staring, like they did, straight into the camera
wide and honest looking at me and me looking

for the first times, at my own body
clothed, unclothed, unashamed

I could do anything. even before I knew her name
I’d stand in the mirror after momma snatched out my braids

combed my nappy hair into all its full mooned glory
I’d raise my high yellow fist high

and feel blacker than anyone felt I ought be
feel the ocean turning with all its depths

aching after me—the big headed bow legged girl
I was weighty and here

till even before I could bend flex and stretch my power
momma or grandmomma or aunty or just about any somebody

who claimed sense in their brain
would pull out the pressing comb

say girl who you think you is
say come on be Corretta Scott

learn quick you aint nothing
without a King

Photo of Brionne Janae

Photo of Brionne Janae

Brionne Janae is a California native and teaching artist living in Boston. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in jubilat, Apogee Journal, Waxwing and Bayou Magazine. Brionne received her MFA
from Emerson college, and is a
Cave Canem Fellow.