20/20

It’s been just about a year and a half since this was published in Shoe Music Press’s Penny Ante Feud #10. Here’s to finding new homes for it in the future.

20/20

I have two eyes–

one Black, one White,

grown and developed

by two torn sides

for 25 springs and autumns.

Their perceptions merge and split,

still in search for the view

of pure truth in this broken land.

What do you have to tell me

about these two bold hues?

They sift through the sagging grey veil

that bears the power of malicious segregation,

still trapped in a Bad Romance

for the last 400 years.

Called by my original American brand only once in my life

by a passing homeless woman having a fit.

She felt the need to spell out the six letters for me;

evidently my shading marks my obvious illiteracy.

Nothing since has been so outright.

The others—

still shamelessly silly—

only sound as if in desperate need of education.

Like the time I was asked if I knew

that black people named their children

too uniquely.

Or when a geometry teacher pulled me aside,

felt the need to explain that saying

any version of “nigger” was wrong

 because her own access was denied,

and that I’d want to kill any white person

who had the balls to break code.

Or when an old friend’s sister mistook me

for the Venezuelan housemaid.

Yet, I accept my role as Teacher and Ambassador

between the bomb-sheltered realities.

One hand opened, one fist closed,

show me why you deserve to pry apart

these last awaiting fingers.

All colors are welcomed to the challenge.

Manifesting newness to an old dream,

I want all eyes to see

the Prism on full blast from the light

of the moon, stars, and sun.

Dare to ask me questions? Dare to hear my answers.

I silently snicker as my eyes watch yours

and read your mind as free words shred it

with a newly perceived vision:

That I am a Grammar Führer.

That I’m not an angry black woman,

only exasperated.

That whatever your hatred chooses to call me doesn’t compare

to your embodiment of the intergalactic slur of “meatsack”.

That I’ll date outside the box,

and I will gladly smile in your face

with either gender on my arm.

Try to comprehend that which you’ll only comprehend

with just the right dose of enlightenment.

This only child’s ready to share her peace.

Here’s a toast that it won’t rot on the offering table.

So hold new hope, my pupil. Show me your teeth.

Bite my apple, if you dare.

 

Willonee Simone

Dirge of a Pariah

The self-invite is my faux pas of social law,

a line never crossed by any expense.

Coin toss of awareness flips in my eyes;

the outcast’s scent is home in my nose.

I know these handled ropes, my presence

can please more in rationed doses. A diet of

neglected faces, stale texts, and dazzled

profile pages feed my thinning desire for you.

Because somehow I’ve made your probation list,

no dished crime comes to mind besides the

ambivalence lacing my oxygen. It’s an easy excuse

put to quick use by the lack of calls.

Feels almost good to help friends by not showing up,

no disruption to those who lower the blinds

on my unsavory aura. Embrace this solitary dance,

each breath for now, past friendship trials won’t spare

my omission from your rhyme.

Shame on wasted sentiment, I’ll take no special treatment.

A dying shine in a magpie’s eye isn’t revived

by half-assed smeared polish.

Willonee Simone

The Anniversary of a Mental Meltdown

          Another March 30th, 31st, and April 1st have come and gone. For me, it’s the fifth year since surviving those first two days with the noise in my head at its highest crescendo, so much so that the third day offered me my fifteen minutes of fame in the design of two slit wrists and a brief stint at Lakeside Behavioral Health Center (trust me, the irony for the day and my condition refuses to go unnoticed). Now armed with the memories of thin bloody lines of fire searing just below my hands, reuniting with a lost cousin and former classmate both conveniently scheduled for discharge in mere hours, spending my so-called free time in the Bird Cage (a fenced-in landing practically Super Glued off the side of the hospital like an overripe mole, provided for smokers to indulge themselves and the tease of what freedom looked like), and food unfit for Shawshank Penitentiary (who serves overcooked turkey and dry stuffing at the blossoming of spring?), I can analyze what’s been gained since then with more profound detail. For example: unlike five years ago, my relationship with my mother is considerably calmer and more manageable. How has this been achieved? Conscientious lack of communication, immediate execution of diffusion tactics during emotional explosions, and doing whatever’s deemed necessary to keep her sated and me sober. Also, my ex is no longer in my life, a complete figment of a past reality—a fact that makes me feel extremely vindicated. I’ve acquired my degree in English/Creative Writing and published both a story and poem. And mentioned last only for the savory, dramatic effect, is Kevin. His placation to my feelings and needs is so sincere and absolute that I’m steadily more convinced that it’s actually genuine. It seems a miracle and a gift to once again cross paths with another human that deems me worthy of maximum love with minimal criticism. Monday, it appeared that the weather itself was celebrating with me as well, holding down a smooth and mild 65 degree/mostly sunny day that virtually demanded that it be enjoyed by all who were able.

            It never fails each year: something about this date that always compels me to visit the zoo. A little while of exploring Overton Park to find a place to read proved that damn near the rest of the city had the same idea: a line of at least 16 cars stretched from the entrance gate to the fork that takes one to the art school instead; countless vehicles had to park out of the lot onto designated grassy areas.  For a moment, my contentment faltered. Where was I supposed to go to enjoy the contemplative peace and clarity this day was offering me without interruption? Suddenly one of my few escapes in Memphis flashed across my mind: Elmwood Cemetery. So I packed a small lunch of the previous night’s dinner and journeyed to the headstone of a favorite relative. Under a tree close to her grave, I could feel myself relax into the colors of the day: gentle greens, rich and dry browns, bold yellows, and splashes of vibrant plastic flowers. Later, as I roamed the grounds contemplating both foreign and dated names, I noticed no more than four cars slowly cruising by me, a number that actually piqued my curiosity. I smirked at the idea that these individuals might have shared a similar spark to my own wavelength, seeking out the balance between humanity and the universe that most humans choose to avoid.

         By the evening of April Fools, I finally understood that I was witnessing an example of a good day in a good life was going to see Silver Linings Playbook with Kevin at Studio on the Square (any movie theater that serves decent wine and a quality choice of Indie movies will always be a top choice). What makes this movie so perfect about mental imperfection is that it gives a true bipolar person the one thing he/she craves, weeps, screams, cuts, and repeatedly attempts to die for: a realistically relatable (albeit most likely short-lived and sporadic) happy ending. It’s as if someone reached into my story and molded a male version with tweaked circumstances and finally printed it. In honesty, there is a sliver of regret and envy that I didn’t get my version out first, but the discovery of this success is the same to me as my discovery of George Saunders, and is far louder. My reality is true and deserves its own speech; Bradley Cooper’s portrayal of Pat Jr. and Saunders’ Tenth of December are my solace as I continue to work. If The Hours is the movie that comforts my darkness, Silver Linings Playbook is the movie that coaxes my lightness. If I will it, if I want it more than the sadness, I can find my middleman, my balance between the extremes. Or at least bask in the glow of its random and minutes-long expiration dates, that every once in a while (mercifully) stretch into hours.