Once at a bar a white man, who had been staring
at me from across the room, handed me a folded
piece of receipt paper reading you’re a piece of art
and don’t let anyone tell you different. At that point
I was already drunk and couldn’t hide I was flattered.
He gives me another piece of receipt paper to write
my number down on. I did it because it was much easier
Than saying no. I read the note aloud to my friend,
Logan, who responds he only says not to let anyone
tell you different because you’re a black woman. He is right.
I burned the note in my kitchen sink that night while
drinking a glass a wine. I watched as the flame
disintegrated those words into black ash. The first time
a white person ever called me beautiful I was sitting
on a white tissue lined table in a pediatrician’s office.
An older white women whose name I don’t remember
Pressed the backs of her fingers into my face and said
My brown skin was even / mild / beautiful. I didn’t think of myself
As beautiful then. I thought things were only beautiful when
White people said so. Josh from the bar texted me the next day.
He sent a picture of a bonfire he jumped over for fun. I wished
the fire had snatched him by his pants leg and turned him
into black ash. Maybe even art. I never responded.
Self Portrait with My Mother's Superstitions
The grocery store was all out of fresh
collard greens this morning. That’s what we get
for shoppin’ all late. But what did we expect?
It was the first of the month & the new year.
We are always short on something, mostly patience
& rent. The turkey’s neck severed, slow-cooked
in a pot of bargain black-eyed peas. An offering,
an omen for our good fortune. My mother fries
chicken with her hair tied up, makeup still basting
from the day before. Always beautiful even
when not. Still waiting for her man to step
over the threshold. I am lying each time
I say I do not want to be loved. My mother’s
home has always had too many mirrors.
Azia Armstead is from Richmond, Virginia. She currently studies English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her work has appeared and is forthcoming in JoINT, Wus Good and Obsidian. Azia has received a fellowship from The Watering Hole and an award from the Arts Club of Washington for poetry. She was selected as a finalist for the 2019 Furious Flower Poetry Prize. Azia has featured at Busboys & Poets. She loves history and listens to Frank Ocean's "Blonde" album just about everyday.