For Breonna Taylor, Renisha McBride, Korryn Gaines, Diamond and Dae'Anna Reynolds…
My niece runs her hand across
the top of my car.
She calls it maybe black—
says it might be navy—
but she can’t tell in the dark.
She is 7.
She grabs her tilted afro puff
and asks me what color it is.
I say brown.
She says I’m right, but
some of the kids in her class
think it’s black.
She says she tells them
She says her ballies are blue—
true blue, she says—the blue
you can see at night time.
She snakes her fingers through mine.
At the crosswalk she says the street
She says the outsides of my “throw on slides” are blue—
a blue different from her sister’s track bag—
the blue that looks like someone’s favorite color.
She tells me that’s her favorite color.
She asks me for mine.
I tell her black.
She calls us Black.
She says we’re not black like my car,
or the street, or my favorite color, or
the mesh on the sides of her sister’s track bag
that lets the stuff inside breathe.
We’re the Black that’s really brown, like
her mommy says her puff is, like
the floor in her new house is, like
my eyes, not
some cars are really navy—but in the dark
and in the day
can’t tell sometimes.
We use our free hands
to make shadow puppets jump
in the porch light
until my brother
answers the door
and she lets go.
Alexis V. Jackson earned her M.F.A. from Columbia University’s School of the Arts in 2018, and her Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a concentration in writing from Messiah College in 2013. While at Messiah College, Jackson studied post-colonial literature/poetry and Shakespeare in Oxford University. Jackson’s work will be published in Jubilat and Locked Horn Press’ Read Ritual anthology, and her first book, My Sister’s Country is the second-place winner of Kore Press Institute’s 2020 Poetry Prize. Jackson’s interests are in exploring the connectedness of “holy text” and the words of Black women. In Jackson’s work, June Jordan is placed in conversation with Missy Elliott, Hortense Spillers, and the women in Jackson’s own matrilineal lineage. Jackson’s work makes use of found text, explores the concept of planar time/Black woman omnipresence, and is heavily influenced by her identities as a 90s-raised, darker-skinned, Black woman, Philadelphia native. She has served as a reader for several publications, including Callaloo & Bomb Magazine, and her interests include the tradition of black woman poets, womanist theology, poetic form, and womanism. Alexis V. Jackson lectures in the University of San Diego’s English Department. She has also taught at Messiah College.