Blue-Brown

Alexis Jackson

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

it’s brown.

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 

is black.

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

maybe brown—like

some cars are really navy—but in the dark

and in the day 

everybody else                                                                                                                             

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.

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