Black History Month Special Issue Poetry Runner Up: Salt-Blood

I woke today with the same attitude I always have

one fist cured and another open.

I call this the Black girl stance.

Later on, I drive to Divinely Auditorium

because I am giving a speech there on inequality

because I am Black and understand inequality.

At the podium, I open and close my fists.

I had a dream, I begin,

and all the white people in the audience

stand and clap.

I speak slow, soft

like positioning marbles

beneath my tongue

I trapeze

gripping between two lives—

white and black.

Will they call me articulate or loud?

Am I passionate or angry?

Two shifting veils, two faces: double consciousness,

Du Bois called it.

I push on with my speech.

I had a dream

and in my dream,

I see my mother.

She, a Black woman,

is honeycomb sweet,


so tangled in broken lineage.

Our family is purpled-ivied, she says. Our family carries pain.

My body is your body is all bodies derived from me.

In this dream, we are at a grocery store, looking at fruit.

She is holding a banana—small and ripening,

pew, she points it at me and laughs.

If you know this story already

change it for me

before it’s too late

before she becomes a threat

before the inevitable happens.

I shake her. I say mom, grab a peach

an orange, a pear,

anything less gun-like

than a speckling banana.

Better to grab nothing at all,

walk with your hands up instead

I curse             I slap the fruit away               I scream

She is killed anyway.

In this speech, I only wanted to explain

how Black dreams can come in terrors unbidden

how my face, like everyone else, is just one-half of my mother’s,

my temperament the same

and see, how I am not so different?

The audience does a polite clap.

Some nod like saying yes or maybe saying no.

When I finally leave the auditorium

the humid air warms across my face

I sweat the same

salt liquid like any other

it draws in all the mosquitos

hungry for my blood.

Photo Credit: “Woman Feeling Emotional Stress” by account ID 1388843 under the license.

About the author

Christie Valentin-Bati is a poet based in Miami Beach. In 2018, she co-authored Existential Quandary: between a chicken and God, a book of haikus written from the perspective of a chicken – and now, for a living, she writes about wellness and beauty. She has been featured in Phyllis Straus Gallery, Asterism Magazine, and more of her work can be found on Instagram at _christieos_

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