I had a godmother named Nafeesah

by Jamiya Leach


that wore a hijab even though she wasn’t muslim,
silk tulle of innocent intentions,
and had been spit in the face by a white man
having lunch with his daughter.
Rage does not provoke itself—
Shutup and eat your mechado.
Eyes shot to the furrow of her sable face
then to the graphed concrete of oversized sidewalks
then to the anesthetic murk grazing hushed walls
and overturned chairs
because she could not save his son.

Hours before, my father saying
there is no difference between me and Michelle Obama.
Erykah Badu twirling from the radio
while he drove under the dayspring train
to see a doctor rest flat back on a leather couch
under winking lights of Roger Wood Johnson’s waiting room,
where my sister and I sat so he could go to work.
If I was a mother, I’d always be mad.
Like Nafeesah coming out of the intensive care unit
the scarf matching her scrubs
telling us to come on.

Doesn’t ignorance stroke nice when it rolls off the tongue.
Like someone getting your race right
when calling your name in the dark.
My godmother holding her breath,used the hijab to wipe her face.
Look at her, their hands ruin everything.
Learned a notion man is a frightening one,
palms so sharp that could purée my skin to syrup
or maybe it was Nafeesah’s skin.
Peace and blessings manifest with every lesson learn,
taking more time than used to swallow.

Author Biography: Jamiya Leach is a student at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities in the Creative Writing Program. She loves to travel and is from Columbia, SC.