after Natalie Diaz


This skin is a universe born,
melanin galaxies gleaming
under black mustard seed sky, 
anvils scorched away
with each breath and step, 
scattered shadows of hair
unconcerned with sitting,
chestnut palms raised into infinity,
gravity’s rebellion,
a throne.

This skin is a convening of beats,
a prayer of drum moans, crashing
guitar tongues, a fete
of steelpans seducing starved
feet, rivers of jazz plunging
plums into hearts, sabar’s 
belly rising and falling with hands,
Fela’s afrobeat between the sheets,
grown folks night in Brooklyn brownstones,
a bridge of kinky hair and Hennessey,
matte black Benz cruising 
down a Harlem street.

This skin is an army of mountains,
copper doorways dressed
in maroon hums, ginger freckled
faces bent into a smile,
Citadelle Henri Christophe untouched
after the quakes, 
Quilombo armed in earth 
and rusted pails, the soul 
of Jollof woven into hips with precision,
decked in licorice and amber,
a path footprinted
with seashells and black pearls.

This skin is the cry of black wolves,
burned tires and broken beer bottles,
the sea of Moses stripped down the middle,
mocha-skinned mothers lugging bodies
littered with wounds
teaching me which men not to love,
rotting potatoes and pears, faded rain of the uterus,
dressers swollen with autumn clothes,
hot combs, afro picks, curling irons, satin bonnets
made for crowns,
raw sugar in the mouth, 
a chalkboard wiped clean of yesterday’s lessons.




My keen eye for picking ripe bodies
keeps Papa Doc & America fed—
Heads turn in fear down a Port-au-Prince street
as slaughtered bodies simmer in the morning
sun until their corpses are split
open on American table of science.
I am a magician—
I turn blood into money.

I eat the screams rising 
from the ground as fire takes hold
of legs & arms that dance 
for peace & mercy,
the smell of burned flesh,
sweet & velvety like kremas on my tongue.
My heart, festooned with pride as their remains
are hung from trees for all to see.

I see God in each
fear-laden face before bullets 
storm their bodies—
the man who clutched his mattress,
before the shots ceased his pleading,
the boy who ran into his last night
carried to Papa Doc’s Palace, his heart cut 
from its home to make the perfect ouanga.

I use machetes to make masterpieces
of those who dare to breathe
the air of the enemy, their screams—
public art for viewing pleasure,
brought to torture chambers painted brown
so blood-rain wouldn’t stain,
all those who survived
never left whole.

Those who break the rules
learn of executioners 
who betray without hesitation—
the scholar with forbidden politics
dragged to a grassy field with colleagues
all five bodies stoned to breathlessness
eyes torn from the sockets
laid on the ground like ornaments.

Journalists feel the price
of opposition—
a home raided by boots & fists,
two young daughters mauled,
dragged from sleep to the street,
their mother stripped bare, quiet
of her is broken by blood & fluids.
O the lessons we must learn!



" 'Tonton Macoutes' was my first attempt at writing a persona poem. I wanted to address a difficult aspect of Haitian history by getting into some of the minds of these members of that paramilitary force while sharing the stories of actual victims. 'Black Soliloquy' was my attempt at writing a poem on the skin of Black folks. I read 'The Red Blues' by Natalie Diaz and was blown away by how she used the color red and exploded it with amazing metaphors in a poem about cramps and menstruation. I wanted to do something similar in a celebratory and complicated way."

Nadia Alexis is a New York City-born Haitian poet, human rights activist, organizer and novice student of photography. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in BLACKBERRY: a magazine, Kalyani Magazine and Kweli Journal. She is a 2014 Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop fellow and was selected to attend the 2013 Watering Hole Writers Retreat. She currently interns at Brooklyn Poets and resides in Harlem.