TERI ELLEN CROSS DAVIS
TERI ELLEN CROSS DAVIS
A Black woman learns Ireland’s history by bus
It took a civil rights museum
to lift the skirts of the maiden
city of Derry. Here’s where I saw
her Seamus Heaney tattoo.
Belfast, the stamp at
the bottom of the Titanic.
Here, I breathe in an industry
defined by ghosts,
then it’s back to you, Dublin—
how I got sweet on you
I do not know. Blame that
ancestor long ago- let’s hope
it was consensual. But the
words that crawl your streets
align with my fault lines, neither
of us accustomed to joy.
On the road to Limerick,
crumbling forts shimmer
and shy like mirages. On the river
Shannon, swans play their part
near King John’s Castle.
Here Frederick Douglass honed
his pleas for justice. Shivers down
my bare brown arms.
But it’s Newgrange where
stacked ancient stones call
my blood to rise. Two times a year
the sun flings a season’s new song
into a quartz cavern. Here lifetimes
were spent bent building temples
to echo eons. At the entrance, water
collects in a giant rock’s hollowed hand.
A wizened man whispers to me
dip your fingers & touch what ails you.
Back-up (An Ode to Weathering)
for Arline Geronimus
“And the colored girls go ‘Doo do doo do doo do do doo’…”
—Walk on the Wild Side by Lou Reed
Mix ancestral and everyday trauma, African call,
American response. Drum it on tight tendons,
skin, suffused and shiny, soft tissues singing of
soreness, observing it like a holiday. (It’s just Tuesday.)
Speed it up 7.5 times, let blood pressure reach the high notes,
diabetes, the low ones. Let obesity morbidly thump
the bass lines, while glycogen’s fight or flight hit
the high hat. Isn’t each day, each step outside in America
a scream? Listen to the resounding soundtrack:
you don’t belong here, go back to Africa and that original hit “Nigger!”
—always number one with a bullet. When the school’s White
gaze singles out your son, implore adrenaline and cortisol
to slow their ragged runs. When applying for a mortgage with a
lower interest rate; after the next White businessman
lets the door slam in your face, tell this body not to hum its fate-
fear, anxiety, and chronic depression, the constant refrain.
Inflammation as the blood races to the mic again and again.
Measure one, discrimination, maternal mortality, measure two
heart disease, socio-economic conditions, tune up the fibroids,
open up the throat, dig down, hold that note. Black women know
how to sing back-up. Our pain always makes for perfect pitch.
Teri Ellen Cross Davis’ poetry collection Haint (Gival Press) won the 2017 Ohioana Book Award for Poetry. Her work has appeared in many anthologies and journals including: Not Without Our Laughter: poems of joy, humor, and sexuality, Poetry Ireland Review and Tin House. She lives in Silver Spring, MD.