March 24, 2021

Skye Jackson

SPOON-REST MAMMIES

i.

on tuesday at work 
my manager, a brown latina
married to a black man
approaches me 

with a smile she sets 
something down 
in front of me
and asks
what do you think
about these?

i look down
at a porcelain spoon-rest
shaped into the swollen 
figure of a mammy:

her lips exaggerated
& face dark 
like the bark of a dead tree

the dress painted jemima red
with a white apron
tied chain-taut 
around her waist

my heart races in its cage
after a second i say
we shouldn’t sell these
they are offensive

my manager purses her lips
sighs and says
but they sell, my dear skye
people buy them

 

ii.

at the end of my shift
a latina woman
with frizzy bleached blonde
hair stands in front of me
she says
i’m from california
just buying these for my kids
as a joke

they’re gonna be so mad
she says
they’re gonna be so mad
i bought these

she hands me
two of the mammy spoon-rests
says
make sure you wrap them up good
i’d hate
for them to break
on the flight back home

so i protect them
in paper and bubble-wrap
carefully place each one
in a plastic bag
you know, the lady says
your store shouldn’t carry these

i hand her the bag
smile and say
but they sell

 

iii.

three weeks later
my manager
hands me a cardboard box

i open it
to all the spoon-rest mammies
gathered together

they all smile up at me
from the guts of the box

my manager says
i tried to donate them to goodwill
but the guy accepting donations said:
i won’t sell these

but if you want
i can throw them
in the dumpster out back

i’d be happy
to do that

from Rattle #70, Winter 2020
Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist

__________

Skye Jackson: “One spring afternoon, not too long ago, I was in the business of selling Black bodies. These bodies, porcelain spoon-rest mammies, are ugly remnants of our nation’s antebellum past. As a Black woman working in a tourist gift shop in the French Quarter of New Orleans, I often thought long and hard about the things we must sometimes do in order to survive in a racist and capitalistic society. This poem depicts my revulsion at my own participation in this twisted system—so insidious that it often demands we sell our very selves in order to survive it.” (web)

 

Skye Jackson was the guest on Rattlecast #73! Watch it here

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