October 5, 2020

Penda Smith


what you mean you don’t eat pussy bum ass nigga?
you want me to spit & swallow & deep throat without choking,
i got gag reflex,

your mouth don’t work?
you must be afraid to speak to God
you must be afraid to speak to a burning bush

even moses could not look his eyes
upon something that burned but not consumed by its own flames

why are ye fearful, o you bum ass nigga of little faith,
who ask me to suck soul out your dick,
only to leave heavier than I came here,
with the soul of a Godless man who tastes like he don’t drink water,

o you bum ass nigga of little respect,
to ask me to swallow the children who feasted themselves only,
with popeyes chicken and dry biscuits washed down with henny

the scripture has it,
seneh translates to bush or to bramble (holding the fruits of berry),
the scripture has it,
sinai also translates to mountain,
but that is not the story we pass down to our children,
we do not say a big ass mountain was on fire and spoke to moses,

he only saw a burning bush because he could not pronounce a Black womyn
he, too, a bum ass nigga with little faith,

how you gonna hear a Black womyn speak and still ask
whether or not your people will be delivered to canaan?
how easy it must be to forget something is burning when it is a Black womyn

yet still,

my sex/ a cook-house of manna,
my sex/ a ripened wild-fire,
my sex/ a burning mountain that burns but is not consumed by its own flames,

& when you said you would not put your mouth here,
i grew a field of barren land,
& silently cursed my God.

from Rattle #68, Summer 2020


Penda Smith: “I am a fourth-year First Wave student pursuing a degree in neurobiology with the hopes of attending medical school and researching black infant mortality. I left my home in the Bronx to join the First Wave program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. I traded in my favorite soul food restaurants in Harlem, my family at Urban Word NYC, Monday nights at Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe for the dull, seasonless streets of Madison, Wisconsin, because my education was fully funded. However, leaving my home has emerged themes of my relationship with my mother, my childhood, my positionality as a black womyn within my writing. My writing speaks to and is for black people. In academia and even slam spaces, there is often an underlying push to get writers of color, especially black writers, to consider the white gaze in their work. However, my writing is what helps to think, critique, honor, and condemn the world as I see it. My writing demands my vulnerability in speaking about my mother, how I have come to terms with my sexuality, and overall, how I navigate being a black womyn in an anti-black world. This means that I will communicate in words I and my friends, siblings, and folks I grew up with understand, while simultaneously making my work inaccessible to white people. This is a sacrifice I understand and am content with. Today, I am a research scientist determined to challenge the epidemic of black infant mortality. I am a storyteller determined to write away depression. I am a pessimist on the days when my depression is too heavy to write. I am a daughter determined to love my mother while confronting the traumas of my childhood with my therapist. I am a lover learning love after being a survivor of sexual assault. I am patient, honest, and vulnerable when I am, but not when I cannot be. Together, these all contribute to and make me the writer that I am today.” (web)

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