to know a body of houses

by Jamilla VanDyke-Bailey

my father tells me, “i apologize”
in a dismissive tone i don’t deserve.
he casted cocaine fueled bruises on my body
as an ode of fatherless-paternal love
but somehow, at seven, i know
his tough love doesn’t taste like it should.

my mother tells him he should
stop bribing me with sweets, and i apologize
on his behalf because i know,
as the daughter he doesn’t deserve,
that he rules me from an overwhelming love
that needs to destroy my body.

i have always been ashamed of my body,
as i should.
it has always been too much to love.
and i would constantly apologize
for inhaling more matter than I could ever deserve
because i’d rather be disgusting, than to let my parents know.

if they ever just looked, they would know
that at four, my cousin had snatched my body
from under their fingernails. i deserve
to have parents that should
have prevented this; and apologize
for letting him carve me into a shape of fear, and not love.

today, i tend to confuse love
and pity because my scars seem to know
that your parents could never truly apologize,
for you are a product of their broken spirit and cursed body.
so, i try to love these men, as their parents should
have done to show them all the grace they deserve.

one day, i hope to believe that i deserve
the unconditional love
i spill into the hungry mouths of others. i should
hope to one day know
the expansive beauty of my bruised and chubby body
and never dare to apologize.

Jamilla VanDyke-Bailey’s recent collection of poetry, ‘Black Girls Burn Blue,’ has received the 2018 David A. Kennedy Prize. This collection has also lead to acceptance into the University of Massachusetts’ Boston MFA program where she will continue to combine her intersectionality, personal experience, and dedication to her craft.

Artwork by: Jury S. Judge

Jury S. Judge is an internationally published artist, writer, poet, photographer, and political cartoonist. Her “Astronomy Comedy” cartoons are also published in “The Lowell Observer.” Her artwork has been widely featured in literary magazines such as, Dodging The RainThe New Plains ReviewClaudius Speaks, and Fearsome Critters. She has been interviewed on the television news program, “NAZ Today” for her work as a political cartoonist. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BFA from the University of Houston-Clear Lake in 2014.