Autopsy of the Poetic “I” after Toi Dericotte i’m not sorry that “I” serves as a shield. Pledges no allegiance to any flag, father or American version of pretty. Sometimes when the past comes with its sharpness— we sit scared. Think about brown liquor, mumbled songs, our dreams about teeth. But then the “I” emerges like an alpha helix or bent reed. i am not the “I” in my poems. i don’t know how to love my fears or talk with a badger in my throat. Some think the body is a bless- ed thing so maybe every “I” rests like nesting dolls, curled in parts— that right toe that’s bigger than the left, the left breast shifting in every bra. Or maybe the “I” is the favored part of the Gemini and loves to wear black. It wants to know how the sausage is made— where the slaughters take place, and how it swims to the page for swallowing. Litany for My Fears and Questions after Audre Lorde For those of us getting used to writing poems— for the dead for rainbows without a streak of black for gerbera daisies that wilt quickly for silence so quiet you tilt like earths’ axis like that day in September when the phones rang and rang and you learned that charred wood is stronger than most barks Does love taste like sweetgrass? Can I be mad as love as sweetgrass? Does this jump in the blood mean I’m having a heart attack. . . a heart break . . . or a heart’s fury between dawns? Can a mouth be starved for the sun? How many fibroids is too many? Can I take 3 Aleve’s instead of 2? For those of us expected to beautify- what's hemmed in the latest numbers in our zip codes questions on god … particles . . . boredom . . . conversations with the town crier . . . I mean our mothers glued to the phone to relay names of the sick they fall like em dashes or brittle teeth When will scientists name this new emotion? Is it wrong to want a storm named after you? Can a 3am phone call be good news – news so jubilant that our lungs expound 6 liters of air? Let this be the last time we mourn or dream of beasts or a beach full of a 100 brown turtles retracted in their shells. ___________________________________________________________________ Cynthia Manick is the author of Blue Hallelujahs (Black Lawrence Press, 2016) and editor of Soul Sister Revue: A Poetry Compilation (Jamii Publishing, 2019) and The Future of Black: Afrofuturism, Black Comics, & Superhero Poetry (Blair Publishing, 2021). Manick is the founder of Soul Sister Revue and resides in Brooklyn, NY.