It takes more than good intentions to transform the South. It takes money.

What the hell is a Scalawag?

The author writes: I've been noticing I hold a lot of my Southernness in my mouth. It's my accent. It's flavor. It's the sweet. It's the stank. The heart of these poems is my relationship to homesickness as a craving. The songs on the playlist sound like the meeting place of ancestral memory and trill futurity. Nina's portrait painting, Gipp and Joi's funky seductive interplay, Crime Mob's soft crunk, and BbyMutha's assertion of immortality. It's all medicine.


One of Four Women Walking Down Peachtree Street Licking Herself

Nina dredged up Peaches
from the back of her throat

let it out with a sonic break
I lose myself in
over and over again

Auntie Linda say
when you heard her sing it
you could feel it
and knew
exactly who she was talking 'bout

You could see her,
Bitter-Black daughter of slaves
hiding sweetness under tar-colored callous

manner tough like fist balled
tight as a heart
held before her chest
like a prayer she scared
to have answered

and Southern as I am
I still like my peaches unripe —
like when the flesh resist
my teeth a lil bit

or at least that's what I thought I liked,
'till one day I bit hard
and felt the sweet of it slip
through my fingers right
down my arm

and before I could think
my tongue went chasing after it
and right then the brown
wasn't bitter no more

just soft like how I imagine
molasses feel to spoon
or less metal — like honey
to comb

and my hand still held the too soft flesh
and the sun coming down
made it shine something like special
and my mouth start to get sticky hot
with all that sugar turning molasses.

I let out a thick smile
and seen Nina smirking
in the back of my mind

fingering the piano
with enough force to shake the sugar
out the trees

I mean

the peaches all fall when she start singing
they hit the ground and roll all over themselves, spent.

some get stepped on
others picked up
and ate on
or forgotten on the counter
till they start to eat away at themselves

And that's what I'm doing
eatin' away at myself

a mouth full of home dripping
down my arm
walking down this new street

toward the new place i call home
and the magic of it

is right here

in the back of my throat

Home is a mouth full of spit for your tender heart

I.
The humidity moves into
my skin
and breaks up all my English

the words start drippin'
from one to the next
seem like my tongue get fatter
when I'm back home
won't move 'round fast enough,
can't pick up the right syllable

just lounge around my mouth
pooling up too thick saliva
I spit out the side my face
like all the niggas
I used to watch
pose 'round the corner store

and all the niggas that came before them
who shot craps against that same wall
talking shit like it's syrup

a young black thing,
pretty like me, walk by
and that spit turn to steam
creep up the back
of thighs that wouldn't
normally be exposed this time of year

But this a Georgia winter
and when my mama first moved down here,
Sagittarius as she is, they barbecued
on her birthday

All that New York just melted away
and her English started to break too

soon she start to movin' like them
Augusta women, her folks ran north
to get away from

II.
In the kitchen we laugh through a joke
'bout how i'm sounding
like i'm back on somebody plantation

and she let on that she notice
but say that whenever I do decide to speak English
I speak it good

So good she turn to dictionary
tryna follow where I'm going

Say, I be
using them words
in new ways, with new folks
rules

then come home
and melt all them semantics
into something slow
and sloppy and in my voice
I remember stories
that ain't all the way mine

III.
How everything I know
about sound and poem
come from up out
red clay and get stuck
underneath my tongue.

How we wash the headstones
white with our mouths full
of laughter.

And ain't that how we mourn?

How my daddy's sister
used to keep dolls on her bed
just like I do.

And ain't that how you put beauty to rest?

How they used to fill
cuts with cobwebs.

And ain't that where all the wisdom
come from?

How spit is good enough medicine
for anything on the surface.

And ain't that why it pool up
at healing time?

Ra Malika Imhotep

Ra Malika Imhotep is a Black Feminist writer from Atlanta, Georgia currently pursuing a doctoral degree in African Diaspora Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the 2019 Omi Arts Creative Arts Practice artist-in-residence at Ashara Ekundayo Gallery in Oakland. She is co-convener of the experiential study group, The Church of Black Feminist Thought, and a member of the curatorial collective The Black Aesthetic.