Raina J. León


Raina J. León is a Black, Afro-Boricua, native Philadelphian, mother, daughter, sister, madrina, comadre, partner, poet, writer, and teacher educator. She believes in collective action and community work, the profound power of holding space for the telling of our stories, and the liberatory practice of humanizing education. She seeks out communities of care and craft and is a member of the Carolina African American Writers Collective, Cave Canem, CantoMundo, Macondo. She is the author of three collections of poetry, Canticle of Idols, Boogeyman Dawn and sombra: dis(locate) and the chapbooks, profeta without refuge and Areyto to Atabey: Essays on the Mother(ing) Self. She has received fellowships and residencies with the SV Community of Writers, Montana Artists Refuge, the Macdowell Colony, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, Vermont Studio Center, the Tyrone Guthrie Center in Annamaghkerrig, Ireland and Ragdale, among others. She is a member of the SF Writers Grotto and The Ruby in San Francisco. She also is a founding editor of The Acentos Review, an online quarterly, international journal devoted to the promotion and publication of Latinx arts. She is a full professor of education at Saint Mary’s College of California, only the third Black person (all of us Black women) and the first Afro-Latina to achieve that rank there.

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"solstice in solidified sugar" was originally published in the chapbook, Areyto to Atabey: Essays on the Mother(ing) Self, Alley Cat Books, December 2019.


21 caskets in an infinity line

at the head of the line, that casket, belongs to my wife’s mother.  that’s a matriarch there, my children’s grandmother there, and so many more behind her, the poet says in the dream.  we are at a funeral.  all the pallbearers are black men in crisp suits with white gloved hands.  they slide the caskets, black and polished to shine, one after another down a church aisle.  21.  someone in that line is one of mine, a man i fantasized could hold me when i was still girl trying to be someone such a man could see. i know i know many more.  those who mourn in person wear their masks and spread their bodies across the church. there are screens that unfold their wailing faces.  mechanized masks that should short for all the water and salt in the air. when i wake, i say, this is how i process the grief. the remembrances of longed for intimacy. the passage of years and now he’s gone and so is she and they and oh so many.  virus, bullet, knee, rope.  i lose count of names.  the baby i carry i thought would split me open early, eager to be in this world, but now, i feel her fingers at the gate, how they press to stitch me closed.  the womb is a safer dance than blossoms and birth is just another path to die.

person of interest 

it does not matter
how many times
i say 
my body is not a threat
how many times
the tests come back negative
i am always a person of interest
even in birthing a child
who could be a
virus criminal
like me
corona a crown
we could share




solstice in solidified sugar

            After Andrea Chung, Proverbs 12:22

“Lying lips are abomination to the Lord: but they that deal truly are his delight.”

there is a girl who weeps in this story.

there is a girl who watches Shirley Temple dance while she sits on her father’s lap and laughs; she is two girls overlapping in time, la negra (o la india depending on the voice) y la blanca. one girl laughs in joy, an innocent memory; the other laughs, too, and doesn’t know fear and shame come next. she grows into a woman no one believes. 

what do we believe?  what hides in the image reflected from the glass: behind a white girl dancing with Bojangles in black and white, in front a girl and her father?

there is a girl who is a woman and still a girl, her ass in her titi’s hands, while women in another room prepare to pray a novena for the girl’s grandmother, the only mother titi has ever known and called doña o mami, hanging in the same air. 

there is a girl who feels like she is a boy, should be able to walk free like a boy, should be seen in her freedom as a boy, if only the world knew beyond her body, because the world, which is her family, says only a boy, especially the light-skinned boy, can be free.  she wants to be free, because she knows she already is.

there is a black girl who will try to kill a black boy, because he is a light-skinned and boy and the vessel for colorism and racism and white supremacy and patriarchy, but she doesn’t have the names for that.  she will try to kill her sweet little brother, who reminds her, in her womanhood of her own son’s shy tenderness many times, how she could have squelched it, and in that realization, she despairs a past in which she does not know why she rages, cries out, grows her nails long to scratch out anyone who gets too close.

i am the girl who knew joy and knives.  i am not the weeping girl with testimonies.


what does titi have to teach me?   her body is the sacrifice:  the lessons to fight for a black feminist liberation written in what she could not live herself, the rules different and so she lived within them. black and ever not.

there is a picture of her wedding, still a girl herself, in a puffy white princess dress.  my grandmother, with her cropped red hair, stands at her right hand; my grandfather, smooth and brown, his hair slicked back in a black wave, at her left.  they do not smile, but their eyes do.  they give away their daughter to a boricua with a french last name.


before my husband and i board a plane to go to our co-ed baby shower, i tell him that much of my family will come, including titi.  i tell him that she is bound to say some locura; his job is to be the wall and keep me away from it. he says, “i don’t know what you are talking about.  she’s always been nice to me.”  “you are white.”  the pronouncement is simple to say.  what i don’t say is that this is how i know am supposed to feel i have become successful to her gaze:  i am educated, i married a white man (a european no less), and i am pregnant with a boy. 

on the plane, i wish i could have a shot of rum.  i long for it; my son kicks within me any time he hears music enter his pulsing water world.  he reminds me he is there.


at the shower, she talks about feminism in the new world, how proud she is of me for my education and that i travel, how in her day they never would have had a co-ed shower.  i think for a moment, how this is what i have always wanted:  finally to be seen.

in the second, i think she must be on drugs.

in the third, that maybe her daughter or granddaughter have had the honest conversation with her in ways i never could.  feminist anything so new in the mouth i have studied my whole life.

she tells me that the women of our family have never had trouble giving birth.  this news is what i also crave – don’t all prospective mothers, to know that their labors will be smooth – and so i feel seen in this way; i breathe easy.  i welcome that my husband does not need to be a wall.  perhaps my whole seeing of her has been wrong.  my whole life wrong.

the rum craving ends.

as we line up for arroz con gandules and asopao de pollo and ensalada and perfectly sliced aguacate, i hear her say to her daughter, “aren’t you going to serve your husband?” this is what my mother was told to do when my parents first partnered, nearly 50 years before.  the women waited on the men and ate when they were done.  the scraps.  my mother only did that once, the first time she met my grandmother, out of love for the woman who birthed her man, who loved him first.  after that, my grandmother served him, because my mother wouldn’t. 

it’s nearly 50 years later.  titi’s daughter has herself been married nearly 25 years.  she responds, “he can serve himself.”   a simple pronouncement i overhear.  i see my cousin in a feminist resistance.  my own chafing has been at a distance; for my cousin, her resistance in career, in partnering, in travel herself was at the frontlines of familial grating. 

i watch my cousin still tend to her mother, still fold her body close to her. i try to color titi in roses each time i see her that day.  sure, in my vision, those roses wilt at the edges. they are still rose. rose in amber.


at the shower, another titi, this one gladys, makes me a café con leche, the color of the inside of my wrist and sweetened nearly to caramel. 

perfection on my tongue.  her love, magnificent, intimate, warm, a bounty.

titi gladys is not titi.


when i was a child and started school, it was titi who would pick me up from the bus. my mother worked days as a social worker.  my father worked nights, and often double shifts as a counselor in juvenile detention.  i remember the walk to her house. we would pass the plastic-covered couches in the sala and sit at the table in an all-white kitchen. a snack.  homework. a nap in the pristine room of my older cousin away at college, her nearly graduating brother i rarely saw in the next room, while titi watched her soap operas in hers. everything was always so pristine and still, everything in its place. there were pictures of my cousin all around, her face that of a sweetened angel. i have always admired her, the girl titi adored and treasured. 

eventually, my mother would come to pick me up, and so a day ended.  i remember always being bored and internally riotous at the regularity of routine.  i had no brother or cousins to play with like at my grandmother’s house, no television to watch, no dogs to tease. i never saw her backyard to run in it.  i had to be careful.  i walked lightly.  even when i slept, i slept small and contained. 


she and tío are my brother’s godparents.  when we were children, they would come to pick him up, leaving me behind. he went to watch the fights on television or out to dinner. he went many places with them that i don’t know.  they were involved, showing him generosity and care.  i remember once they bought him these white hess trucks scripted over in green.  tío said, “if you don’t open them, someday they’ll be worth something” to my brother, a child.  to be worth something, one should not play. 

my brother played.  he was still worth something.

i was bitter and poisoned as uncooked yautía. 

i remember only these gifts from titi:  a keychain from puerto rico (an island to which i belonged, but to which i had never been); a t-shirt, also from puerto rico; and a white cabbage patch doll in a white tennis skirt (though i am not white and have never played tennis).  all of these were worth something:  wrapped up in an identity true and desired.  still i was always left behind.  to be included would have meant more.


i am the madrina of two little girls.  i never leave their siblings behind.  i claim them as my godchildren, too, though we have not been consecrated in that way.  i learned this from how i felt for years.  this is a generosity.

one of them calls me titi.  she once tried to call me by my first name, asserting an authority in naming, and i said to her definitively, “i am titi raina or titi.  you don’t call me by my first name.”  i will always be titi.  this, too, is a generosity.


“you need to start wearing makeup.”  a little lipstick and blush, but not like a puta, she tells me, after she picks my brother and me up from school and walks us home.  she always stays for an hour or so while she watches her soap operas.

i am around 11 years old. 

i do not know what a puta is.  i just know i am not supposed to be one. 

between her visitation and my mother’s arrival home, we have a few hours alone.

we are told not to answer the phone or the door. 

that’s when i nearly kill my brother. 

he is a boy, never told to be make himself up, how not to be a puta.  he is a boy, never told who or what to be. 


titi is not my only titi.  the first and only time i met my titi ada in puerto rico, really my great aunt, after time spent in the living room to share stories, she walked us to a room, the entire space, an altar to san lazaro, orisha of healing, in catholic robes.  to say his real name is to invite judgment and destruction. titi ada told a story of how, when she was dying, she prayed to san lazaro to heal her body and in exchange, she would honor him.  he did. 

in the story i tell now, san lazaro did heal her body but he took his praise and her mind.  in dementia what she remembered as all her past slipped away to astral, it was to worship him.  this she knew until she died.  what i know is that she was beautiful and lovely and loved me even at first sight.  i belonged in her heart and home.

what we remember.  who we forget.  i never forget titi.  the name is a box of films i once lived.


i ask titi to teach me spanish once when i am in elementary school.  she teaches me la mano, los dedos.  the hand and the fingers.  these are the only words.


i wear make-up only for performance.


i learn as an adult that titi means penis in tagalog from one of my pinay friends.  this is strangely appropriate.


i am boricua of an old stereotype, who dances and dances with fists and can dance until the knife makes you bleed.  i learned these things very young.  in the times between titi and mami, i tried to kill my brother with a knife for no reason. a snap of a nail once.  i can’t remember the others.  he was faster than me and strong, would always run and hold his door against my weight, until i slid the knife below.  for years, he slept on his back, his arms primed above him as if in a push-up, ever ready to rush to push at the door. 

i did that.

he was a sweet little boy, now a loyal and brilliant man.  he represented what i did not have the language to fight.  i had time and fists and access to kitchen knives.

when i told my mother this story in college while my brother laughed in confirmation, she said, “raina, i would have gotten you help.” 

what help could she have given me, the root of my desire to kill not about my brother but about colorism and internalized racism made manifest in family interactions and patriarchy and its demands in the mouths and actions of those i loved most.  

i am an academic; i can theorize it now.

my brother and i, forged in steel, we are very close.  we often laugh inappropriately about death, violence, and survival.  there was a story where my father breaks out two axes from his locker when he was a security guard on a college campus … and the one about a stabbing at a party and the one …

don’t worry.  i don’t have a knife collection anymore.  i have theories.


at thanksgiving one year, at my grandmother’s table, mami with her family and my papi, brother and i with the boricua side, titi gives me advice.  i had just talked about applying to graduate school, how i was thinking of schools in new york.  “you need to go to miami.  marry a nice cuban.  there’s too much black in the family.  all these león men marry black women.”  my mother is black.  i am black.  in cuba, they had one of the biggest forced migrations of enslaved Africans so they certainly black.  and in puerto rico, i know from doing genealogical research and tracing race, generations and generations of our ancestors are black, de color, negro. yes. we blackety black black. and Taino and Spanish and walking survivors of colonization and oppression, resistance just in being.

i remember putting down the knife and moving to a separate room.  i have never challenged her.  always accepted a violence.  out of respect for an elder, i suffered disrespect.  my brother and i shifted our eyes to papi.  he ate his chicken, sucking the bone.  he hadn’t heard anything out of turn.

when we told mami what titi had said, there was a war of silence against my father for days.


at a black student union meeting in college, my friends talk about colorism within the black community.  i talk of the great heaviness and added persecution i feeling being dark-skinned.  in the mirror of my friends’ eyes, i see that, to them, i am not dark-skinned, that they do not understand how i can feel so ostracized and attacked within my own family.  i am the only afro-boricua in the room. 


i have become obsessed with genealogy. i discover in scanned puerto rican church records of baptisms, marriages, and deaths who were the mothers and fathers of whom and who their parents were.  find the right record and i leap two generations back.  my obsession leaks into the dawn hours. i thank the god of the church of latter day saints for missionaries, the imperialists of faith, whose drive for the names of all to be written in the book of mormon and so find heavenly bliss has led to a bounty of records no hurricane can erase. 

i trace names.  places.  race. 

we have always been black. indigenous. black.


“cleave to your husband, the bible says.” 

when my grandmother was dead, she bequeathed her clothes to charity.  she wanted those with nothing to receive the gift her body no longer needed.  my other aunt prepared her clothes to give, placing them on with care on hangers.  titi’s husband arrived to the house, i learned, and began taking them off the hangers and stuffing them into bags.  my aunt responded about my grandmother’s wishes, and he replied, “what do you care?   juanita’s dead.” a cruel pronouncement, the confirmation again that her mother was dead broke my aunt to weeping.  he continued stuffing his bags to sell her clothes at a flea market.  they could be worth something.  a wish was worth nothing.  when censured, titi said, “cleave to your husband.”  punto. 


cleave means to hold close.  it also means to split or sever, especially along a natural line or grain.


she says, “you are the real family”.  i must be in my mid-20s then.

my grandmother has just come to our house to pray.  she had a dream and so engaged in a visitation to the homes of all her children. we take out rosaries that we have not handled in years and certainly not at home.  we do what she says and gather in the living room for a shared prayer, five decades of the rosary, and then my grandmother offers her blessings in spanish to each person gathered:  papi, mami, my brother, and me.  titi has come with her and sits close, her knees nearly meeting my grandmothers.  a triangle shape of body.  she translates each blessing my grandmother offers. 

for some reason, we talk about my half-siblings, born before and after my parent’s marriage, children i did not know about until i was 15 (my older brother and sister) and 21 (my younger brother and sister – the 80s were a crazy time for my father).  we are in my living room, and titi says after the blessings have ended, the last on the family as a whole, “but you are the real family.  you are the real children.”  this is a translator’s addition.  my brother does not speak spanish well enough to know my grandmother does not say this. 

perhaps this is supposed to be another generosity from titi; it is a schism, one which is generationally familiar.  did she find comfort in this for herself?  my grandfather had two children outside of his marriage, too.  his father before him did the same, many times.  did she, once say to the mirror, “i am the real daughter, the real oldest”, as if to give herself more validity and authority, a greater love, though his first daughter is older than her, and her brother, born after, given more credence in the family, as the first son, the namesake.  boys go into the world and lead.  for girls of a certain time, the world is home and anything outside is madness.  


my grandmother left school after 8th grade she told me once.  she even told me the name of her school and the roads she walked to get there.  i wish i had recorded that; i have forgotten all the names.  i mourn the dust in my mind.  my aunts finished high school.  nearly all of my cousins, men and women, have completed college and several received several graduate degrees.  our children have begun to continue this tradition, now traveling the world in body and through books. 

for hundreds of years, my family’s world was bounded by small communities in puerto rico (cayey, aguas buenas, santurce/cangrejos, rio piedras, trujillo alto).  look at enough scans of church records and you can go back, on one branch or another, to the 1800s, sometimes even before.  it’s when the priests were tracking the baptisms of enslaved peoples, their baptisms a way to prevent them from buying their own freedom since a saved soul was worth more, that my people disappear.  i wouldn’t have been able to identify them assuredly anyway.  most of those baptized received the names joseph and maria. 

joseph and maria in exile, carried there by a ravenous ship instead of the docile donkey.  backs split in cane.

in blackness, we persist even in the resistance to water; in whiteness we toxify.  i sometimes think, is academia a kind of toxifying whiteness?

from archival records i learn that in 1946 my grandmother climbed into the belly of a ship, the marine tiger, with titi who was only 10 months old at the time.  she went out into the world, a world in which she would be seen as white and her husband as black.  their marriage still illegal then.

i am an academic, looking back on school histories and ships.


as i write this at a farm called smoke, my son is 11 months old. 

the farm is about an hour north of seattle.  i am here to teach a workshop, but i find myself living in sense and memory.  i think on art at the museum of the african diaspora in san francisco, far from here while in this ozone-electric place.  a piece in which memories seem to be pressed into sugar that looks like glass panes made of amber.  over time, even in the chill of the museum, inevitably the sugar melts revealing beds, bible pages, scores, rice, patterns erased from moment to moment.  blackness encased in the sugar that enslaves, how it melts away and reveals the freedom and resilience that was always there. 

i am there and here.  i see my life through a melting lens.

smoke rises and dances with spirit. 

in this place, i learn a friend has committed suicide.  he is gone and i ruminate on a world that could not hold him.

this is a performance in living grief.  i look up and see coils of rope. 

am i pressed into caramelized sugar, a broken window pane in a house melting away?

what are the names of the birds that chirp from the hidden boughs beyond the reach of rustic buildings?  robins, wrens, woodpeckers, others. i give over my vision, close my eyes to hear them, distinct in their varying calls.  the air moistens with a slippery shower, visible only when looking into darkness.  i turn my body towards heaters in a barn, a nickle-sized burning chisels into one thigh.

last night, the woods were still and the air crisp. going to and from my cabin, i did not look too deeply into the wooded places on all sides.  i followed a path and, though i took care, occasionally snapped a branch under my boot.  a sudden break in a lesson on silence. 

i am in a place trying to find a dream, trying to find compassion.  a heaviness gripped my chest the night before i arrived. i did not know until i checked an email.  another friend has died by suicide. rd.  who was the first?  for a moment, he had the miracle of suspension in sky from the golden gate bridge. no, there was another before, who i gloried in memory.  how many have i mourned who i never held but whose skin and pulp was mine, too, pierced in bullets?

smoke rises and dances with spirit.  this air is a performance in grief., as in, performance, this is how grief carries itself out, even in the air and earth.  is my grandmother there, dead now five years? is rd? what other ancestors of kith and kin?  i look up again and see coils of rope. 

yesterday it must have been him riding a slow wind, a puff of pollen among so many i saw, and maybe so many of the collected dead.  i thought then, a solstice snow.

solstice opens the gates, right?


i have been thinking on oshun recently. how often others focus on the stories of her beauty, her sensual sway like river water, her laugh like a tinkling bell. still, her words can burn and her laugh can fill a room at the most inappropriate of times. she is over the top and devoted.  recently, a babalao reminded me that oshun reminds us of self-sacrifice. there are pataki that describe her transformation into a bird, who in her rise to the sun, she burns to black, and in her sacrifice she saves the world. over and over, oshun demonstrates her love at the cost of her body, her mind, her children. she saves the world; she is beauty in form and action.

and so, with the distance of time, i ask myself, how do i conjure oshun? how do i learn? i think it must come from titi. 

did you know that oshun wears amber and delights in sweet honey and cane syrup?  is memory the dance of mourning and love that survives long enough to bloom?


there is a moment that i never forget.  i am at my grandmother’s house in the projects in philadelphia. there is the scent of arroz con gandules in the air as there always seems to be in a boricua house.  there are women. titi, my mother, my grandmother.  i have this feeling that my grandfather is there, too, but his form is a shadow at vision’s edge. merengue plays, and titi says to me, “do you know how to dance merengue?  it’s just like walking.  one. two.” and she rises from a patterned couch to dance and then her arms reach down to hold me.  though i cannot walk, i dance, her hands keep me in balance. this was her first generosity. 


at my grandmother’s wake, titi watches me as i watch her.  we perform as grief puppets.  grief wears us in its theater; the human body can only know and inhabit so much before grief takes over.

childhood trauma and uncertainty always squelches emotional profundity in me. though earlier in the day, i had been hours in a fetal position, shaking a bed and a room with weeping, to see me in that moment – it was if i was watching myself on television – you would have thought that a wake was an entirely mundane place and time. i laughed and made jokes, gossiped with family members, and embraced so many gathered.  as in my grandmother’s hospital room, nearly 30 people always around her, moving in shifts, we boricua roll deep.  her body in the casket, there are hundreds of us, buzzing.  the matriarch dead.  titi should be the next matriarch.

i move with lightness at the wake; it could not possibly be a shattering. 

i perform that i have it together.  she performs at the casket, kneels with her hands perfectly clasped, her mother’s body in front of her.  both of us pristine.  lying.  both of us. 


at the funeral of my grandmother, she arrives at the church, just a few blocks from my grandmother’s last home. my brother is there, my male cousins.  they wait for the hearse to arrive so that they can carry a body wrapped in steel.

my other aunt, my father, and uncles gather at the house just those few blocks away to ride in a limousine the funeral parlor has provided.   when titi learns, she calls over and tells them to wait.  she goes to the house.  she, too, must be wrapped in black steel.

my brother and i grumble, she said that she wouldn’t give a dime to this funeral, but she wants to ride in a limousine.  her smile when she realized she could ride. i remember that as she rushed off. 


when i saw my grandmother for the last time, i broke into heavy weeping. i had to be nearly carried away by my brother, my left hand pried from the casket’s rim.

at the repass, titi said, “i was wondering when you were going to break. you were holding it together so long.  you have to let it out.” 

i felt bitter at my breaking.  i felt bitter that she had seen it, that she was right about letting it out.

later she said to me and my sister that we have to keep the family together, that this is what our grandmother would have wanted.  later one of my uncles says the same.  how do you stitch a shard?


at the novena while helping my cousins and one of my aunt’s prepare the repass for after the prayers and song, she comes up behind me, grabs my ass with both hands, lifts it up and shakes.  “reinita, you look good with a little weight.”  she compliments its size and roundness and then she moves on to do something else.  my bodily violation nothing.  my worth and sovereignty nothing.  there is a knife in my hand and suddenly there is someone in front of me, who can see my mind empty, how my hand grips so quickly. i don’t know who it was who was brave and stepped between us.  i only remember that there was a body between us.  that is enough for sense to return. it is my grandmother’s novena.  the first day.  all of the elders take their seats.  i sit on the stairs with my older sister, who is not supposed to be real.  we sing and pray from a prayer sheet.  it crunches.  is that the sugar or the freedom?  i am surprised that i know most of the words and melodies from a time i can’t clearly remember when my grandmother’s voice would rise until mine joined her in spanish.

later, titi reminds me how we used to rest, my brother and i, on either side of my grandmother when we were very little.  and in her story, i remember the rose powder smell of my grandmother, as i nestled under her arm, and she read me the bible. this is a generosity, so i forgive titi the violation of my body.


how quickly we forgive when trauma teaches you to not forgive is to eat your own body.


“for someone you don’t like, you talk a lot about your aunt,” my husband says once.

until he did, i had not thought about it.  it’s true; i’ve been thinking about why for years.


when i was confirmed, i took the name esther, completing the homage to my mother’s mother, queen ester, in my name.  i asked titi to be my sponsor.  first, it was because it was convenient. she only lived a few blocks away and already attended our church.  no need for the bureaucracy of catholic paperwork.  no need for a letter of upstanding status in the church; she attended the mid-morning Sunday mass, nearly always in the same pew, either a few rows back in the right wing or a few rows back on the nave’s right. perhaps this was always to be “to the right” of the altar, if not at the right hand of the father or father priest presiding.

looking back now, i realize, that i also wanted her to love me, to show love to me in a way that wasn’t barbed with expectations for my behavior as a woman, as boricua, as black. i wanted her to love me as an extension of pure faith. i wanted an amazing grace.  i wanted her to love me in the way i needed to be loved:  for some aspect of me that was authentic to me, my wants, my needs. 

in the ceremony, i do remember her being proud, her face made rosy under the lights.  the archbishop himself was there to proclaim me confirmed in christ, remade in a new authority in the church with a name i chose for myself. her hand rested on my right shoulder as we reaffirmed baptismal vows, the ones made on my behalf by parents and godparents. this time, my sponsor would say them with me. my voice with hers with god and spirit.  i remember feeling hollow, eager for an awe that never came.  i knew, even then, that the way she showed love would never be what i wanted or imagined.

if i could teach my younger self, i would say to study the ways that she showed love already; that’s what i do often now.

as a mother, i look back on another woman who offered me mothering in her own way, who taught me how to be in how i learned to resist her molding.  i had to determine my own truth, not follow her or any other without compass.


is this world a madness?  i am not at home when i learn of rd, when i write this essay in memory and sense, an essay on grief and compassion.  mad world.  i weep in kindness for titi, our relationship complex.  i am in the world, of the world.  i suppose i am locura. feminist through the sacrifice of the body.  anti-blackness and patriarchy are vipers within my blood; i have to check them often.  how they enchant with their syrupy attractions. 


has titi always been walking osun in yellowed and ripped clothes? am i the child that was lost?  i feel myself worshipping memory, stuck in a sugar-like tar that never really melts away.  what is freedom?  is there a peek of it in this history and want?












© The Acentos Review 2020