I wanted to write one of those think pieces about Beyonce’s film Lemonade, something analytical and incontrovertible that would draw from all the history that I know, from all the stories in my blood.
I wanted to tell you what I thought in a way that would make you understand why it has meant so much to so many black women; why it made us cry and rejoice and call our girlfriends and sit on the phone in silence. I wanted to tell you what it meant.
I wanted to tell you about the references I saw, about all the goddesses that were there who I am just beginning to know. I wanted to tell you about all the black women whose books you should read if you didn’t get it when you saw it the first time, or the second.
I wanted to go sit at the graves of Gale, and Lily, and Garma, and Amelia and Yolande. I wanted to cradle the urn with my father’s ashes and tell him I forgive him and ask him to forgive me. I made notes. I scribbled pages. I wanted to write a think piece.
But I did this instead:
How We Get Over
1. Try to scratch out the voice that buzzes in your ear. Burn black sage bush. Feel it drown out your breath. Hear the voice get louder and become a weight in your chest.
2.Use your fingers to prise your chest open to remove the buzzing. Curl your fingers under your sternum and root around. Feel that it has moved from your chest to your throat to your belly.
3.Put on your yellow-gold dress and dance, gleeful and beautiful and terrifying. Sit at Her altar and let her show you the meaning of bitter sweetness. Dance your dance and step lightly over river stones. Feel her waters rush out of your mouth.
4. Rage. Bathe in it. Scream its name. Use your weapons – teeth, voice, nails, pussy, heart. Spill blood and rend skin and let the four winds take them. Watch the wind of your rage take houses, uproot trees. Be consumed. Laugh.
5. Fling yourself from the edge of yourself and go to the sea, your first mother. Let Her drown, strip, starve and silence you. Let Her salt your skin and show you which way to go. Follow.
6. Sleep. Do not think of his hands. Do not think of his mouth. Burrow your body in the earth where your dead are. Wrap yourself in their bloated skin and lipless smiles. Know that they are not there; they are elsewhere but with you still. Grow talons. Sprout roots from your hair. Let earth make a home in your pussy.
7. Emerge. Gather your mother’s cutlass. Your father’s eyeglasses. Your grandmother’s cast iron pot. Your grandfather’s watch. Find Vetiver root. Braid the roots and adorn your body. Wrap your wrists, your ankles, your hair with root and remember what you forgot.
8. Drink the firewater. Say to him and to yourself:
“I will swallow this whole sea of grief. I see you and know you. I see you from so far that I remember the you that you do not yet know.”
Let him scrape the earth from your pussy. Let him do the holy work that saves him. Know you must save yourself.
9. Go to your kin. You know the place. It is where the women that birthed you, the women that birthed them, and the women you are yet to birth are waiting. Lay your pain and your power at their feet. Touch their hands. Listen. They say, “We know. We swallowed the sea too. See? Salt still stains our throats.”
10. Take the hand of the girl they give to you. Together, go back. Know there is now salt-tinged fire in your throat.