Notes On Loving A Black Man

Taylor Steele



When he leaves the house, know he may not come back.
If he comes back, know he may not be whole.
Knowing this will not make you any readier for either.


When a bullet is the only thing that grounds him
Enough to weather the hands of porcelain,
Glass shards full with promise, lily torn from womb,
Remember, a bullet has never made a happy hymn
Of Black skin.

And “grounded” here means dead,
The way Black skin means dead,
And dead means nothing to porcelain, glass, lily

But the inconvenience of a fallen tree limb on the way to the grocery store.


It’s World War IV.
The President is still our President.
He livestreams himself singing nursery rhymes
About democracy, so we hum it
At work not noticing, so we
Tuck our children in night,
That they grow up unafraid to bear buds of dusk,
Knowing someone will burn the tree they fell from,
They are the tree.
That song just be so stuck in their heads—


Oh, how well-oiled the rig is!
Hear that whistle a-blowin’?
Better get off the train tracks!

It’s not that he doesn’t hear the whistle a-blowin—
This is not a place to tie your shoes!
Or fix your tie!—
Or loose that noose—
Oh, how well-oiled the rig is!
Hear that whistle a-blowin’?—
It’s not that he doesn’t hear the whi—
Better get off the tracks, boy!
Better get off the train tracks!
Better get off the tracks.


There is an empty vessel, let’s call it a ship,
Mooring itself Titanic in the valley between my lungs and pelvis.
Metal, iron, steel.
That is to say, it is a heavy thing.
How my spleen wriggles around it like plankton, fighting
To exist; how my liver—
With its inheritance—Collapses
Into itself, thinking “I am already obsolete.”

This vessel, however empty, will not let me fill it
With his love or the love of my mother.
It just
Sits there,

Everyone’s punchline
A cemetery.


To love a Black man is to be at war with yourself,
Which is to say, you be at war with war,
Be militia, tank, be child before the tank,
Be mother before the child, be sky
Watching with its tears, be earth keeping the war afloat,
Be not the thing that will keep him safe.

TAYLOR STEELE has recently received her BA from The New School University, graduating with Departmental Honors in Cultural and Screen Studies. A born urbanite, Taylor can’t help but be a product of corner stores, open fire hydrants, and concrete playgrounds. As spoken word poet and writer she has competed on both a national and local level, including the Collegiate Union Poetry Slam Invitational of 2010 and 2011, has been published on Thought Catalog, and has written and recorded with M-1 of Dead Prez. As a screenwriter she has written under the tutelage of such illustrious screenwriters and filmmakers as Laurie Collyer (Sherrybaby) and Caveh Zahedi (The Sheik and I). She is now a member of the new spoken word collective, “The Red Ribbon Army.” Through such malleability, she makes it her business to write about politics of the body, especially in regards to race, class, gender, and love and self-actualization.

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