Selected Published Poems Archive for Mendi Lewis Obadike

Tell me this is because we remember long

We are in Santiago, in La Zurza. You look pure Atlanta. Mine
Not just your skin and hair, also the borrowed baggy tee, the
Morehouse cap, crooked in the middle--a gift.

I want this to be black: You thank me for a favor. I answer:
"Para servirle." You tell me: "You sound Dominican. Americans say:
It's nothing. You say: To serve you, like us."

Your sandy voice, rubbing against itself, is home. But what of this?
"A la orden." "Para servirle." You hear your roots in my soil.
I have a foot-washing Baptist's mouth. Your speak is a seed in it.

Tell me our mothers chose this way, this humbling
Of self before sister. Tell me no memory shackles our tongues
And this rite is older than chains.

© Mendi Lewis Obadike
published in the Cave Canem 5th Year Anthology, 2001
forthcoming in Dialogue Among Civilizations Through Poetry, UN Anthology, 2001

The (textbook) stated quite explicitly that if your emergency room patient was a black woman, medical personnel could expect her to be overweight, wearing a wig...screaming, and hysterical beyond a "reasonable" measure of her pain and discomfort" - Karla FC Holloway*

to the doctor on the tee vee

I believe in rods and cones, but i have known
each time this sin covered me: your eyes, illiterate

on my skin, i believe in microscopes, white coats.
i have known your hands to heal, but for me

it is the blowing box, a forcefield, obscuring, i believe
in distance and shade. i have known the screen

to shield me from a wounded, worthless trust. i hold
my hands up to it, now, your pixelated face.

go on, heal me. i know you can do it.
i believe in you. just don't look.

*from Holloway's Codes of Conduct: Race, Ethics and the Color of Our Character

© Mendi Lewis Obadike
published on, Spring 2001, feature on Carolina African American Writersí Collective

what her ear could tell you

mornings, it is low and most revealing.
it creaks, if cold, until covered. it loves sunlight,
the blue of open sky, it loves heat.

that is to say it wants to be naked. hear itself
loosed on the wind. out of shame, maybe, out of
modesty or habit, it cloaks.

it won't set a thing straight. you won't
know if it tells you what you want to know.
you can't trust a voice like that.

© Mendi Lewis Obadike
published at MonkeyBread, 2000


trouble calls before dropping by, a yellow
mumble in the ribs, a sweating orchard

in the night, a pulsing funk beneath
the tonugue. you can smell it (if your ears

are open) smell it, like a dog smells
earthquakes. kissing your neck, it licks

at your lobes, tonguing your name. whispering
your fears. itís a rolling ball, wide

as your motherís wish. you will know
when itís coming, but it canít be stopped.

© Mendi Lewis Obadike
from the Sour Thunder, 1998
published on, 2000

steel case of my armor

one dusk,
i broke silence
and its code
between us

one night i found the words
to name the difference.

i knew then,
we had both been alone
and suspicious.

© Mendi Lewis Obadike
from the Sour Thunder, 1998, with Keith Obadike
published as audio piece in Collective JukeBox, 2001

slicks down thirst

your need for me, unimagined.
is like a blade of grass you hold,
shivering between your knuckles
to blow through.

it shocks when it sounds
slicks down thirst
with snap-on magic.

all of a sudden
this almost always
must have been.

© Mendi Lewis Obadike
from the Sour Thunder, 1998, with Keith Obadike
published as audio piece in Collective JukeBox, 2001

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