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Friday Feature: Ajanaé Dawkins



Ajanaé Dawkins is an interdisciplinary poet, performance artist, and theologian. She writes about her matrilineage to explore the politics of faith, grief, the intimacy of relationships, and sensuality. She has work published or forthcoming in The Rumpus, Prairie Schooner, the Indiana Review, Frontier Poetry, The BreakBeat Poets Black Girl Magic Anthology, and more. Ajanaé is the winner of the Tinderbox Poetry Journal’s Editors Prize, a finalist for the Cave Canem Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize, and a finalist for the Brett Elizabeth Jenkins poetry prize. She was the Taft Museum’s 2022 Duncanson Artist in Residence and is a fellow of Torch Literary Arts, The Watering Hole, and Pink Door. Ajanaé is currently a co-host of the VS Podcast, Ohio State University’s UAS Community Artist-in-Residence, and the Theology Editor for the EcoTheo Review. You can find her in the middle of the dance floor, skate rink,  local winery, library, karaoke night, or in her kitchen cooking something slow. Visit Ajanaé's website and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.



Alene’s Monologue 

Excerpt from, Where Black Girls Go, a one-woman show.

 

I got grown and thought I’d be a woman forever. Then, I became a mother and a grandmother and people forgot at some point I was a girl. Your body stew enough children, leak enough milk, have enough babies pressed to the titty and people think that’s all you ever been. A mother. A dutiful wife and then widow. A surgical blade across the abdomen for the third child and felt like a sharper one at my neck when my husband died. My daughters think I was born this way. My daughters look me in the eye with my own eyes and can’t see I’m a woman. They think they invented late nights and dance floors and the eye you give a man you got plans for. Hell, they think they invented feeling good. I try to tell them ain’t nothing new under the moon but who can borrow memory?

 

Against my body’s present failures, I hold the past up to the light. My knee acts up and I recall the tingle of recklessness under my younger skin. How on occasion, mid-dance, the music would rise right up in my body and carry me away to some gentleman’s home. Oh, the way we lied to our mommas about where we’d been and why our roots were honey-thick. Lied right through our teeth to our mommas.

 

I was a late bloomer so I was 19 the first time, me and my best friend snuck out to the club. I told my momma we were going to the picture show and back to her parent's house to study. We went to the club and we danced until our feet rehearsed aging. We were liquored up, and our perms were fresh, and we were smelling ourselves. We didn’t have money and taxis were slow so we hitchhiked to a second club.

(Of course, you can’t do this anymore but we stuck our

thumbs out until they were stiff with cold.)

 

And, this fine man picked us up. Skin, clean and brown as new leather and the whitest teeth I’ve ever seen. Definitely older than us at the time. He had a joint hanging from his lip and offered us some. I had never tried reefer but, why not? I puffed in that passenger seat until I was so far away from my body, I could see my hair curling up in my kitchen like springs. I puffed until I was laughing so hard the teeth fell out all his jokes…until my pulse, his smile, and the music in the stereo were all on the same beat. It was around 4 am when I got home and my momma slapped me clean across my face when I lied about falling asleep studying for finals. She slapped me so hard that I think even she forgot she had been a woman before she was my momma.



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Torch Literary Arts is a 501(c)3 nonprofit established to publish and promote creative writing by Black women. We publish contemporary writing by experienced and emerging writers alike. Programs include the Wildfire Reading Series, writing workshops, and retreats.

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