Tiana Clark


After watching the music video

I, too, want to be naked,                    zebra-striped
in the almost dried accountant’s blood,                          sticky
and sucking                          a fat blunt inside a Louis Vuitton
suitcase brimming                               with the newest money.

This                        is another way to see myself, too,
in the way Rihanna                 nooses           a white woman     up
by her smooth feet, a blue-blooded pendulum      swaying
as her beautiful tits             look more perfect than ever.

Why did that image excite me so?   No,          not the tits,
but the simulated lynching.                               It feels so damn
delicious                to say bitch.     Bitch better/bitch better have
my money inside my mouth.              I hate it when people

talk about black artists                        being capitalists.
Why can’t we thrive in something rich and green too?  And let us
be loud about it? Let us be loud         without consequence.
Remember, when we were dating? I wanted you      to pay

for every meal, and yes, the movies taught me that love—
was someone reaching for the check         first.
But there is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone
has to pay      with the fruit from their body.     Yeah, I’m spreading

my legs       for someone else, because I’m hungry     and always
at end of some kind of altar.  Even now, I’m paying   for my doctor
to reach and scrape inside me     to say              I don’t have cancer.
She tells me            I need to start thinking about babies

because of my age.            I think, Bitch…      I’m not ready.
There will always        be tithes and offerings. At my church,
they called it first fruits.            My mother gave me quarters
and as a kid                          I waited for the clink at the bottom

of the bucket being passed. I believed God heard this too.
Somewhere   someone is counting the cash behind a velvet curtain.
Once, a boy said, suck it, bitch            with his heavy, dense hand
at the back of my head              pushing. Pushing              is

another way to mean         pay me what you owe me. I didn’t forget.
Yeah, I see the total            at the bottom of the receipt.
I have so much       debt.
!200!I am forever        in the wettest red.


Tiana Clark is the author of the poetry chapbook Equilibrium, selected by Afaa Michael Weaver for the 2016 Frost Place Chapbook Competition. She is the winner of the 2016 Academy of American Poets Prize and 2015 Rattle Poetry Prize. Tiana is currently an MFA candidate and teaching assistant at Vanderbilt University where she serves as Poetry Editor for Nashville Review. Her writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from Rattle, Best New Poets 2015, Crab Orchard Review, Southern Indiana Review, The Adroit Journal, Muzzle Magazine, Thrush Poetry Journal, The Offing, and elsewhere. Tiana received the Tennessee Williams scholarship to The Sewanee Writers' Conference. You can find her online at tianaclark.com.
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