The Black Feminine Mystique

There is something inscrutable about you,
Maybe because you’re a Lady of a Thousand Faces.
Just when I think I know you, you throw me for a loop.
I shouldn’t presume to know the secrets of the sisterhood,
Should simply take pleasure in your inscrutability,
Not mistake it for a personality disorder.
This Bard is no pop psychologist.
When my senses are overwhelmed by messages and cues,
Make me question the myriad myths of Madison Avenue.
There’s no disputing taste, so it is said,
But I must question the “indisputable,” I must protest.
Why should myth‑makers have the last word?
It’s tragic that even you have bought into this,
Have looked to the pages of Vogue to remake yourself
In her idealized image.

I know: it’s hard to think of yourself as beautiful
When you were thrown into the holds of slave ships,
When you were sold on auction blocks as chattel.
I know: it’s hard to think of yourself as beautiful
When you were treated like a beast of burden,
When your body became bloated from breeding.
I know: it’s hard to think of yourself as beautiful
When you were unable and couldn’t dress the part,
When it was dangerous to draw attention to yourself.
I know: it’s hard to think of yourself as beautiful
When your man chased the offspring of the master,
Preferring her lighter skin to your darker one.
Your divinity is a distant memory;
Even you have forgotten.

You were a bronze goddess whose image was tarnished.
You were rescued from the scrap heap of history
And polished to the point where you shined even brighter.
The collective unconscious reminds you of the huts
Of history’s shame.
Yes, you’ve come a long way, baby —
One of the few things Madison Avenue got right.
From auction blocks to international runways,
From caricatures to cover girls much in demand —
You are once again being honored as a goddess of beauty,
Turning heads and transforming the fashion world.
Isn’t it ironic that formerly anoretic models
Whom you tried to remake yourself into are now emulating you?
Receiving collagen injections because they lust for your
Luscious full lips;
Wearing padded posteriors, designer derrieres, to approximate
Your buttocks and heavenly Hottentot hips.

Even on the auction blocks,
Where you were shamelessly on sale,
You retained your regal bearing and grace.
Even in the slave quarters,
Where the master owned your body but not your soul,
You let your man know that he possessed your heart.
Even when you birthed children conceived in rape,
You knew the survival of the species was at stake.
Even cruel caricatures could not conceal
Your allure, your attractiveness, your appeal.
Even though your features were ridiculed,
The ridiculers desired a rendezvous with you.
There is something inscrutable about all of this,
Which has nothing to do with your mystique.

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About ezwaters

Award-winning poet, playwright and writer. Author of three books of poetry, "Black Shadows and Through the White Looking Glass: Remembrance of Things Past and Present"; "Sometimes Blue Knights Wear Black Hats"; "The Black Feminine Mystique," and a novel, "Streets of Rage." All four books are available on Amazon.com.
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