BY CAMARA BROWN
In my family, women shred men like ginger.
Rub until all that is left is a gush so pungent
it could choke you better than any man.
Mom learned how at just fourteen.
Now she knows how to work the old skin
from a root, how to pull it across the plate
like it’s a carpet, but I don’t get it yet.
Mom says, drag any man across this sharp plate.
She grabs the ginger from me, pins it to the grater,
gnaws it down like it’s a man’s wandering hand.
She says this is better than shooting him.
Mom is muscled, chiseled, and I glimpse
her broad back, jerking elbow. Nothing like a black
woman’s night sweat skin that men can’t resist
touching, but men only really love her cooking.
They say she always puts her foot in it.
If only they knew, if only they knew what
goes into everything she cooks. Every man’s fist
to her fourteen-year-old jaw. My mom’s neighbor
numbing her thighs. His sensitive fingernails.
Every man’s claw. His hand on hips, his crooked
kiss down chest. Every man’s thrust. His Get me
some damn food, girl. His dirty carpet.
And he says, You’ll never be strong enough
to fight back. Over the ginger, we pretend.
I can see Mom squirm and drag and drag her rapist
across the plate like he’s just torn ginger.
She is all night-smoothed skin. All Detroit twitch.
All power hips. All stronger than they are.