Nailah Mathews



here are your brown palms on chipped bowls sealed with gum
and filled with glittering blue beads.
here is a spray of rain and coconut to unravel the weaving
on the scalp of the girl between your knees in front of the radio.
with oil, the unraveling happens within the hour
there is no without. unraveling cannot be done dry,
unraveling cannot be done quietly or quickly;
not when the raveling occurs in fried chicken on front porches
collards and potato salad at the children’s table
paper cups for rum and punch and grown folks
dancing cheek to cheek
ceiling fans, no air conditioning, gum popping
eyes rolling, and music like a stain
seeping into the furniture, into the braids
no. unraveling cannot be done quickly or quietly
or in the morning, or without rest,
or without water.
here is the river of your girlhood
and your pocketful of throwing stones
your brown calves in the drinking water.
here is Time hooking its fingers under the horizon and holding
the riverbank after a generation of stillness
a little nile, an infant flood, drowning on itself in the wild
and the house yellow as your sister and her children
providing no shelter in the summer from the Lord’s blind spot
while white men watch calves curve at the knee to bend brown hands
into the drinking water.
here are your two hands and your black face in the river
baby fat on your cheeks calling you
alligator bait. here is your mouth spitting watermelon
seeds because your mother told you if you swallowed them
you’d grow a melon in your belly.
here is your legacy of blood and survival
making ripples in the drinking water.

NAILAH MATHEWS is a nonbinary Black poet to whom books and black lives matter, who aspires to be as kind to every stranger as they would be to a lost child. Their work has been featured in Tilde~A Literary Journal, Lucky Jefferson, Passenger Journal, and the Black Lesbian Literary Collective among others. They can be reached at for inquiries.