In the weeks before I left the abusive relationship with my ex, there were days where I couldn’t breathe because I didn’t feel like a being anymore. I had lost myself completely in a world that simultaneously alienated me. In that community, I was one of (maybe) two black people, and so constantly tasked with assuaging the guilt of the white people around me, assuring them they weren’t racist. While I had maintained a connection to my blackness, I would often have to shelf it for the comfort of those around me, and for my own safety. Any critique was labeled “identity politics” are worse, betrayal.
I was recently in a situation where I was made to feel like the outsider in a pristine, white reality. Casting a hurried goodbye over my shoulder, I left shaking and wondering where in Pittsburgh can black people truly be ourselves? Where in the world do I find my people? Is there a way to escape or re-imagine this reality?
When I get asked to do readings, I am often the only black poet in the space, and I find myself doing on the spot edits in order to make my work less confrontational, or more palatable to the audience. I’ve been working with a therapist on not performing this labor anymore, and it has made me reflect on how often I deny myself the right to exist in a full and realized capacity. Black women especially are taught to carry the burdens and feelings of everyone else around us without paying any mind to where our needs lie.
I’m tired of carrying and biting my tongue
tired of having to be polite before I am myself
tired of being swallowed and silenced.
I think this was the driving force behind creating Fig Widow. Going back to the story of Anansi, I think black people have had a kinship to spiders, As a writer, I can’t help but see the connection between poets and arachnids. Orb weavers are some of the greatest artists that exist in this universe; the deliberate nature with which they move is a testament to how we choose our words. No space, no energy wasted. As I watch my tarantula Della move around her enclosure tonight, I’m chilled and in awe of how her limbs move as individuals acting on the part of the whole. They seem to have their own direction in mind but they know exactly where to take her. To food, to water, to shelter. Figs, to me, are sex and abundance. Fertility. A wealth of small things that create a rich and textured experience. They are so tied to my understanding of sensuality and sexuality, but also to my growth as an writer and a woman.
Fig Widow. Giving it a name, getting this tattoo on my body, is about bringing things to fruition. About taking space in my hands and willing it to suit me.
I hope to spotlight more black poets, more lesbian fiction writers, more women in art with this project and this new chapter in my life.
See y’all in June
-Dani & Della