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January 9, 2020 Poetry

Two Poems

Briana Campbell

Two Poems photo

Triple Sonnet to my Harriet Tubman 20 

I want my Harriet Tubman 20, 
so I can walk my Black ass
into a Southern Mississippi
gas station, buy myself Zapp’s 
voodoo chips, pralines, and a cold coke,
walk straight up to that clerk 
with a camo hat and tell him real 
cool 15 on pump 4 like I don’t see 
the confederate flag 
out front, clanking against
its metal pole. He’s gonna look
at Harriet looking at him, 
like she might just run
out of his cash register. 

I want my Harriet Tubman 20 
so that I can give it to my first baby
when they’re old enough. Imma 
let them run around a toy store 
with Harriet in their hands 
and tell them whatever they want 
that Harriet can buy is their’s 
and it could be a butterfly princess 
doll with purple hair or three decks 
of fancy playing cards or a shiny 
red toy truck or a Chinese checkers 
board with little balls that will roll
all over my good floor. I won’t tell 
my baby to slow up. 

I want my Harriet Tubman 20 
so I can walk to the soul food
spot right out of downtown, 
order me chicken fried steak,
swimming in gravy. Once that food 
good and heavy in the Styrofoam, 
Imma to hand her a 20 with a Black 
woman on it. We gonna hold onto 
Harriet from the opposite sides
of the bill, looking at her creased 
face, spotted bonnet, stiff 
upper lip, realizing for the first time, 
we could be running through 
the printing press, green as ever. 


Ode to the Lunch Lady

She is the only black face you get to see
today and she sure is familiar,
hot combed curls up in a black net,
fingers like freshly rolled cigars;
her great grandmother’s
biscuit and gravy recipe the only thing
keeping this cafeteria alive
and a big ole Hey, Baby
when you walk through the door.
Ain’t nothing like when she
calls you baby, when she tells you
that dress real pretty now, and
I like the way you done up that hair,
when she gives you a hug like
you’re a goddaughter or a church sister
and puts a little extra honey
on your cornbread. It tastes like
a homecoming, sounding just like
an auntie from the Georgia-Alabama
line who made mac and cheese and saved
a crispy edge for you and collards
with neck bones, yellow grits,
candied yams so sweet they
cuddle up to you like a
field kitten and your uncle say,
Oooo boy, don’t she know how to cook.



image: Doug Paul Case