Christine Jean Blain
Music Lesson for Beginners
women in my family said I walked like drums,
said that my footsteps were the rumble and rupture of a velvet sky.
They said the earth moaned and creaked when I moved,
that the sound of my bass outweighed the lull of my sax.
And even though I tried to make my thunder whisper
still, on holy days they’d gather and pray me quiet.
Bowed their heads and hummed hymns in petition to the patron saints of silence.
Told me that this body was cacophony
and if I ever wanted God to bless me pretty
I needed to soften the crescendo
between my waist and hips,
pull straight my curves and flatten my bulge,
so I muted my melody.
Bound my drum section in grandmas’ girdles
and squeezed my music into notes too small
to hold the jazz of me.
I learned to hide the swell of blue note
in the bones of corsets
laced too tight to let in beat
The Ending Passage
We took boats because it was getting harder to breathe under water.
Birthing miracles through embargoes
left bellies filled with sea and salt and sand.
These hands, shackled by history, brought freedom to your shores.
How you dare speak of ‘Anchor Children’
to the descendants of cargo.
You must have confused stolen with stow away,
just as you have mistaken reprieve for forgiveness.
You do not understand silence is not forgetfulness.
This hurricane is reckoning.
This earthquake is resurrection.
We took boats because
when the devil invades your home,
the last place he will expect to find you
is in his.
Christine Jean Blain is an educator, writer and performer. She is a former writer in residence at Hedgebrook as well as a co-founder of Dubai Speak Easy, a women’s poetry and performance collective. Her work can be found in African Voices magazine; SUKOON magazine; the poetry anthology A Limed Jewel; and Michael July’s photographic collection Afros: A Celebration of Natural Hair. Christine is originally from Brooklyn, NY; a recent resident of the UAE, she is currently on a one-year sabbatical, nomad-ing her way through Haiti and Ghana, volunteering, teaching, and learning as she goes.