in my house, care was not and could not be a “how.” it was a given. it was not work. we learned that love was thing we forget to see, thing we lock away and do not tend. mama fell into what she thought was love before she was grown enough to know the sound of eulogy, before loss crawled up and started gnawing at the spine. dad talked a lot and took up space and to be a black girl so enamored is to perhaps forget yourself until you are forty and looking back like what is care and how is care and who.
our house is full of lots of things. we throw nothing away. mama collects to make herself feel full and i learned to collect too. this is not care [is there care in here?]. that dress you kept cause maybe you might fit again, maybe you might shrink yourself to fit[forget] again will not save you from the storm that’s coming. storm that will force you to stand face to face with your own flesh and kin.
our house is full of taylors port. dad drinks like water, like drinking coolaid brewed just right for summer. i learn to avoid too. it is subconscious/unconscious. how cansexcanfoodcanmedia fill up that space where i am scared of song and singing. this is not care. [is there care in here?]
when i was ten, my stepmom taught me how to find makeup to match my skin. she showed me too how to make my hair a thing tamed with burning hot combs straight from the stove. she taught me how to fill in eyebrows and how to pluck the hairs from your chin so you don’t look too much like a man. she taught me how to wrap the pad in paper before you throw it in the trash. and how to never give your most sacred prize to any man. [this is not care. is there care in here?]
on my thirteenth birthday my stepdad taught me how to make sweet plantain. oil in the pan these hands make breathe make breath. make room so each piece can live by itself, can cook, can become. by my sixteenth birthday, my stepdad’s parents had died across an ocean and a dream. my stepdad had died too. this morning i am hoping that his heaven resembles something of Lagos. this morning i made sweet plantain and thought of him and thought of care. and of what it means to feed the self.
for our mother care is collecting, is storing things so maybe when the storm comes she can raise up her things like here. like here, may i be worth the world. may i be whole. may i be.
for our father, care is forgetting. so when the storm comes he can say i don’t remember the sin. i don’t remember. i am clean and whole and whole.
what is care for me?
this is an ode to black girls who are figuring out what care means for them
this is a thank you to you for your radical rising this morning
for the food you made for yourself
for the shea butter you rubbed on your feet
for the oil you combed through your hair
for the sex you had that made you know your abundance
for the art you make that teaches you how to stand up
taller; may you learn in spite of and through your many teachers.