A few weeks ago, I received a call from my sister in spirit Daaiyah Salaam. Daaiyah and I attended college together at Georgia Southern University (the real GSU) and were engaged in a number of social and cultural organizations. At the top of the list was the Black Student Alliance. Daaiyah served as President of the organization while I was content to deal in the more creative endeavors—like hosting the bi-weekly spoken word sessions we called “Esoteric”. Dig it.
The nature of sista Daaiyah’s phone call was one of nostalgia. She said she wanted to read something to me. She began reciting this poem that seemed vaguely familiar. It wasn’t until about two stanzas in that I realized she was reading my words!!!! We got a great laugh as we reminisced about Esoteric and our coming into consciousness about our femininity, sexuality, and identities as black women. The poem was a manifesto of that consciousness.
I recalled the moment that inspired the poem. I was 21, a college graduate, and preparing for my sojourn to attend grad school at UCLA. It was summer. I arrived at a family gathering wearing hip hugging bell-bottom jeans that had come back in style. This was a change from the big, baggy, TLC-inspired wardrobe that had become my signature when I left for college. My adult cousin Joy spotted me first. “Daaaaang, girl. Look at you! Coke Bottle,” she taunted.
I was well aware of my full hips and up until that point, I had been severely self-conscious of them. But something changed while I was at GSU. I had discovered Nikki Giovanni’s poem, “Ego-Tripping” and had also discovered that these hips weren’t going any where. I had also discovered what my mother meant when she said, “Nobody wants a bone but a dog,” to my 14 year old self to assure me that my curvy figure was nothing to be ashamed of. Of course, I wrote about it.
Hearing the words of my twenty-something self reminded me how important it is to have a healthy self-image and to love all of one’s self. Celebrate it, even! I share this poem, inspired by and dedicated to Nikki G. and Joy S. Jones, as a reminder to us all that we can and should create our own aesthetics.
Coke Bottle (9.8.2001)
Please excuse the conceit
I have a body that’s bangin’ and I want you
To dance to my beat
Never tall and skinny
Enough thigh bone to fill out that mini
Round brown thang
So much sexy I make the sweetest man sang
Mama passed down everything she had
But, she was modest . . . me? I know I’m bad!
All the men stare in awe
Such a lovely sight, even with my many flaws
Among the sistas, I’m an object of envy
Not to worry girls, we all have plenty
Full, silky, soup-coolin’ lips
Jalapeno-pepper, collard green and cornbread hips
Skin dipped in honey so you know I’m delicious
So much booty you can chew it up and blow like bubblicious
Check out my coke bottle figure and Miss America smile
I walk in a room and brothers ask me to have they chile
Slender, shapely legs that will work the hell outta a pair of heels
28 inch waist and a stomach so flat you’d swear I skip meals
Almond joy eyes and licorice lashes
Only a handful of “tatas” but enough to keep my man off those other girls asses
Fly girl supreme
Giving adolescent boys wet dreams
Luscious, succulent brown sugar thighs
Light me up and I guarantee the contact will make you high
All eyes on me like that chic Carmen Jones
Gotta have junk in the trunk because only a dog wants a bone
I’m fine like your grand-daddy’s sweet aged wine
You may choose to disagree — that’s perfectly alright because I still look good to me
Don’t need Cosmo’s, Allure’s or Seventeen’s approval
It’s those societal norms and standards of beauty that need urgent removal
So again I ask that you please forgive my vanity
I’m in love with myself because trying to look like Barbie would drive me to insanity