Excerpt from These Women by Nikki Giovanni


This poem appear3 in our Fall 2013 Print Issue and is available for download in Kindle format.

I have known these women
Have loved and admired them
Have been afraid of and for them

I have slept on lumpy double beds
That were covered with quilts
Made by these women and their friends
Washed in a communal tub
And dried with kisses from the Tennessee breeze
The dreams I have dreamed under those quilts
Took me on this journey not yet completed

I have sat with these women
On back porch steps
Gutting Catfish or Whiting
My knife flying up and down
Split exactly to the center the better to lay flat
In the hot grease of the skillet

My hair covered in fish scales
My hands covered with blood
My lips smiling as I have been welcomed
Into the company of women

My grandmother would let me
Break the green beans
Pop pop pull the string though
When guests were expected she
Would “French” them
That was a kitchen job

Saturday was a cleaning day
I have bent to my knees to scrub
The wooden pantry floor
And climbed on shaky chairs
To Pledge the cabinets in which are kept the good dishes

Sundays were Sunday School and Church
Our Sunday best clothes
Our deliverance from and to
Sunday was the answer
I did not know then
The question

Nikki GiovanniPOET NIKKI GIOVANNI was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, on June 7, 1943. Although she grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, she and her sister returned to Knoxville each summer to visit their grandparents. Nikki graduated with honors in history from her grandfather’s alma mater, Fisk University. Since 1987, she has been on the faculty at Virginia Tech, where she is a University Distinguished Professor. To learn more about Nikki, visit: http://www.nikki-giovanni.com/bio

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