for ntozake

        i spoke your words / 1976 / toasted
whiskey in my mouth / burnt
flowers in my throat / your words

       amber on my lips / chocolate mint
on my tongue / i imbibed
embodied / ensouled your life

       the joy you lost / the goddess
you found eight times a week
for two years / so long

       that toward the end of the run
i thought: god / if i have to say
these lines even one more time…

       when the last curtain fell
i was thunderstruck / exhausted
relieved / lost / i began to write

       seems lifetimes since i saw you
barefoot on manhattan streets / your
mouth a plum flower / present

       on my blue lips / your head covered
in gamboge cotton then / resembles mine
now / you graze my cheek / dangle

       from my thirteen earrings / your
tourmaline pierces my nostril
your music / sixteen silver

       bracelets on my left wrist / in
the swish and sway
of my long skirts / much like

       the lady in purple dress
i wore / the lady in orange
dress you wore / butter-colored

       girl you bloomed in spotlight
like orchids at my bedside bloom
in filtered sun / in moonbows

       one night / i called to hear
your voice / silent when you spoke / heard
a shadow cross your

       light / darkness repelled
and drew me / you confessed attempts
at suicide / i stood back

       i regret not coming closer
to your manic phases / dark flights
cacoethes to which genius

       poets are predisposed / you
pushed poems from womb
to world / breast-pumped poems

       to press
poems to paper through pen / i
see you now as i saw you

       then / ravenous thighs / hips
rumblin’ spanish harlem
to upper west side / your one sad

       one hopeful eye / raucous laughter
troubled brow / exquisite language
slightly garbled speech

       insouciant / savoir faire
head thrown back
i know what to do to a man

       i wish the ones you loved could’ve
loved you / stayed / ridden your highs
lows / waves

       never left / but had your heart
not been scorched
you might’ve been less inspired / we

pay a price to be ourselves
you paved a way / negrified
held sacred space / opened doors

       for those who’d come / you carved a place
for colored girls who consider
suicide / we sang / black girl

       songs / seven rainbow-wrapped
women we stormed the city
in cannon blasts of color

       the big apple never knew
what bit it / your meteor
outpaced ruby planets / raced

       veridian stars / zaki
please / hug zora / lorraine
audre / maya / octavia / toni

       a sliver of red moon rises
i hear you now in the flutter
and hush / whirr of dark birds

Risë Kevalshar Collins is a writer working toward a third degree—this one in creative writing—at Boise State University, where she also served on the editorial staff of Idaho Review. Risë earned an MSW with emphases in clinical and political social work at University of Houston and served as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Texas, Oregon, Washington State and in North Idaho. She holds a BFA in Drama from Carnegie-Mellon University and was a member of the original Broadway production of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf by Notzake Shange. Risë’s play, Incandescent Tones, has been produced Off-Broadway and in repertory theatre. Her op-ed essays have been published in the Idaho Statesman, The Blue Review, Boise Weekly and Arbiter. Recently, she was featured on the Idaho PBS online series “The 180.” Her creative nonfiction was selected as a finalist for North American Review’s Terry Tempest Williams Prize. Risë’s creative nonfiction is featured in the Spring 2021 Emerging Writers Issue of Michigan Quarterly Review and her fiction will appear in North American Review. In addition to appearing in The Indianapolis Review, Risë’s poetry is forthcoming in The Minnesota Review.

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