Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Monica Prince





Patience Is a Virtue

“Palmer has said she is trying to be patient about the results of Cameron’s criminal investigation and the long wait, which is now six months since her daughter’s death.”

– Dylan Lovan of The Associated Press, “Louisville will pay $12 million in lawsuit settlement in Breonna Taylor’s death,” The Denver Post, September 15, 2020 (emphasis author’s)

for Tamika Palmer

Patience, noun—c. 1200, pacience,
“quality of being willing to bear
adversities, calm endurance of misfortune,
suffering, etc.;” as in, Tamika Palmer
has exhibited patience while the City
of Louisville investigates
the murder of her twenty-six-year-old
daughter, Breonna Taylor—from Old French
pacience, meaning “patience, sufferance,
permission” and directly from Latin
patientia: “the quality of suffering
or enduring; submission;” as in,
the cops who entered Breonna Taylor’s home
on a no-knock warrant lacked patience
also “indulgence, leniency; humility;
submissiveness; submission to lust;” as in,
Breonna Taylor’s home was only targeted
because she used to love a man who probably
listed her address as his, believing
in her patience with him as he failed
to get his shit together since he wasn’t there
when the cops arrived but her current boyfriend
was—literally, “quality of suffering;”
as in, one must practice patience when trying
to fall asleep to avoid further anxiety
about never waking up, but Breonna Taylor
was sleeping when the cops broke in
and shot into her home, killing her
as she shifted from REM to consciousness—
from Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary, 1911:
“a minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue;”
as in, not exhibiting violent behavior
in response to the murder of your daughter
is a sign of patience, virtuous even in a Black woman
like Tamika Palmer; as in, twelve million dollars
won’t fill the holes in Breonna Taylor (read:
entrance and exit wounds caused by ammunition
ejected from police-issued guns resulting in death)
or fill the hole in her mother’s heart, but
given time (read: enough displayed patience),
police reform promised by the same City
of Louisville that murdered her daughter
might make it so Tamika Palmer (or every other
parent of a child sacrificed so white people
have something tangible to get mad about
and everyone else can keep living
as permanent ghosts grieving), so
Tamika Palmer never
has to indulge in patience again.



“Have a faith that can say to a storm—
you’re temporary.”

– Kirk Franklin

Temporary—as in, lasting
only for a time, typically
seasonal; as in four months
out of every year depending
on your proximity to the Equator
or either Pole—related to, temporal,
meaning worldly, secular;
as in, one day we’ll all be dead
because life is only temporary;
as in, of this Earth and not
part of Heaven, meaning God made
the world so we could choose
to return to God once this plane
of existence (read: temporal plane)
evaporates; for example, if we
cut down every tree and level
every mountain and refuse to wash
our hands in the last bit
of clean water left, our future
will be temporary, on this temporal
planet—related to, tempest,
meaning violent storm occurring
during a particular season (read:
temporal experience); as in, The Tempest
by William Shakespeare (c. 1610-1611)
wherein a lonely sorcerer cajoles
his slave sprite to conjure a tempest
(read: temporary violent storm) to enact
revenge and reunite with his daughter
(Miranda—after whom a Shakespeare
scholar named her only daughter,
which is to say, she considered that girl
a rescue from a tempest, which is to say,
the baby always survives the storm,
however violent, with scars but at least
she’ll have her life and her name);
as in, a period of bad weather
(read: temporary storm, as in seasonal)
during which many will die (read: transition
from this temporal sphere) or suffer injury
(as in, experience temporary internal
or external damage) and may require assistance
(an EMT is a temporary savior before reaching
the hospital; ICU stays are always
temporal, even if you die there [see above])
—root of tempestuous, adjective, meaning
stormy or turbulent (referred to as “rough air”
in flight safety pamphlets to decrease
anxiety caused by the word turbulence) or
characterized by violent emotions or behavior;
such as initiating a tempest to usurp
a king; such as withholding medical care
for a Black trans woman because she’s trans
after she’s been harmed during a tempest;
such as the phrases “I don’t see color” or
“Hate speech isn’t tempestuous because
words cannot slice open wrists” (read:
literally—see chain of events or domino
or McKenzie Adams or Gabriel Taye
or Tyler Clementi)—from Proto-Indo-European
root *ten-, meaning “to stretch;” as in, stand
on a bridge and look down without jumping;
as in, place your hands flat on the floor
and pull your hips to the sky,
trying to press your heels down (see:
downward-facing dog pose [IAST: Adho Mukha
Sanskrit: अधोमुखश्वानासन;], part of
Surya Namaskar, the Salute to the Sun
[Sun Salutation], an inversion asana
in modern yoga, also known as
glorified stretching if not used as part of
meditation or spiritual practice); as in,
further than before; as in, leaving
your comfort zone but not endangering
your life; as in, warming your muscles
after a period of stagnation
(read: a temporal stationary position); also
with derivatives meaning “something stretched;
thin;” as in, patience (a temporal practice
of waiting) or tensile (the limited (temporary)
capability of being stretched or held) or tension
(nervous strain; a stretched condition, often
temporary; able to be cut with a knife)—
with evidence from Sanskrit tantram meaning
“loom” (where threads are stretched and weaved
to make clothing and blankets which provide
temporary cover) or tanoti meaning “lasts” (as in,
forever, but more likely for a limited moment)
—all related to time, which might be finite
in terms of life(time), employment (see:
retirement or termination or furlough; also see:
temp agency), difficulty (see: pandemic, loan
repayment plans, lease, contractions
to birth], contractions [related to grammar],
getting out of bed [also: depression, hitting snooze],
etc.), or love (not related to: polyamory, philia,
storge, philautia
, or agape; instead, see: mania,
ludus, eros
, or pragma); serving as a reminder
that all storms run out of rain (see Dr. Maya
Angelou quoting Gary Allan), and you must
practice faith (read: trust based on the evidence
collected over all these years, even
your own stunning cells only know how to heal,
renew, regenerate, they simply cannot
help themselves, despite illness and bullet
and poisoning weekday in and out, they rinse
and repeat, rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat,
all to keep you alive), faith, at the root of which
is trust—meaning help arrives
soon enough, never too late, welcome
for as long as possible, even if it’s temporary.


An Orgasm So Good, You’ll See God

1680s: “sexual climax, the acme of venereal excitement,”

from the suburban bedroom adjacent
to my best friend’s, where I rub
my mons against a clothed erection
until reaching orgasm—

from the French, orgasme,

meaning the lie I tell my ex-lover
as they enter me, so invested in making
their first time memorable, so why not say
yes, seven times, you gave me seven orgasms—

from the Modern Latin orgasmus
“excitement, swelling,”

meaning sex is only thrilling because
collecting bodies is a game, no fear
of STIs or HIV or pregnancy,
no worry of enjoyment,
just something to do between homework
and grad school applications—

from organ
“be in heat, become ripe for,”

meaning the first vibrator I ever purchased
at the age of twenty-two is enough to make me
regret not living alone, desperate to masturbate
more than search for a partner I already know
cannot replicate six speeds and silicone nubs—

literally “to swell, be excited,”

like the first time I come on someone else’s
tongue, how I know it can happen again,
I wouldn’t have to keep faking it
if I could keep buying sex toys or
find the right tongue attached to a decent partner—

related to orge
“impulse, excitement, anger,”

not unlike sharing a bed for the last time
with a man I don’t love anymore, so uninterested
in the space I occupy he puts
his entire body weight on his palms
around my breasts, crushing my lungs
and scaring the desire out of me right behind
my breath, how quickly he blamed my size
for his negligence, who could ever expect a man
to give pleasure to something so consuming—

from PIE root *wrog
“to burgeon, swell with strength”

enough to leave him, to remove him entirely,
yes, even now, even as the world struggles to breathe,
even as we all won’t make it out alive—

(source also of Sanskrit urja
“a nourishment, sap, vigor,”

the daily devotions of a new permanent lover,
supping desperately between my thighs,
satiated only by my cries of ecstasy—

Old Irish ferc, ferg

but never here, in these moments,
languishing in the early evening sun,
naked, a finger drawing our future on my stomach
in my juices, sucking the tip with pleasure,
waiting for permission for more, prepared
to sacrifice what strength remains
for a chance to see God, say thank you.


Photograph of Monica Prince by dave ring.

Monica Prince teaches activist and performance writing at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania. She is the author of How to Exterminate the Black Woman: A Choreopoem ([PANK], 2020), Instructions for Temporary Survival (Red Mountain Press, 2019), and Letters from the Other Woman (Grey Book Press, 2018). She is the managing editor of the Santa Fe Writers Project Quarterly, and the co-author of the suffrage play, Pageant of Agitating Women, with Anna Andes. Her work has appeared in Artemis, The Texas Review, trampset, The Rumpus, MadCap Review, American Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. More from this author →