Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Brionne Janae





                        after Toi Derricotte

head anchored between your hip bones
nudging the cervix from the inside

days the long and weary task of opening
and me all too big from the start

mother   in another era I would’ve killed
us both   must I alone be blamed

I know the crease of the scar creeping up
your belly   how after my brothers were pulled

limb by limb from that same crater
you cradled the wound so gingerly

I worried you might split apart
mother you don’t have to forgive me

I know what its like to refuse
and still be opened



the best thing I can do for my momma is stay out her pocket
this gets truer the older I get but its been true since I got here
at the grocery store check out I suck my teeth and curse the air
what the hell did I buy my voice almost as sharp as my mother’s
except everything in this cart’s for me   I pick up my privilege
and push past her shadow where she still stands scouring the receipt for error
double scan   a missed discount   the usual trickery
in high school when they ask what I want to do when I grow up
I say not starve and mean it    I don’t dream of excess or labor
my momma works hard her daddy worked hard
all my ancestors were worked hard     in boston the white teacher
at the white school in the white neighborhood where the black women hold
the little white hands of bright eyed blonde children like work visas
looks dead in my face and says her grandfather worked hard
and that’s why we have that house on martha’s vineyard
in her wedding photos she smiles in her ivory dress
with her ivory beaux and the white pillars
of her grandfathers white house rise up to frame them


                        Dr. Susan Moore

when he went in to have the cancer cut from his liver Pa was so afraid of the nurses and what they might do to his Black body Mo had to sleep on the small cot beside his bed all three nights while they waited to see how he’d do with the invasion.

I was in high school and he had spent all summer before the surgery saying how glad he’d be for a break from Molly. and when he couldn’t bear the idea of being alone with his gaping wound in that white space. I told myself after all this time he was still a boy from the backwoods of mississippi who’d never seen a reason to trust a white man in his life.


I can’t understand why white women are so willing to leave their children with strangers. I was babysitting once and a woman I’d only just met handed me her sobbing toddler and walked away. I wanted to cry too. When I was a kid my aunt complained about the nice white teacher who loved her daughter too much. I swear she’s gone run off with my baby she’d say.

no one ever wants to talk about how close we are to the legacy of enslavement but it’s right there.
you just choose not to look.

even in a viral pandemic that destroys the lungs the error rate for oximeters is 3xs higher for dark skinned patients. a product of whites only studies. a flaw discovered 15 years ago that no one cares to fix.

I’ve decided I can’t trust anyone who uses darkness as a metaphor for what they fear.

on my way into the hospital when I was singing about my rape and begging and begging to go home the man in charge of the ward looked at me like a thing to be got under control. and I knew then I had been outside my mind to go there in my need and think anyone might help me.


Photograph of Brionne Janae by Amelia Golden.

Brionne Janae is a poet and educator living in Brooklyn. They are a recipient of the 2016 St. Botoloph Emerging Artist award, a Hedgebrook Alum and proud Cave Canem Fellow. Their poetry has been published in Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, The Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day, The Sun Magazine, jubilat, Plume, and Waxwing, among others. Brionne’s first full length collection of poetry, After Jubilee, was published by Boaat Press. Off the page they go by Breezy. More from this author →