Redivider Spotlight: Boston Poet Laureate and Emerson College MFA candidate, Porsha Olayiwola

The pulse running through Porsha Olayiwola’s poems is one that beckons the reader to listen and be changed. It is hard to forget poems written and performed by Porsha. From love poems about two people exploring the landscape and depth of their bodies to a retelling of a story in which deportation does not break up an American family, there is so much to stand in awe of while reading Porsha’s work. The artistry and delicacy in which one of Porsha’s poems, “Twerk Villanelle,” reclaims the beauty of twerking within the melodic structure of its form. This testament to the beauty and inventiveness of the black woman’s body, is a truth that Porsha seeks to make visible in her poems. There’s an electricity in Porsha’s poems. These poems, some of which will be featured in her forthcoming collection, beg to be heard. Whether read in the silence of your own mind or heard spoken aloud, these poems buzz and move. They live. We are lucky to have read Porsha’s writing and felt compelled to showcase her work in Redivider. As you read her work, may you feel, as we did, the power and transcendence that is Porsha Olayiwola.

– Tatiana M.R. Johnson & E.J. Watson, Poetry Editors, Redivider

had my parents not been separated after my father’s traffic stop, arrest, and deportation from the united states of america

after Jesmyn Ward

we might all be sitting about the pink kitchen table with the white legs. my father, a taxi driver, might have come home late in the evening with two large chuck steaks bloodied, red, fresh, best he could bring. he might have seasoned the meat, his thick brown hands gently letting loose salt how god did earth. he might lay a sheet of cayenne over the flesh — a homeland conquered by sun, a fire gouged between cheeks, eyes watering a flag of surrender. my father might have survived the night to serve us.

my father, with his skin shiny, his head smooth, might have built me a treehouse in the front yard, with tools from his orange metal box. and my mother, sharp, discerning, the quiet keeper of sacred emblems, our family’s marrow, might have never let me climb in that tree house because as it were, gunshots littered our streets the way the dead plagued a hospital.

had my father not been deported, he and my mother might have had another child. it’s likely they’d build a new back porch and have a garden with peppers just like our neighbor, ronny. my mother might grow a row of cabbage, all green and light, tight and balled like fists. it’d be a wednesday and my father, my brother and i might whisk our bikes down lake shore drive, or pitch a tent in the back yard or watch terminator or the movies where eddie murphy played a cop from beverly hills. my father may have been filled with enough cracks in his face to cause an earthquake of laughter to ripple through our home.

dusk, with the light gleaming in from our living room windows, i imagine he might step into one of my mother’s bright silk dresses. the purple one. he’d squeeze his feet into her pumps and prance around the house he bought her as a gift years before. my mother might have giggled at my father’s silliness. he may have sauntered over to her with his palm down and his wrist bent as though he was expecting to have his hand captured by a long-awaited love.

my mother might have said something like man, if you don’t take off my good dress, you finna buy me another one. and my mother may have not really been mad. and you could tell by how she cocked her neck back and to the side, alabaster gleaming a curve into her face. she might have smiled through the threat and my father might have held her around the waist with one arm and pulled her into his chest, how i do the woman i love when i miss her so much it aches

and my parents may have kissed, maybe on the lips, and my father, full, may have reached his hand to my mother’s string of beads, removed it, and placed the necklace over his own head to lay along his chest. her earrings may dance from his lobe. and my father, a man who gave like a tree, might have lined his fingers over my mother’s tombed heart, and swayed his hips to its cadence.

listen: my right hand is covered in blood

we are in my bed again and i am holding her. this is unlike how we usually fuck. her spine is nested along my forearm and her hands lace my neck. everything is gentle. the lyrics blare for us to bend back and hair tangles the birth of her name in my mouth. i love her hair. black, big, uncoiling as we thrust. my thighs pillow the vibrator pressed to my clit and i know this is more than the love fabled to us as children. back to the blood though. it is what makes me cum. listen: sometimes, i want to get closer than what is physically possible and entering is the only way to vanish the distance of our bodies. i feel wet slick sliding. she opens and gives. what she keeps inside is now outside for me, wrapping around my wrist, scarlet bracelet, band of fluid too thick, i ravel and ravel and ravel and she apologizes for the blood. i tell her i am grateful for the scent of ore rolling over, for my hands bursting cherries, for palms that bloom roses at her call.

TWERK VILLANELLE

For Valentine

my girl positioned for a twerk session —
            knees bent, hands below the thigh, tongue out, head
turned to look at her body’s precession.

she in tune. breath in. breasts hang. hips freshen.
            she slow-wine. pulse waistline to a beat bled
for her, un-guilt the knees for the session.

fair form of vertebrae- backbone blessing,
            her pop-in innate. her pop-out self-bred,
head locked into her holied procession.

dance is proof she loves herself, no questions —
            no music required, no crowd needed.
she arched into a gateway, protecting —

this dance is proof she loves me, no guessing.
            a bronx bedroom, we hip-to-hip threaded.
she turn to me, tranced by her possessing.

she coils herself to, calls forth a legend —
            round bodied booty, bounce a praise ballad.
she break hold, turn whole in a twerk session.
body charmed, spell-bent, toward procession.

Porsha Olayiwola is an Individual World Poetry Slam Champion and was named by GK100 as one of Boston’s Most Influential People of Color. She is the Artistic Director at MassLEAP, a literary non-profit organization in Massachusetts serving youth artists. Olayiwola is the current poet laureate for the city of Boston and has her first full collection of poetry forthcoming with Button Poetry in November 2019.