smear women

by Kara Jackson

this is the way your activism has always been: in your hair, on the car window, a stain on the bus seat. white people will show your husband on TV. he will wear your blood on the screen like a new tooth. you know King’s shoes and how they walk. you know the speech is written on your neck. in a language of smudge. you women of glossy wrists. sisters of the dropper bottle. your activism comes from the beauty supply. you know no one accuses your skin of being dry. you know Rosa knew how to stay in her seat forever. you know her ass is there still, in an oil’s attire. what’s the point of a cop, if he can never remove your stain (which is to say, he can never remove you)? if they say your names, would their lips become rivers? would the skin run into their knees? you remember first your mother, who needed oil to get a cleaning job. and your auntie, who used it to get slick enough for a white man. you remember Ella Baker, who put oil on her elbows. castor spell on whoever questions your knee grease. you tell them the oil got your kids into schools. the oil threatened a food counter. the oil held your loudest sign in the air. you know the history book deserves your hair in an esteemed position. a smile that says yes, I ended racism for your puddy hands to turn me to paper. but instead, the book gets a row of Malcolm’s chin hair. as if a mother like you didn’t rub the stubble a little. didn’t sneak in a wink of castor oil. i will take the oil from
my temples. make a soil where your picture should be.