The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: How Her Spirit Got Out by Kysten Hill

Photo Credit: Jon Beckley

Are you a self-identified black woman?

Are you eligible to partake in academia? Question your acceptance
letter? Not writing the other perspective? Missing the point of
the assignment? Do you get Tarantino’s postmodern intention?
Are you misunderstanding the function of Flannery O’Connor’s
Negroes? Do you wonder if your colleagues are looking for the
competent color in the room? Are you the only one in the room?
A performance of soft shoe? Are you inventing privilege? Are
there any side effects? Do you self-isolate? Self-medicate? Suffer
from heavy sighing, eye-rolling, weight loss, friend loss, hair loss,
laugh loss, self loss, loss loss, silence? Did a doctor call your wounds
superficial? Did a stranger spit at the sight of you in a dress you
thought you wore better than the smile you wiped off with the
back of your hand? Did you spit back? Did a man at the bar say you
were too ugly to rape? Did you imagine what the sound of your glass
against his head would make? Are there problems with your resting
bitch face at parties? Is your face ever really resting? Are you tired
of being cute because you’re trying not to be threatening? Do you
wonder if white girls’ tears are worth more than yours? Compare
your heaviness to someone lighter? Was there ever a time when the
faces of magazines pushed against the walls of your stomach when
you were thirteen, sixteen, twenty, and your finger belonged to
your tongue? Did you try to purge the light from haloed faces?
What did you face instead? Pieces of undigested meat? Were you
ever a phase? Something he had to get out of his system? Do you
remember the clamp of a white boyfriend’s jaw on your thigh? Do
you remember what he called you when he took you from behind?
Do you cry when you think of the way he treated your love like
a bad taste? Did he spit you out? Do they ask why you don’t write
about your joy? Why is it hard to trust them with that? Do you
wish they’d stop telling you to write around what goes through
you? Wish your voice as strong and dismissive as your mama’s
swollen laugh? Do you cry often in this city? Do you cry at the
noise of young girls swinging their lamp-lit lives against the sway
of train cars, stringing their racing voices inside you? Do you cry
because there are those who want to bury these breaths, smother
these names, this anger, this pain, call it defensive, non-compliant,
threatening, unresponsive?

Do you cry at the sight of other black women with their hands up?

This selection comes from the collection How Her Spirit Got Out, available from Aforementioned Productions. Order your copy here. Our curator for December is Krista Cox.

Krysten Hill is an educator, writer, and performer who has showcased her poetry on stage at the Boston Book Festival, Merrimack College, The Massachusetts Poetry Festival, and many others. She received her MFA in poetry from UMass Boston where she currently teaches. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in apt, The Baltimore Review, B O D Y, Word Riot, Muzzle, PANK, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Winter Tangerine Review and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the 2016 St. Botolph Club Foundation Emerging Artist Award. Her chapbook, How Her Spirit Got Out, received the 2017 Jean Pedrick Chapbook Prize.

Krista Cox is a paralegal and poet living in northern Indiana. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pittsburgh Poetry Review, The Indianola Review, Whale Road Review, and Pirene’s Fountain, among other places in print and online. She twice received the Lester M. Wolfson Student Award in Poetry, and has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. In her abundant spare time, Krista parents, paints, and plans community events as the Program Director of Lit Literary Collective. Learn more than you ever wanted to know about her at

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