The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Body Not My Own by Tanque R. Jones

This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Kirsten Kowalewski, is from Body Not My Own by Tanque R. Jones, released by Wayne State University Press in 2021.

content warning for slavery and racialized language

Rhubarb Pie

4 rhubarb stalks
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
9 spoons butter
a little bit of salt & water

For Master
I bake rhubarb pie every Sunday
after I make the morning meal
and scour dishes and the kitchen.
His white progeny must be cared for—
the girl who calls me nigger to make her mother smile,
Master Jr. and the little one on my hip
who hasn’t learned to look at me without love.

Set aside 6 spoons of flour and a spoon of butter. 
Mix the rest of the flour and butter with a little salt and water. 
Knead till it’s right. 
Divide it. 
Press half into a pan.

Best to sidestep mistress’s ire.
I tidy rooms and scrub floors as she reads in the parlor.
When she paces I withdraw to a corner to mend,
try to rid Master’s cuffs and shoes of droplets.
They’ll never be clean again.

At the sermon tree I gather with the others.
It grows in the direction of the stream,
branches arch toward the water,
self-imposed exile from houses and fields.
The only of its kind
ignorant to the weight of a noose.
Second overseer preaches
the weekly indoctrination with gun and hound.
Bark against my skin,
I watch his words, separate what I know
from what he tells me.

Cut up the rhubarb. Put it in the pan
with the sugar and the rest of the flour and butter.
Make the outside look right.
Bake till it’s done.

Tanque R. Jones earned an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Her second poetry collection, Body Not My Own, was the winner of the 2021 Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award. In 2016, WordTech published her first book of poems Woman in Transition. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Salamander, Progenitor Art & Literary Journal, and Clackamas Literary Review.

Kirsten Kowalewski is the editor for online horror fiction review resource Monster Librarian. She has an MLS and a specialist certificate in school library media from Indiana University, has worked as a children’s librarian and elementary school media specialist, and is a lifelong reader.

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