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

Schematics

With a net capture youth,
collar him about the prime of life,
drag her into old age.
A day unto eight months unto sixty years.
Men, women no longer
men and women. Un-human. Now
male or female, labels to denote breeding class.
A Chloe’s worth twice as much as a Ruth,
get two browns for the price of one yellow,
darkies half off.

A floating abacus—
black body beads shifted
from one side to the other.
Slave
Sex
Age
Class
Chloe
Female
20
Yellow
Hany
Female
17
Brown
Homer
Male
15
Black
James
Male
50
Black
July
Male
23
Black
Paris
Male
20
Black
Ruth
Female
60
Black
Scipio
Male
8 months
Black
Venus
Female
19
Black
Ignorance doles out benevolence. How much
tenderer the wound if they knew
of the power afforded the true owners of their names.
Better black Homer not command the words
to transcribe this odyssey or the goddess of hate.
July knows only that he was born
during the hottest month that summer,
not which day or of ancient rulers.
On a Charleston plantation

Paris will be found. He doesn’t possess explanations
to life’s riddles. No slave touches such notions
as beauty or prosperity. Even Venus is unaccustomed to love,
her sex and fertility perverted.

Monikers meant to mock
missing the attachment of a last name
to imply they belong.
All property belonging to no one.

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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