Four Poems

by Cheryl Boyce Taylor

Saints Singing Pretty: Pork Browning in Butter
In memory of Susie Jackson 87

They say in summer limes are sweeter
sliced and doused  in a jar of blush wine

white rose petals,  strawberries
tart and prickly pears

at church blue haired ladies with wrist gloves
clutch their handbags too tight

breath of Jesus on their lips
summer breeze makes Christians  happy

imagine a stone kitchen
stout magnolia tree outside its window

lush smells of green hair pomade gleaming
one cup hot oil bubbling on the stove

at church, service is long
wooden fans swirl lazy round and round

saute’ garlic and onions in butter, one jalapeno
pepper  add grilled beef   wrap in banana leaves

peel green plantains, slice diagonally
fry plantains in hot oil turn once

hear the saints singing pretty
nodding side by side  summer breeze make saints happy

prayers waltzing off the scattered
pauses of their last breath

Miss Susie’s perfume a mixture of baby powder
and blue geraniums that morning when we kissed her

her prayer stool  smooth redwood
draped in shawl of olive green

stained glass windows
with their retinas shining

at home in the stone kitchen
we brown the pork in garlic butter

salt and pepper  chopped onions carrots
zucchini  birthday dinner must be fine for Miss Susie

after church she will serve hugs to everybody
we will dish out that meal and belt Stevie Wonder’s version

outside her stone kitchen
a darkening afternoon breeze

kisses her face
stout magnolia tree waving in wind.

Note: The Charleston terrorist killed mostly black women.


What Her Hands Brought

A straw broom to jump into marriage
senna tea to cleanse the body
blue and green ostrich feathers
lilac fragrant bath water
sun bleached fossils shaped like humming birds
the sultry musings of night wind in trees
black chains from dark ships

rage folded quiet as a red silk kimono
ivory candles to free trapped souls

small handmade Japanese parasols
in shades of crocus blue and livid crimson
a baby boy to wear on my hips
someone keeps walking in and out of the room
it holds the sweet sweat of basil leaves
crushed garlic and a wooden spoon
a still-born baby girl
a tray of eucalyptus leaves
small pebbles from the cemetery
a sea-green cotton batik skirt
zucchini drenched in madras curry sauce fresh from Ghana
the gold threads of her gut bucket laugh
I’ve kept mom’s beautiful feet for dancing
and a cracked water goblet with blush wine for the moon


When my white lady friend told me she had to have a Black Baby… 

They are so cute, she said

An Etheree

hope these
half black ba-
bies are not just
an accessory
for white women   cause big
curly hair will not protect
boys from police man  big black gun
don’t be caring if pickney mama
white   policeman gun only see    skin brown

white policeman gun only see skin brown
don’t be caring if pickney mama
white  big gun only see black  boy
and sometimes black girl too  yes
curly hair don’t protect
no one  white ladies
half black babies
are not ac-


For the Chibok Girls

After his footsteps died
I marked his face at the back of my eyes
no water to wash this rusted stream flooding out of me
a drying bloom of crimson stems mimicking garlands


Cheryl Boyce-Taylor is a poet and workshop facilitator. The recipient of the 2015 Barnes and Noble Writers For Writers Award, she is the founder and curator of Calypso Muse and the Glitter Pomegranate Performance Series. Cheryl earned an MFA in Poetry from Stonecoast: The University of Southern Maine, and an MSW from Fordham University. She is the author of three collections of poetry: Raw Air, Night When Moon Follows, and Convincing the Body. A poetry judge for The New York Foundation for the Arts, and The Astraea Foundation, she has facilitated poetry workshops for The Cave Canem Foundation, The New York Public Library, Poets & Writers, Poets House, and The Caribbean Literary and Cultural Center. Her poetry has been commissioned by Jacob’s Pillow, The Joyce Theater, and the National Endowment for the Arts for Ronald K. Brown: Evidence, A Dance Company. A VONA fellow, her work has been published in Callaloo, Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Pluck!, Killings Journal of Arts & Letters, Adrienne, and Prairie Schooner. Her newest collection of poetry “Arrival,” will be published in Spring 2017, by Northwestern University Press.