If I came to the end of all things, and found a Black Woman at the throne designated for God, no part of me would be surprised. Neither would the narrator of Angelique V. Nixon’s “Grace of Wonder”, in which a Roseland, NY performance by The Queen of Gay Discos prompts a reflection on black womanhood, ancestry and the dancing power of mothers.
I love that early on, this poem names the mother, makes her singular: Kim Grace Louise, “a cabaret dancer with starry dreams, / young single mother, growing up as she raised me / to be defiant like saltwater and strong like moon tides”. The poem’s speaker traces lineages, not of blood, but of audacious, battleborn ideology, between mother-Grace and diva-Grace. One of these women, she muses, saw in the other the need to be unfuckwithable, to declaim of love and lust and longing in the public square of the heart’s desires. No, this isn’t a paean to hero(ine) worship. Rather, “Grace of Wonder” maps our miraculous relationships to our icons: how they can propel us, or our mothers, to the uncharted heights of ourselves. How the sight of an undaunted black woman, elevated to dizzying zeniths in the world’s adorations, moves a mother to make a miracle of her own present, activated flesh.
What a tactile, fevered ode Nixon bestows on us: it is an alert, dancing thing, trading in language that’s incandescent and vaulting. In skin of dark vibrancies, in feminine divine fyah, in “hurricane force winds, escaping from restraints of mind body control”, the poet doesn’t give us a martial tune for parades, but an invitation to riotous dance.
The poem raises a brown, storm-licked fist to the heavens, or to the concert stages where a new pantheon of women emerges, their boots striking the celestial floors.
This is the nineteenth installment of Here for the Unicorn Blood, a Queer POC Poetry Reader which runs from June 1 – June 30. Historically, June commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Riots, heralded as the birth of the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement in the United States. #PrideMonth’s global significance, its unabashed celebration of queerness, its marshalling of non-heteronormative joy, resistance and tenacity, motivates this close reading series, which specifically engages the work of POC Queer Poets, in international space. People of colour have been vital to queerness before queerness had a name: this is one way to witness that, to embed my reading practice in it, and to raise my brown, queer fist in yes.