natalie hanna

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from concealed weapons

i loved the man who called me sandn_gger
as much as the one who called me passing
too          brown for a white man /
               white for brown
but both said to me sister
calling down the shades
to shame me

i am tired of the men                   telling me i am too angry

tired of being                               the unfathomed well
                                                    into which poison is poured
                                                    from which sweet water hauled
                                                    all the tools for boring at the ready

                                                    telling me i am too tolerant
                                                    of the knuckles of white girls
                                                    against my body

                                                    of tar tongues drawing out syllables
                                                    in reply to my mother's accent

tired of those who wish                i would grind for them
                                                     the earth against the sky
                                                     while i am trying to live

                    who want                  to burn up one truth
                                                     for another in their sorrow

                       who say                 diaspora upon you
                                                     as casually as good morning
                                                     as knife and fork to eat you up
                                                     one morsel at a time, o where
                                                     does this little piece of you go?
                                                     be delicious, be
                                                     a joyless joan of arc in your
                                                     browness, called
                                                     to omniscient pinnacle

                          taking                 my trust / my money / my labour /
                                                     my love / my time
                                                     never washing my dish
                                                     saying goodbye
                                                     and calling me too tolerant
                                                     and too angry.                
i am as lonely as you
without people
                                                     grown          alongside
                                                     lived             alongside
                                                     loved            alongside
                                                     so many       white bodies
                                                     as if to be only


i sit inside a call to prayer, quiet like static, muted bees.  
eager for the magic, to be fooled, for the flim flam. but,

                                            what is the point of that magic, that transubstantiation when
the children are
aborting glitch lives
with guns in their
despair, abracadaver
now you see them, now

(when i was the sea i was gray for you and
when i was the sand i let you walk warm across my shifting back
when i was just the northern forest i was quiet and
for me alone)

                                                i have started taking pictures
                                                a catalogue: how this trick is done

first you pour the love out
then replace with fear

and if i had a gun i'd make
a parable of forgetting
in the closet of my mouth
for you

it's only you who forgets.


a word is an annihilator
outwards then
somewhere else

really? are you really good?
really worth it?

how to redeem:                        the lost soft love
                                               of a really brown body
                                               from men who really liked
                                               the way my sandy skin
                                               wore against their real whiteness

picture the
white police, couldn't tell me
from the jamaican boy
they called my brother
who came to lend me
the credit of a man
                                              against the menace of one who said
                                              you really are a brown bitch
                                              i'm really going to get you        

are you sure you're really
not his sister?
really muslim if arab?

how long i have to live
in this body to be sure enough
for you?

brown girl is a weapon concealed
they think, bidable to danger
but really it's our
trampled hearts
to die
in the


misdirection depends
(in the photo of me
beside the white girls)
on shadow and light

here's a little
sleight of hand
where breathing fast
is rabbit's heart
finally, a drumroll

play along, sense erases
what we know
pulled from one extreme
and back, a trick of dazzle

(when i was the sea i was gray for you with worry
when i was the sand i let you knead my blood alive
when i was just the northern forest i was blackened by a fire)

other (me)
still looking
                    help, i'm not just
                    a woman dancing
                    afraid of stopping

(when i was the sea you were concealed inside me
when i was the sand you were buried within
when i was the just northern forest you hid inside my leaves)

(i was salt and dirt in which things grew
i was the things that grew in them
i think i'll be again
i am afraid of other things than you)

i carry a weapon
concealed in my heart
that can both melt
and resist you



natalie hanna is a queer ottawa lawyer of middle eastern descent working with low income populations, her writing focusses on feminist, political, and personal relational themes. she runs battleaxe press (small press poetry), is the administrative director of the Sawdust Reading Series and serves as newsletter editor for Arc Poetry Magazine.