(cited in BAE 2015, 2016, 2020, 2022); PUSHCART poetry finalist

“Braids I Never Had” and other Poems

Braids I Never Had

They tell her, “You always be lyin’, Tisha.”
Tisha looks like she knows how to have sex. Her face doesn’t
need any makeup. And I like that

sound the beaded braids make when she shakes her head,
‘No’. She doesn’t want the white people music in this store.
She scratches her scalp between braids.

They call me Miss Donna, I tell them people say
I look like Janet Jackson.
They ask who they look like. I tell them to remember
it’s pronounced ‘ask’, not ‘axe’.

I don’t know who they look like. But I want to
use Queen Helene not Pantene. They suck
Dum-Dums, with their plump, pink lips.
They don’t look like me and my half whiteness. They have some
thick legs for girls fifteen, going on sixteen.

She Said

There is so much blackness in the room, the smell of 
oil sheen, the goddamn haze of it
making stiff ponytails, synthetic braids shine.

I am learning to ‘mmm hmm’, during conversation. I practice
droppin’ Gs, endin’ sentences with prepositions.
saying ‘triflin’, ‘ why you always be’, shoot,
but a real long shoot, like with ten Os instead of two.

“You have good hair,” this woman with a missing tooth
tells me. She is drinking the best margarita
in the city, keeps talking with salt on her lips.

With braids, extensions, cornrows, weaves, I watch women
look at me like they know my mother is white
and she couldn’t keep my black father. I want to tell all of them
my mother made me
pass as white, but I am black now too. I don’t
tell them. One of them, whispers, “Take care, sis.”

We Never Play Bocci

Your mother didn’t call my mother to tell her
you got kicked out of Pittsburgh Central Catholic for stealing

the scale in the nurse’s office to weigh your pot . You wanted to do things like
loosen swing set bolts at North Park instead of trying to play
bocci with sweaty uncles at family reunions. You talked about how many

girls you fingered, how many bled. Uncle Chick caught you
smoking in the cemetery. You called him Uncle Dick. The troublemaker
and the little half-breed, he said. You said she’s my cousin,
don’t call her that. You
put out your smoke on Uncle Dick’s black shoe.

Mum’s Friend Request

For three weeks Mum was forty-nine. If she lived 
she’d share everything on social media. She would
sign up for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and LinkedIn.
But I am doing it for her. Her ashes

on a shelf I can’t touch. Thought she’d be chosen to appear
on ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ as she lay dying. Maybe it was

hope from all of the cancer inside of her. She truly believed
they were going to call her. I said I would

cross my fingers and my toes. She said don’t forget
about your eyes. They know where to find me when it’s time to play.

Mixed Wonder Woman

Bella knows Aunt Donna is black. She called her dad a racist
when he said a man on TV is black. I know my half-white brother

told Bella calling a man black is not racist. I wasn’t ready for the truth.
“Your Aunt Donna is black, Bella.” I wanted to be

her eyes. I wanted to help her see my color
that she has never asked about. Instead she calls me

Wonder Woman, even though she is white. Bella has learned
what a racist is by seeing black men beat

by white men and black men shot by police
on the TV. Brother, please show Bella cartoons on the screen.

Donna Weaver’s work has appeared in or is forthcoming in the American Journal of Poetry, Aji Magazine, Drunken Boat, Colere, Poetry Motel, Lit Noire Publishing, Pavement Saw, The Crucible, Kota Press, Loop Journal, Big Toe Review, Controlled Burn, Pebble Lake Review, Fringe Magazine, GhotiMag, Conte, Whimmperbang Journal and others. She was awarded the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg-Scott Turow Prize for fiction, and accepted to the Cave Canem African American Poets Summer Writing Retreat. Donna was nominated for “Best of the Net Poetry” from Sundress Press. She is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh where she received a Bachelor’s Degree in English Writing. She is the founding editor of Caketrain Press.


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