N A I M A   W O O D S

Naima Yael Woods is an educator and writer living in the countryside of southern New Mexico. She is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee and a TENT Residency Fellow. New work is published or forthcoming from Glittermob, jubilat, Apogee, Anthropoid, Diagram and elsewhere.

R A I S I N G   S H A D O W   B L A C K 

The baby doesn’t remember it, can’t move the right way, full, fleshy. The baby plays inert and then, crawls on piss-stains, not her piss, just a part of the room: a collection of skin bits, domestic ephemera. Her abdomen will stay hard with milk bloat, her bones won’t cap. She will for a long time be seen as a toothless baby on a dirty floor. This is the directed way of seeing her. Piteous and darling. This scene is constructed to make you look around your living room and sigh happily. Your house is clean. Your baby fed. When they let her teeth come in, she’ll become a schoolgirl, stripped of baby, and she’ll try to learn. This is difficult. She is made pre-remedial, unlistening, loud. Made is the operative word. Made is the verb. Made is the doing. If she is lucky, her mother will siphon her hair plaits flat against her head. Other girls will see her braids as their braids. They will bring scissors to class. They will cut at the scalp. She’ll know how to spell y-e-s and m-a-‘a-m, her plump tongue pushing. It sounds familiar. She is taught to draw girls in taupe and peach white and under-the-nails pink. She is not these colors and that’s the point. She’s not girl, they tell her with crayons. She will not know her darkness as intimate or tender. She comes up. Looks too skinny or thick enough, it doesn’t make a difference. They grow her hair, breasts. They say that she knows all of the sexual positions. That she’s not saying no even if that’s what it sounds like. There is no choice here. The baby she was on the carpet doesn’t know and the girl won’t either. She can eat. Licks or nibbles. They’ll give her that. But no one taught her how travel through, to be winged outside of their eyes. Watch her try, her un-knuckled hands flapping, her mouth pursed in concentration. Not her fault that she was never allowed herself, in her own stretch and creasing. Is she a baby now, or a girl. Hard to say. If she’s lucky, someone will siphon her hair plaits flat against her head and hold her fleshy arms and say Let me remember you how to fly.

​​H E R M E N E U T I C   C H A O S   J O U R N A L