American Girl Moves

from Chicago to Soda City, SC

by Maya Marshall


She drives 900

           daylight miles from the predictable city

of alleys she knows. A city with ever present

           traffic patter, glistering light, buildings rife with escape

routes. American girl drives south, along the lake, south,

           past Kenwood, the Illiana Interchange, through

Ohio, through Kentucky. She thinks

           of Sandra Bland who turned her blinker

on or didn’t and ended up alone in a cell, dead with a pack

           of white men around her cage. American girl drives

a Uhaul across the country, in which she is black

           before American, black before woman. She brings

a friend, a lover, who is white and black,

           who is City of Big Shoulders, who is bold and black

and lesbian and Jewish and American and a princess.

           Our American girls laugh, listen for sirens, sit susceptible

to her whiteness, her blackness and the men in the motel

            rooms surrounding the room they share. Our American

            girls gather around cigarettes, retreat

from the man on the bench outside who assures I’m not a cop.

            Asks, Which room are you in?

Room 237 in the Fort Jackson Days Inn

            prime spot for porn making room smells

like 30 years of cigarette smoke. Sex is soothing

            and they want to, so our girls fuck in their room

knowing they might be heard and hurt.

            Black bodies, spines torn, contorted into art pieces,

massacred in AME churches, flung like dolls at pool parties,

            slung across classrooms, finger raped by police

officers, forced to fellate police officers

            accused and accused and accused and accused.

American girl fears for her life. Her shirt

            and bra over her head. Her hand on her thigh.

Her neck muscles tense. Her mouth full,

            but her arms won’t hold her like they want to.

Our American girls—targets on radar, small lights blinking:

            I’m here, I’m here, even as the mouth calls joy

in the boxing match and wrestle in fisting and release.