Caits Meissner

Communion, Harare

New language on my tongue, forbidden nipple.
High grass cut at the neck bleeds orange dust.
Ma brings the plastic basin for Sekuru to clean his fingers
and the bin is passed around the table one, two, three times.

It will make me unpopular back home to say I dream of babies.
That the urge rose up in me to be a woman in the way
women have hung laundry for centuries on the rope out back.
The concise edges on the folded towels, whiter than teeth.

I dream of them while scooping the meat between two fingers.
Babies swimming in the toilet, crawling from under the bed.
Tumbling through the night like radiant stars when Tete says
she wants eight from right there where the meat gathers and sticks.

Beneath my clothing I wonder if they can see how bright I glow
Under the moon's spotlight, how I learned the hard way
there is no escaping skin, how I have also learned this, too—
See the way the sun trembles a frightening pink over the city?

Someone has plucked that from my holy, I am sure of it.
That is the work of my womb’s light hovering—before liberation
when the farmers were tilling, when meat fell fresh from bone—
and now, too, here—over the burnt lamps blackest cape

and the adolescent face of pot-holed corroded roads.
I have come here a stranger with arms drowning in flowers
pockets weighted with sand, digging to find the tunnel
back home, but no, I have laid in this bed a daughter and

if you think I am one of them, you are not mistaken,
but I am also you, it is just how this works: that under
 our tongues we hold bullets & blood beaten honey, that
under our bodies are our bodies that bear the bravest fruit.

Why I am Not a Photographer

For the incarcerated women in California
being sterilized to cut welfare costs

In the newspaper photograph the women’s
starfished fingers mask their faces from camera

shrinking into cotton candy colored jumpsuits
as if trying to crawl back into a shell and float away.

I turn away, too, from their private swatches
of exposed skin, guilty for my eyes on their elbows

I pluck them from my head to cool water, but still
cannot quell this desire floating upward in the glass

it rises in me stronger without sight, a desperation
to feel their cheeks against mine, I want to squeeze

their hands as they wait for their turn on the cold table,
to bring a blanket or ball dress and take the medical gown

onto my body, breasts so close to theirs under thin paper
yes, bring me to breath, it is how I have always been

in the river I must put down my hand to the wet reeds
unmoving, I wade still for tiny fish to bite at my toes.

I want to feel rough skin ripened by tomato and sun, I want
to loosen a child's tooth to palm, smell the whiskey stink

of a beggar's stumbling song, or the drag queen's tickling wig
let the fire victim rub his knotted stub against my waist,

drop the skinned mango to my ready lap, blood-warmed
kittens squinting towards mother's first milk, I cannot watch

a fire burn down without adding my own spit to its demise
dismantle the lens' safe shield coming up between us and

unleash my hands from their brutal muzzle,
I want to put the wound to my pulsing lips.

Bring the mammal so close I cannot find the end of myself.
Bring the women so near I lose use for my own name.

Caits Meissner

Caits Meissner is an award-winning poet, educator and vibrant creative force dedicated to transformation and healing through storytelling. Caits’ poetry of witness has been awarded first place prizes from the Pan-African Literary Forum and the Ja’Nai Foundation and she serves as Co-Founder of The Wide Shore global women’s poetry magazine. Her co-authored book, The Letter All Your Friends Have Written You with poet Tishon arrived in 2012 on the Well&Often Imprint, and her poetry/music album the wolf&me was released to underground acclaim in 2010. Caits teaches an online writing and self development course for women at