“Jazz” by Ashley Finley
As a Black woman, birth keeper, medicine maker, poet, activist and educator, Ashley Finley’s passion lies in the liberation of all colonized and oppressed people. She works to facilitate the return to sacred, ancestral knowledge that bloomed before colonization and capitalism. Follow her and her work at findingfinley.com.
“What you know about this?”
Mommy asks me
swaying her hips to the vinyl
smile so big
it makes me think of pound cake!
From the record player,
Sarah Vaughn’s voice
drips into the room
sweet and thick
And my mother is a young woman again
in a yellow dress
sandy brown hair down her back
swaying to a rhythm of amber
pouring herself all over the room
perfuming the atmosphere with her
“You young ones don’t know nothin about this”
Her voice lilting above the notes
Sending itself into my lungs
and I know what she means to say
She says a sentence
and it tells me an entire history.
A thousand stories about
How the people I come from survived
off of music.
How a bottle of whiskey
a pan of roasted peanuts
a room big enough to dance in
and a song story
could make a black woman have hope again.
How sheet music
can look like freedom papers.
Or how a melody can crawl its
way up into your rib cage
grab hold of your beating heart
and remind you that you come
from a people who have defied death
over and over again.
A people who sing and dance in spite of
A people who resist with joy
and pound cake.
“What you know bout this little girl?”
Mommy smiles and sways and hums
to the music.
And in that moment I know so much.
So, I stand up and dance too.