Michele Tracy Berger



Furnace red feather earrings
Twirl at the end of Jackie’s ears
Our eyes travel the shape of her
but miss the incandescent core

Me, lost in the storm of girlhood
Jackie, directing her hormonal lava
She dared to wear canary colored feathers in her hair
Iridescent plumes clipped to jeans

She was curious about her girl slink, funk and body trembles
Inside out she lived, as if her vulva slid across the floor, ahead of her
Boys wanted to possess and discard
Girls melted into the secretions of their own bodies
hunting for wisdom
finding Avon tips and Ultra Slimfast instead
Ticking time bombs, they surfaced
crippled, inchoate and mean

What secret relationship do women have with feathers?
In fanciful boas and gravity-defying rippling headdresses
Who gave us these poor imitations of grand flight?
And, told us to look the other way while men got bombs, politics and Viagra?

Years later
behind my building
I found one of her earrings
Teardrop shape, a blue and carnelian frayed feather kissed with gold leaf
I thought Jackie’s feathers could protect her
As love and attention should protects us all

Did her boyfriend entice her to the roof that night?
Did he know what waited for her in the dark?
Does he see her shadow every time he reaches for a woman?

I heard it was ten boys
Who made her pay for
her mystery,
her curiosity,
for exciting them,
for not roller-skating with them
for having a big butt
for smiling,
For everything and nothing
They threw her off the roof
when done

I shall hold this earring
And remember
And grieve for our lost girlhoods


Glint glyph



“Nothing comes between me and my Calvins,” you coo
Thirty second jeans commercial careens
into my inner star system of anxious adolescence

Changing everything I know about beauty in 1981

How I hang on to your every word
Your cropped hair
Sporting a look
No wet Jheri curl or entombing Diana Ross mane
I am transfixed by your silken wren brown skin

These Black girls today, got it easy
They turn on the TV
and, in an instant there’s
                                                     and that’s so Raven
pixilated Black girl beauty reflected back
to them across time and space

Almost a gluttonous heaven of images
Not a desert
I envy them

Let me school you, young ones
Back in the 70s and 80s, we Black girls lived
like rocky shoals
an afterthought to the beauty brokers’ craft
a navigational hazard we were
our dreams submerged
along with our anger

A Black supermodel revolution
taken for granted
not often spoken of anymore
had begun
After Beverly Johnson, Bethann Hardison and Naomi Sims
New models filled the scene

So in the 80s, I loved on Louise Vyent
(Suriname and Dutch, but Black girls claimed her and she claimed us)
and Wanakee and Iman…their names like magical faraway islands

“Nothing comes between me and my Calvins”
Who cared about the prepubescent and overexposed Brooke Shields?
We wanted more of you!

So glad you made it through whatever Hollywood hurdles there were
Maybe you got the hot spot because of your famous father
Or, you just weren’t ‘too’ something for someone: dark, heavy, young
I didn’t care then and I don’t care now
I claim you while others have forgotten

All girl crushed on you back then
Making me forget the televised beloveds of my childhood
Flaxen haired Bionic Woman and the fetching Charlie’s Angels
I wanted to get between you and your Calvins
And, so did everyone else