Pages Matam - Questions for Nina Simone (Writing)

For Ferguson, and the many cities  just like it...

For Black and Brown bodies across this world

Copyright Pages Matam

questions for Nina Simone



upon hearing of the 1963 Birmingham Alabama

church bombing which took four innocent brown bodies,

you went to your garage to try and build a handmade gun.

When your husband found you

surrounded in a mess of tools he said:

Nina - you know nothing about killing, all you’ve got is music

You then wrote and composed “Mississippi Goddamn!” in the next hour



there are days I read your story

surrounded by so much pain like a mess of tools

how did you cockback the notes so music

could become such a weapon?

What rage moved your fingers into a cannon of sound

because I wonder sometimes...


What happens when a poem doesn’t save a life?


when I am tired of making burial grounds from my tongue

before my body becomes shrapnel for entertainment

retrigger myself every time my voice relives the

complex trauma of my own shotgun breath

Did the applause after Mississippi Goddamn

feel like the imminent ticks before the detonation Nina?

we still got many dying unjustly

Renisha, Rekia, Aiyanna, Alesia,

4 little girls                                         different kind of explosions

black women bodies be like a church

snatch the holy out of them by men, courts, and policies who have none

what’s empathy to a war you’ve already been designated to lose

and the weight of blackness feels more like a white flag of surrender


Did you ever feel like a surrender, Nina?


As I do when many of my students have PTSD

trying to bridge Shakespeare and Tupac

doesn’t make them want to take a life any less or risk their own

just to prove that they are here, that they have a grand piano purpose

not afforded by a pen and microphone when you live

on this side of oppression, strung out from the high of poverty lines


Did your gun give you purpose, Nina?

was your spine made out of a harmonic barcode

did it play a beautiful song of justice for you to be able to stand tall

in the face of your inquisitors, of post racial society,

of how many ways can your body do that black magic

what happens when I run out of magic and I cannot pull through

because actions may speak louder than words,

but silence also speaks with so much volume.

Like the hush after the zimmerman trial


better known as just another thursday

in being Black in america - when I became so afraid

my sun will leave the house and never return home

because someone will not like the way his smile

makes heaven spill like a melody from his mouth


what happens when a poem doesn’t save a life?

when my mind became a playground,

and depression was a game I never learned to play very well

my own thoughts were a carousel of bullies

telling me Pages - you do not deserve to be here, you do not deserve to live

you should just kill yourself - before the world does

but I know nothing about killing,

all i’ve ever had was music - whether a pen, my breath, or a stage


you know, black bodies always been a musical

how the turn up becomes a turn of graves

we be a halted gospel at a stop and frisk

even with our hands up, don’t we still look like we’re praising?

we’ve seen how that purpose is drowned out in white noise

how loud I play my music can be reason to open fire

listen to a Florida gas station become a stadium of vibrations

listen to  a Detroit porch become a symphony of innocent blood

listen to a subway train become a hum of a strange fruit vale station

listen to Ferguson become a riot of burning rage tear gas muting the moon


Our skin has always been such a concert

this is how I realize music, poetry, ART is a cause for a weapon

- not to kill, but to defend our ability to hope, fight, and strive     



I wish to make a handmade gun of these words, to make my

voice // barrel,

lungs // chamber,

breath // bullet,

eyes // magazines,

reloading with a will to keep pushing

when I just don’t believe

when my faith is hanging by a thread

when I have run out of tears, anger, pain, and  metaphors


this love is all I have left when my body can no longer fight

I hope it will be enough ammunition




Posted on October 8, 2014 .