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Ami Mattison, Self-Portrait at 52

Self-Portrait at 52

by Ami Mattison

I used to be a colored girl, stretching/her legs on a long Summer day/My imagination/ran away with me/I chased it around the back yard/or I climbed into the mimosa tree/sat in the worn, smooth place between/its limbs and daydreamed/I was someone else/

I lived and died whole lives/in my childhood. The twin traumas of/racism and sexual abuse/creeped and crowded me/shouted how wrong/how useless I was/

Frame those fragments with/an anxious attachment to my white/adoptive parents/and a deep-seated belief/I had to earn love/and you'll see something that resembles/the portrait of me/that hung for years over the fireplace/A smiling/light brown-skinned/child in a blue dress/

For decades now/I've collected a bucketful of rocks/cast from across the universe/each one labeled with/a personal affliction/Trauma/Depression/Anxiety/Complex-PTSD/Suicidal ideation/Mania/Alcohol abuse/Rheumatoid Arthritis/

The rocks are dull/and dangerous/but they remind me of what/hasn't killed me yet/

The unloved child/died last year/I buried her/deep so her lessons/might seep into/the soil of my life/ Her resilience and strength/her passion and imagination/her kind heart and sweet nature/I marked her/ grave with all the rocks/lay each one down so/the dirt of her might stay/I said a prayer/and walked away/

Sometimes redemption/is as easy as taking another/breath, exhaling despair/inhaling hope/Despair and hope/despair and hope/It's a story/How you tell it changes everything/and it can always/end with love/

Until then/I'll pray for the child/and I'll pray for the rock collector/I'll bow my head to right now/and I'll keep breathing/


Touring and performing professionally since 2002, Ami Mattison has been featured at various art venues, festivals, conferences, colleges, and universities across the US and Canada. In 2013, s/he was the recipient of the Fellowship of Southern Writers' Spoken Word Award. Acclaimed novelist, Dorothy Allison writes: “Always [Mattison] speaks for the despised in verse that hallows grief and embodies joy. The world is larger, wider, fuller for the people [s/he] brings alive in words.” Mattison taught poetry and creative expression in Detroit public schools while serving as a writer-in-residence at Inside Out Literary Arts Program. S/he's also taught at Emory University, Georgia State University, and Antioch College in Ohio. S/he currently resides in Alabama.

Listen to Ami Mattison'a SOREN LIT interview:

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