because they was purple

By Tameka Cage Conley


i remember. not wearing sexy panties. then wearing sexy panties. cuz i was grown. and my thighs. and between. glorious purple lace. i saw. possessed. they gone now. because.  they was old. and spring. cleaning. i got no memory of my man peeling them off me. but i remember how it felt to fold them, warm out the laundry. have you ever held your own skin? you be a witness. ever touched your warm and waiting lover with warm and waiting hands? you be a witness. ever looked at yourself in the mirror? then closed your eyes and cried? touch and witness. touch and witness. sweet tears? if grief is purple, what color death be? this don’t bring him back. but there is the memory of the memory  before i bought them. my finger on the hanger. my mind fingering the lace. who in the superstore was watchin? and why was y’all watchin? i let air go. from my stomach. let something new in. how they’d look. on me. that stretch. up and over. thighs. that ride. high and royal. above. both hips. let something else go. what was low bowed down. i rose. up and up and up. yoyo said, you are so comfortable writing about desire. i said something about striving to be an honest writer. but that don’t say the half. i learned how to want by myself. learned how to want myself. but prince helped. his dirty. lowdown. his mutha and water. his lace and how perfect it was wherever he put it. looka here, he sang, like a black, southern preacher as the sermon closes. i may not know where i’m going… lord, have mercy. if i knew where they was, them purple, royal, lace things, i’d put them on. walk around. smelling myself, like a queen.

TAMEKA CAGE CONLEY, PhD is a literary artist who writes fiction, poetry, plays and essays. She received a doctoral degree in English in 2006 from Louisiana State University, where she was a recipient of the Huel Perkins Doctoral Fellowship.  Her dissertation, Painful Discourses: Borders, Regions, and Representations of Female Circumcision from Africa to America, was awarded the annual Lewis Simpson Distinguished Dissertation Award.  In 2010, she received the August Wilson Center Fellowship in literary arts. Her first play, Testimony, was produced at the Center in May 2011. An excerpt of the play is published in the anthology 24 Gun Control Plays and has been performed in Los Angeles and the Darlinghurst Theatre Company in Sydney, Australia.  Her poems are published in Callaloo, The Portable Boog Reader, African American Review, Huizache: The Magazine of Latino LiteratureDriftless Review, and a special online feature of the Southeast Review in response to the Ferguson protests that spread across the nation. An excerpt of her novel-in-progress, This Far, By Grace, is also published in Huizache and on the magazine’s website.  She has received writing fellowships from the Cave Canem Poetry Foundation, the Vermont Studio Center, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Squaw Valley Writers Conference and Workshops.  In October 2013, she received the Eben Demarest Trust grant, awarded annually to an artist or archaeologist.  Past recipients of the Demarest include painter James Pollock (1945) and choreographer Kyle Abraham (2012.)  Her poem "Losing" was chosen by the Pennsylvania Center for the Book as one of four featured poems for the Public Poetry Project in 2015.  She is a two-time recipient of the Advancing the Black Arts Grant, most recently to support the completion of This Far, By Grace. She wrote the poetry for RISE, a cantata composed by Judah Adashi chronicling 50 years of the Civil Rights Movement from Selma to Ferguson.