Erica Dawson

Berry, the sweeter

I put my makeup on and make

my face in shades blending to shadow.


A man looked good because I’d not

seen him before.

                            Fuck yes I pulled

a woman’s belt loop just to get

closer.  I was low enough to touch

somebody’s This is me.


                                       I’ve known

the darker the juice, the warmer the slur

of spit, acid, bile, and gut.


Some fifty times I’ve read Milton—

the pandemonium of dogs

crazy in love with born again,

chewing their way back in that beast

of a woman.  Maybe sixty times.


I didn’t read the guy in the club

who pushed up on me, see the crowd

circling around to watch him grab

my thigh and break my strap. Off rhythm.

A hand in every -ism. Such

exoticism in the dark.



                               what is fault

                               if not a deed, done did, amiss?



                   friend who took me home

                   and Yo, you know that guy was just

                   a racist troglodyte.


                                                    I looked

up troglodyte and teased my hair

so high it cleared the mirror, cracked

five teeth right out the wide-toothed comb.


I put my makeup on and broke

my face into a hundred pigments. 

Some of the hues red as the part

of the mouth nobody ever sees.


“Berry, the Sweeter” first appeared in Crazyhorse, No. 91 (2017).