Poem: Surveillance of Joy

It was never about the camera

or the power its lens claimed to transmit.


It was always about our mothers

Black and Muslim and alive

and how you zoomed out so far away from her.


Convinced she did not exist, you projected

your ignorance through the aperture of this lie.


At first, even our neighbors

distanced themselves from us,

as if proximity would spread your illusion

or worse.


I want you to know, down here

a gate of paradise clips itself to the calloused feet of our mothers.


I want you to know down here

your dark chambers only captured the flat shadows of our likeness

you can’t own the ceremony of our brokenhearted mothers repurposing grief,

or filter in the way their deliberate joy ignited confidence in us

until our winnowed down bodies puckered.


The alchemy of what these women could do—the world told us we were worth one thing

our mothers sucked the poison out, and when we thought we had to muffle our laughter

our mothers said: louder.