Crossing Boundaries: Ai


It’s always bittersweet to discover the work of a writer after her death, and that’s the way I feel after stumbling upon the poet Ai.

Black, Japanese, Choctaw-Chickasaw, Irish, Southern Cheyenne, and Comanche, Ai (or Florence Anthony) changed her name to reflect her Japanese heritage, unashamed of her mother’s one-night affair with an unknown Japanese man. Her poetry is stunningly honest, eye-blinkingly direct. It’s also evocative and sensual — and the words of a woman who refused to be defined by any racial, ethnic or gender boundaries society had pushed on her …

Below, her “Woman to Man:”

Lightning hits the roof,
shoves the knife, darkness,
deep in the walls.
They bleed light all over us
and your face, the fan, folds up,
so I won’t see how afraid
to be with me you are.
We don’t mix, even in bed,
where we keep ending up.
There’s no need to hide it:
you’re snow, I’m coal,
I’ve got the scars to prove it.
But open your mouth,
I’ll give you a taste of black
you won’t forget.
For a while, I’ll let it make you strong,
make your heart lion,
then I’ll take it back.

Photo via The University of Arizona Poetry Center


Comments 2

  1. yukoandhiro April 19, 2015

    I was honored to have Ai as one of my professors while studying at OSU. The way she wove her personal stories into our discussions will always be imprinted in my mind. What a daring soul.

    I love stumbling upon gems like your blog. I’m moving to Mexico City this June and while searching about black girls in Mexico I came upon this blog!

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