Black Anguish

Harmony Holiday

I'm not asking you to play Cleopatra and Liberace     that   act   is   too   bulky   and   very    cynical   worldly   people might   even   think you're   joking   or   lift   up   your   armor   looking   for   armor  and   find   it  along  with   some   bullet dimples   I  just love  what  a  mouth  does  in  rain    his  face after   the  arraignment   his   wrists  after  the  shackles  so  soft   so  bloated  and  edemic  roadless  blue   eroding     and   the   baby  crawling   across   the   alphabet   we   made   that   from   the   center  of   the   trap  we    built   this  life

It's   just   way   more   eloquent   than   anything  to  let   yourself  smile  about  it    The  market  would  call    your  enjoyment  meaningless      all  these  captains  of  industry  are  thieves!     And  today  we  took   a  walk  and  laughed    erratically  at  the  damp  lenient  scene,  the  chemtrails   huddled  like  rainbows,  hugging,  posing  vibrantly  for  conspiracists   rubbing  the  sky  with  their  swiftness  of  filth   He asked me    why  isn't  that  water  beneath  us  moving?    And  we  laughed  all  over  again,  heavier,  more sorrowful.    It's   a toxic   waste  dump     all  the  sludge  is    rooting   it   down   like  anchors  and  husbands,   I  explained,   and    we  kept  laughing      uncontrollably  now    and  the  rain    sounds   steal  drums   as  us   forgetting     to   act   stolen

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Close-up headshot of Harmony Holiday in color

Harmony is a writer, dancer, archivist, filmmaker and the author of 5 collections of poetry including Hollywood Forever and Maafa (April 2022). She curates an archive of griot poetics and a related performance series at LA’s music and archive venue 2220arts, a space she runs with several friends. She has received the Motherwell Prize from Fence Books, a Ruth Lilly Fellowship, an NYFA fellowship, a Schomburg Fellowship, a California Book Award, a research fellowship from Harvard, and a teaching fellowship from UC Berkeley. She’s currently working on a collection of essays for Duke University Press, and a biography of Abbey Lincoln, in addition to other writing, film, and curatorial projects.

Maafa is an epic poem about reparations and the female body. Maafa undoes the erasure of trauma and of black femininity. Maafa has killed her father and been granted eternal life.

Maafa is Swahili for catastrophe or holocaust, and echoes the Hebrew word Shoah. Without a word for a traumatic event, its erasure is always in progress. Maafa killed her father in the barracoons because the sight of him in captivity beside her was too much to bear. Now she is on her hero’s journey which is filled with efforts to shake the sense of shame and longing and forgetting that haunts her in her pursuit of freedom. The crime chases her into all manners of light and darkness. Through an accumulation of images she exorcises her own haunts, and is healed into complete being.

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