Sherrel McLafferty


When your skin looks like tar, people will inquire

about your elasticity: How far can the heavy-booted

men spread your body before there is no room for air?

Always questioning, they’ll ask: Why can’t they touch you?

You’re so fast with arms pumping like butterfly wings,

what stops you from sticking to fences when you climb them?

They’ll say: You speak so odd, with words smacking in your gob

like cud in a cattle’s mouth, when did you scribble your first rap

or are you scared of reading like you’re scared of rain hitting your hair?

Tar is a wall. Tar is the plastic from a six pack.

Tar is the subtitles to the film you never watched in college.

Tar was on the news and all they translated was blurb.

When you are made of tar, you spend all your dollars on screams.

Every word seeping down your mouth like sealant but the sound

guffaws, like a chest’s thunder exiting the corners of your lips.

When you hemorrhage tar, they will lay you in the street,

pants down, to remind themselves of what they’ve done.

Drive slowly here, this is where that tar died.

Children will cut your sneakers from the cable wires,

slicing your name from the tongues; you will be collectible.

You will be written in the margins of stolen books and exist

between the lines of spit bars no one can request at the school dance.

They will make sure of it. Someone will unravel your bantu knots,

and twist them on their own thin skull, but will not keep straight

posture because Africa is too heavy for one neck. They will smack

their mouths with your accent, spilling their red cups as they scream

ta –because dropping that hard R makes all the difference.

Sherrel McLafferty is an MFA candidate at Bowling Green State University. She is an editor for Mid-American Review and the Tishman Review.

Photo by Tayler Lyons on Unsplash