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Root Work Journal - Navigating the Ocean - Volume 1, Issue 2


Penda Smith 



My name is Penda Smith and I am a First Wave graduate who is now an MFA Candidate for Poetry at Louisiana State University. I submit to this journal because of its reach past this world in search of a world where Black folks survive, while interrogating structural institutions that neccesiate Black death.

This poem is inspired by Christina Sharpe's In the Wake: On Blackness and Being and Zong! by M NourbeSe Phillip. I am remembering this summer's protest against police brutality and in conjunction with Sharpe's theory on atemporality, I merge being on the streets with Zong!s incantations of Translatlantic Slavery. This poem is the genesis of what I hope to be a litany of interrogations that explores the nuances around holding, the hold, and held.

what the ship could not hold


   we are talking about love & its relation to possession; 

   you read me an excerpt from a book; love is not possessed

   nor is it possession; is love then dispossesion; an act of 

   refusal; a refusing of ownership, property, cargo;

   enslaved africans held inside


   of the ship’s hold; feeling touch and touching feeling;

   the creole word for women lovers is mati; she who

   survived the middle passage with me; she who rollicked 

   who bled who oozed who moaned; but can 

   property exchange a quick glance; can property 

   swelter in heat with other property; can property

   desire another property 


    she who refused with me; can property refuse;

    then there is no property; then there are holes 

    inside of the hold; there is a refusal happening,

    i say, as you hold me; space is realizing me, 

    i whisper; the liquid in me reaches the liquid in you; 

    there is a resistance against subjectivity;

    i moan, my mouth refusing yours;

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