Mendi Obadike makes literature, art, and music. She is the author of ARMOR AND FLESH (2004), which won the Naomi Long Madgett Prize from Lotus Press. With her husband Keith Obadike, she composed THE SOUR THUNDER, AN INTERNET OPERA and produced an audio anthology of text-sound compositions entitled CROSSTALK: AMERICAN SPEECH MUSIC (Bridge Records, 2004 & 2008). Their conceptual media artworks have been exhibited at the Whitney Museum, the New Museum, and Electronic Arts Intermix and the New York African Film Festival, among other institutions. Their opera-masquerade FOUR ELECTRIC GHOSTS debuted at The Kitchen in May 2009. Mendi earned a BA in English from Spelman College and a PhD in literature from Duke University. She has taught at Princeton University, Wesleyan University, and the School of Visual Arts. Mendi is Assistant Professor in Humanities and Media Studies at Pratt Institute. “Protest Poem” was first published in ARMOR AND FLESH (Lotus Press, 2004).
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- by Mendi Obadike

Should the years continue to press
as they press now, and in their pressing,
press the sugar from my skin, let the stone
that forms inside me be amber. Should
there be aching, then, for sweetness,
should they come looking and find me,
let them find in me this rock, and not
my bitter carapace. This rock, and think
of honey, stored away for safe-keeping.
Tomorrow, who knows? Should the sun
burn on, as it plans to do, and as it burns,
burn down all the trees, let my shadow  
be a cool thing, reaching out to shade you.

    for Stephen

Faced with his jaw, his cocked head,
the stubble on his jutting chin, you might believe
he is all points. Even the thick shock of hair
that used to roam his head is now oiled and stretched
and woven into tight rows. You could almost forget
his naps. Like most things intimate, he buries
them close to his body. He even guards
his words with teeth and slightly cracked lips.

Sometimes, I find myself tricked,
as if I never watched him practice this stance.
Two years ago, he measured each risk
of fashion and gesture by an older cousin’s
calculations. Now, sparsity is a sixth sense.
To catch him feeling, you have to know the glint
in his eye is a smile. Notice, when you hug him,
how he holds on longer than you. But give up
on full sentences and eye contact.

This is fifteen.

Wait for him on the other side
of hardness.