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color theory

By Imani Davis

a political statement walks into an art classroom. could be the walls, or her bones, either way she know some white structure will betray her soon. she takes narrative off her body like a coat. her skin the only negative space in the room. they put her here for contrast. they call it diversity. it just look good, you know? makes the lighter colors gunshow pop. you wouldn’t even see her in the dark if not for her teeth. you feel bitten into even though she hasn’t opened her mouth. all the eyes passing over her right now. dissecting her body like a corpse. eyes look just like she did. black center surrounded on all sides by white. a dominant gene. she the center of attention. takes a seat on top of the quota she just filled and gets comfortable. she’ll be here awhile. scribble in the corner of your eye. she pays you no mind. she’s painting entire canvases Black now. tells the teacher she’s making mirrors. she could look at anything Black and call it a mirror. this what Black art mean. catching yourself redhanded. not knowing if it’s from paint or blood. not knowing if basquiat broke the silence or became it. it’s the double take when you realize she’s been painting with bullets. wonder how she got all the color to stick to them like that. where she got all that color in the first place. whose mouth it fell out of. it coats the teachers throat. he says that’s not what art looks like/you can’t sharpen its fangs like that/who knows what might happen if you leave that in a gallery, it could eat everyone alive/and they wouldn’t even know how to hang that up without a noose anyway/a Black body of work is still a Black body. she smiles, like her bones have abandoned her, and breaks how she’s supposed to. you make sure to get every drop of her blood on canvas. it’s not erasure, it’s performance art. watch them photograph her chalk outline and have the nerve to sell it on t-shirts. a Black body of work is still a Black body. and you won’t even let her die properly. you got red paint in your teeth. red paint on every whitewhite wall.


it’s so easy to wash off.




Listen as Imani Davis reads "color theory."

Added: Thursday, June 1, 2017  /  Used with permission. Imani Davis' "color theory" is the 2nd place award winner for the 2015 World and Me Poetry Contest through Split This Rock.
Imani Davis
Photo by Karen Yang.

Imani Davis is a queer Black writer from Brooklyn. A Pushcart Prize-nominated poet, they earned fellowships from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Lambda Literary Foundation, BOAAT Press, and the Stadler Center for Poetry. Their work appears with PBS NewsHour's Brief But Spectacular Series, The Offing, Best of the Net, TEDx, The Adroit Journal, The Rumpus, and elsewhere.

Other poems by this author