• Ramonah Gibson

The Promise

A sestina written in Fall 2019


“This is the best party of your life.”

I expected it to be hot and sweaty -

Bodies bumping, adhering, then separating.

I didn’t know everything would be so sticky.

But I came prepared with a pair of soles ok with being loved.

This is what I dreamed for. Fuck.

I find myself in a backroom being fucked,

Watching as its drained out of me: my life.

I hear whispers of love

as they take, once freely given, joy from me, a constant press on my body. Sweaty,

pleasure—filled words drip from their tongue. Sticky

with promises only meant to get me here. Words and actions, separated.

My happiness and theirs was always intended to be separated.

I am the entertainment for the party of fuckery.

I beg and plead to leave, to just not be sticky.

I’m told they don’t want me to go. I am enriching their lives,

they swear. Before flipping me over and leaving a me-sized imprint of sweat.

For my kind, that is the only way they know how to love.

I thunder “This isn’t love.”

“This isn’t what everyone is having.” What defines the separation?

The partygoers and the backroom entertainment. The good sweat and the bad sweat.

“It’s an honor to be the relaxation, the merrymaking.” It’s an honor to be fucked?

To earn the privilege to enter this caliber of party? I worked my whole life.

No one told the black women, not only the floor would be sticky.

A never-known-hardship-smooth voice apologizes. I’m lifted, told to help clean this stickiness.

Rags shoved in hands. “Clean, for the sisters coming after you.” This is an act of love.

“Help us to change. So we never ruin another life.”

My emotions, like water and oil, are separated.

I begin to clean and realize—they entice you. Invite you. Brutalize you and leave you fucked.

Then, they ask you to cleanse their mess so it never repeats. They own even your sweat.

Is it sweet, my sweat?

Is it special? Spiced? Or just another flavor in the long parade of sticky

treats. Is it the chase to get me here or the actual fucking

that gets you off? Where is the love

I was promised when I stepped through your doors? Why am I separated

from the rest of the pack when you promised me the best party of my life.

“W&L is committed to providing a loving community to all. Once a General, a General for

life.”

That promise is made on the back of black sweat and yet we lack the right color for it to stick.

I came for the promise but from the day I arrived till the day I separate, I’ll continue to be

fucked.

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