Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

“Bear Witness”

Tiana Clark’s debut chapbook, Equilibrium, won the 2016 Frost Place Chapbook Competition sponsored by Bull City Press. She is the winner of the 2016 Academy of American Poets Prize and the 2015 Rattle Poetry Prize. Clark is currently an M.F.A. candidate at Vanderbilt University, where she serves as poetry editor for Nashville Review. Her writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from Best New Poets 2015, Crab Orchard Review, and Southern Indiana Review, among other publications.

Bear Witness

          after Carrie Mae Weems’s Roaming series

Before I knew
how to fill my onyx body
with slick measures,

dip every curve
in my skin with dark sway,
I needed a picture.

Before me stood
a long black dress I called Woman
you stand opaque

with your back to me,
a statue of witness,
the door of Yes—

I can Return
to the monument
of your silhouette

to find my longest muscle.
We both stare down
the ocean to stillness.

O, Carrie—
what are you trying
to tell me here?

I’ve been standing by water
my whole damn life
trying to get saved.

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