Nikky Finney was born by the sea in South Carolina and raised during the Civil Rights, Black Power, and Black Arts Movements. She is the author of On Wings Made of Gauze; Rice; The World Is Round; and Head Off & Split, which won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2011. Her new collection of poems, Love Child’s Hotbed of Occasional Poetry, was released from TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press in 2020. 

Finney shared the poem “Instruction, Final: To Brown Poets from Black Girl with Silver Leica” at Rural Assembly Everywhere: Road to Repair. The poem is in Finney’s book “From Head Off & Split” (TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press 2011).

Instruction, Final: To Brown Poets from Black Girl with Silver Leica

Be camera, black-eyed aperture. Be diamondback terrapin, the only animal that can outrun a hurricane. Be 250 million years old. Be isosceles. Sirius. Rhapsody. Hogon. Dogon. Hubble. Stay hot. . . . Become the lunations. Look up the word southing before you use it in a sentence. Know southing is not a verb. Imitate them remarkable days. Locate all your ascending nodes. Chew eight times before you swallow the lyrics and lamentations of James Brown, Abbey Lincoln, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, and Aretha. Hey! Watch your language! Two and a Quarter is not the same as Deuce and a Quarter. Two-fisted is not two-faced. Remember: One monkey don’t stop no show. Let your fat belly be quilts of quietus. Pass on what the great winemakers know: The juice is not made in the vats but in the vineyard. Keep yourself rooted in the sun, rain, and darkly camphored air. Grow until you die, but before you do, leave your final kiss: Lay mint or orange eucalyptus garland, double tuck these lips. Careful to the very end what you deny, dismiss & cut away. I have spoken the best I know how.

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