Customs
by Nancy D. Tolson

    the landing they roar in the plane AFRIKAAA
    the outside smell is delicious
    warm, motherly, dark green

    my papers in hand. i stand in line
    welcome, akwaba. they stamp, they hand back
    sistah! sistah! let me help
    welcome home

    the landing they clap inside the plane
    the cold slaps me and i almost forget
    where i've been
    the sterile smell, the blue eyed stare
    i'mmmmmm baaaaaack

    my papers in hand, i am pushed into line
    no my latina sistah you are not suspecting me
    this line please.
    i am standing
    with my sistahs
    one in each row waiting to be
    humiliated

    they pass by -- from amsterdam
    bleached blonde, bleached brain
    eyes half closed
    pierced tongue, safety pinned eyebrow,
    ragged jeans carrying boxes not luggage
    tied with belts

    i must have drugs
    i am not profiling and styling
    but profiled because i am a Black woman
    i stand in line as i watch

    mr cell phone passes, missy sun tanned passes
    i watch and wait
    angrily
    wait
    the toe of my shoe is over the red line
    MAME, STAY ACROSS THE LINE
    i don't move
    MAME, MOVE BEHIND THE LINE
    i say please
    MAME, WOULD YOU PLEASE STAND BEHIND THE LINE
    i roll my eyes
    wishing her death
    i move slowly
    my brass bracelets clang on the rail
    i decided that i will clang till my turn
    i am behind the red line

    clean clothes were offered me before i got here
    i politely declined
    knowing that they would be touched

    i fit a profile. i am a Black woman

    the clanging stops.
    it is my turn
    you spent this amount on books
    yes
    what is your occupation
    professor
    where
    i quickly give an answer with an address attached
    you spent this amount on books
    (she don't get it)
    yes

    she opens my bag
    her look tells me that she is preparing to drag out
    my dirty laundry
    with a smile,
    i am laughing in my head
    i tell her
    as she begins to grab my clothes
    like an escaped convict caught but still wiggling
    i just finished my period

    she looks at me
    with disgust
    her joy has been cancelled
    she zips my bag back up
    i walk away






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