Tish Jones

Before I was born
There was movement
Paddles pushing pent up people through oceans of pain
That explains my fear of water

When I was born
There was movement still

And tracks

Check it
I had my first perm in elementary school
Went from coarse
Curly black hair
To straight
Then what you gon’ do with this ’do

After that I did braids
This faux hawk Mohawk ducktail design on the side type thing
But before all of that
I also wore

Then there was high school
Saint Paul Central
Big gray five floor and a basement building
Kinda looks like a prison kinda ran like one too

The fifth floor was for the academic acronyms like AP and IB
The fourth floor was for the quest learners
Second to the best grade point average earners
The third
Well the third was whatever
The second was pass
And the first was primarily the theatre class
How we were placed in this system


My name is Tish Jones and I have been called here to represent

Whose blood sift through the palms of my little brother’s hands
As he plays in the sand and they bless him
Who existed before my four fathers
And raised men to raise men
Hence the sun and the raisin
A generation of beautiful black women
Born and bred to believe that beauty belongs to everyone but them
They dye and they fry and they try to fit in
In many ways allowing trains to leave tracks on their thighs
Because the tracks attached to the root of her naps which hang to the mid of her back
Reduce self-respect and she is alright with that
They call her a runner
Making laps on laps
Known as a track star
The best at her craft and she
Is right on

There is the little boy whose father was sent away yesterday
He’s having a bad day so he answered the test questions in the wrong way
Now he’s in the hallway with extra help
Fighting to keep his tears to himself
And she
Well she’s lived in the inner city since the beginning
Light skin
Long hair
And just a little bit skinny
She makes failing a test seem hard
Don’t believe me peep her report card

She and he were cool
Went to the same school
Hung in the same crew
Did things that two best friends would normally do
Until one day after taking that test
She got labeled advanced and he got labeled a fool
Dropped outta school and did what he felt he had to
Became a star mathematician
A genius in the kitchen
Studied how different greens and whites would help with his addition
Financial advisor for women
Pimpin’ and flippin
He fights his tears inside of a prison


Forget it
Play track black boy
Or football or basketball
Or just ball black boy
Rob steal fail get money and go to jail
You do the same black girl
Read Cosmo People VIBE and Vixen
Try all your life to find the place that you fit into

You see I represent broken histories
Missing texts from textbooks
Kinesthetic learners that don’t test good
Products of society
Twenty-four hours of good clean sobriety
A language that I play with because mine was taken
And a country that shuns me yet I have so much stake in it

A people
That are a direct result of an action taken
And people who fear those people so they’ve created laws to evade and contain them
Inside of lines
And tracks

My name is Tish Jones
And I have been called to represent the missing piece

Tish Jones is the founder, executive, and artistic director of a developing nonprofit arts organization, TruArtSpeaks. She teaches performance art and creative writing in Twin Cities area schools, as well as in prisons and at other facilities with youth programming. She is a spoken word artist, activist, educator, and organizer, and a 2009 Recipient for the Verve Grant for Spoken Word Poets and the MN Urban Griot Award for Female Spoken Word Artist of the Year. Tish collaborated with filmmaker Rachel Raimist in 2009 on a spoken word and film project funded by the Minnesota State Arts Board, State of the Cities.

Posted in: Poetry
Tagged: 2011, Tish Jones