A Proper Lover
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Adrienne Christian is the author of one previous poetry collection, 12023 Woodmont Avenue. She has received fellowships from Callaloo and Cave Canem, and was a finalist for the 2016 Rita Dove International Poetry Award. Adrienne’s poems have appeared in The Los Angeles Review, Concis, Obsidian, frogpond, and other journals and anthologies. Her nonfiction has appeared in Today’s Black Woman, Jolie, and African Vibes. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in English/Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
At times Christian’s writing is so personal you find yourself looking up to see if anyone—perhaps the poet herself—has noticed you peering into this private space. The journey begins with a searching mother’s ill-conceived but transformative message to her daughter: “if no one is talking about you, you’re through.” From that initiation, the exploration begins for both what one seeks and what one hopes to become in the experience of tongues, letters, texts, lost sons, and words and deeds both well-intentioned and anything but. In these poems, even Aphrodite finds herself reaching that confusing, utterly quotidian point in the journey “wearing/sensible shoes, making crockpot/meals,/doing it/missionary.” By the end, we are challenged to consider this: perhaps what is “proper” is simply finding someone with whom we can “make each other feel wanted.” Follow this erotic journey, and then ponder your own. —John Jeffire, author of River Rouge and Motown Burning
Adrienne Christian’s A Proper Lover is a fierce book of love poems. This book is lyrical, confessional, raw, and well-crafted. Her poems reveal the unsayable, unfolding like stories; they will enlarge the reader’s memory and evoke much emotional appeal. –Lenard D. Moore, author of A Temple Looming and recipient of the 2014 North Carolina Award for Literature
The wise, brave and saucy poems Adrienne Christian has written in A Proper Lover sing praises laced with the aromatic sugar, spice and bitterness to loves lost, won and surrendered to. From the first profound mother/daughter love, through boyfriends, lovers and husband, Christian’s poems point to the “proper lover” in all her raunchy, genuine grit. Like the deceptively simple work of Nikki Giovanni, these poems of the heart and body whisper their gospel to our soul. –CARLA DRYSDALE, author of Little Venus (Tightrope Books) and Inheritance (Finishing Line Press)
mornings in the mirror
remind me of my mother
in her panties, bra, slip,
how I’d sneak
small sips of her tea
to get some
sit on my front porch
look out across the street at
and tell her if her husband came home
one dollar they offered me
all summer long cynthia rendezvoused
in mine/my mother’s basement
mother taught me to be vigilant
she taught me to work smart
even if one of your girlfriends comes,
you have to stay here on the job
so that summer
me and lemon iced tea and
danny and the dinosaur
on the porch
june i sat
july nothing but
august one one nine eight six
fred came home early
his brown cadillac with the turtle wax
stuck to it
his wife in my basement, stuck too!
my mother, fast asleep on
me flying down those basement stairs
i remember mr. isaac pulling out of miss
cynthia. his thing a sunday
meatloaf. her nipples baby food
clove cigarettes, an ex-lover story
on the couch after work i smoke, hack.
these djarum cigarettes
like fiberglass in my lungs.
a little hell,
only breathing out brings me
to this little life i have.
i do not think of the
cancer of the lungs,
nor the surgeon general
i think of you
the way you tasted of red wine and cloves
that first time and every time
you took me thereafter,
how you spitted your thumb,
went underneath my bra,
and found my nipple
hard and ridged like a bottle cap
older retired gentleman
you text him and he writes back call me
or can you talk?? he thinks vaginas are
supposed to have hair on them. the
music he plays is music. the food he eats
is food. when he hangs up, his good-byes are keep sweets,
or alright there now little darlings. you ask if he prefers
in or on when he comes and he says in! incredulous, mortified.
you tell him you turn off your phone
when you’re writing, and he tells you
naw naw, we keep the lines of communication o p e n.
he asks if he can kiss you when it’s yall’s first kiss
he says get yourself a cup of coffee when he
hands you five hundred dollars.
he drops you at the mall while he goes on to the
racetrack. i won’t be longer than i’d say about an hour.
after one hour he’s there at the pickup point. your horses win?
you ask, and he tells you, well a few. i don’t know about the
last couple horses though. you say, didn’t you stay to find out if
you’d won! he says, i told you i’d be one hour.