Poetry has the motion of a hummingbird yet the stillness of steam rising from a mug. In Jasmine Mans’ poetry collection, Black Girl, Call Home, she gives breath to Black women with agency, communities, and bravura.
Mundanity and structure are bones for many of the poems. “That Was Her Way of Showing God” details a mother cleaning her home that shows her honor to God without going to church. “Momma Has a Hair Salon in the Kitchen” is a crescendo of Black women’s hairstyles in every texture and type.
“Sandra Bland: A Different Story,” “Image Description:”, and “Sandra’s Haiku” uses structure once again as the beacon to give reverence to Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old Black woman who was found hanged in her jail cell three days after being arrested for a traffic stop. The first poem is an imagination as an alternative to what could have happened to Sandra the day she was arrested. The fervor and gentleness are palpable.
“Bnai’s Three Babies” is one of the few poems that expands for pages. The beats in that poem arrive towards the end. “Momma Said Dyke at the Kitchen Table” is tender and sacred that also speaks to the response society often has to the term dyke.
Kanye West is a subject. Why him? Why not him? In “Kanye’s Black Aunties,” she thinks about Black women who love men like him, who are misguided, disrespectful, and audacious. “Footnotes for Kanye” goes in on what he appropriated from Black culture for his preferred woman of choice. The poems that bear his name directly in the title call him out. Yet “Through the Wire” cradles West’s demons. West’s bosom buddy, Jay-Z is a poem’s subject for his role with the NFL, despite the league’s degradation of Colin Kaepernick, whom Jay-Z has supported.
Poems about Whitney Houston are a succession that hold her to high esteem as a legend and the tragedy of her personal life.
“Black Son” gives the anguish of raising a Black son. In the title, Sean Bell, a Black man killed in a police shooting in 2006 in Queens the morning before his wedding, is referenced. As a Black boy is growing in the womb, a Black mother’s anguish is prominent. There are conversations in the poems about birthing, sterilization, and motherhood that center Black women’s experiences with parenthood and the body.
“Witch” is a poem that asks questions that empower the brevity of the poem.
“The Repass: Our Own Restaurant” is a psalm that acknowledges the power of nourishment after a funeral.
There are several poems with no name. They are a maximum of three lines. They carry like bridges in a song. Without a title, they are more bare without the pretense of words.
Black Girl, Call Home is complementary to the albums, Heaux Tales by Jazmine Sullivan and Eve by Rapsody. It is an aromantic and cinematic reflection that affirms Mans as just one Black woman who shares multiple Black experiences through bold empathy.