material elements of some years of the artist’s life or fabric, wood, paint, and strings

Alexis Pauline Gumbs

after “Clown Marionette” by Alma Thomas, circa 1935

matted hair my grandmothers pulled out in their sleep

trees that held their backs

well mixed watercolor tea

and whale intestine


white paper i waxed and blackened with every crayon in the box

popsicle sticks i collected the slow way

the blue of candied teeth

and fraying frizzy yarn



clarinet reed


spiral plugged-in phone


dayplanner covers

stacked soles of platform shoes

newspaper ink

flatiron cord


the jeans i wore until they fell apart

the floors of dorm room nights

the printer acrylic of t-shirt transfers

the ropes that lift the windows


glued spines of books

reclaimed church fan handles




photocopied poems

cheryll’s picture frame

markers staining fingers

yard grass


letters of invitation

well-maintained forest trails


luggage tags


boarding passes

tea stirrers


the word yes


blanket sweatpants

houseplant stems

spice mix

mask loops


most of the fabric is paper

most of the wood is actually wood

most of the paint is edible

most of the string is still here

Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a queer Black feminist love evangelist and an aspirational cousin to all life. Alexis is the author of several books including the forthcoming biography Survival Is a Promise: The Eternal Life of Audre Lorde.
Originally published:
December 11, 2023


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