Drawing inspiration from the 1982 novel, Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo by Ntozake Shange, the poem “Consort of the Spirits” celebrates the legacy of Black womanhood, ancestry, and resilience. The opening lines of Shange’s novel read: “Where there is a woman there is magic.” This phrase serves as the entry point for framing womanhood, specifically Black womanhood, as something extraordinary. In tribute, “Consort of the Spirits” guides readers on a journey through time and memory, depicting the tangible yet magical ways in which lineages of Black women have carried tools for their survival, protected their shared histories, and guided their descendants on a path toward a more liberated future.

There are roadmaps in my great-great-grandmother’s braids.
She keeps seeds in there too
   because where we are going, home must come with us.
Tell me how your mother hides spices in the hem of her skirt,
tucks hymns behind her ears
   and calls it packing for tomorrow.
Do the women in your family hide rosewater in their saliva,
sage in between their thighs?
   Because how dare we sleep on strange land
   without blessing?
There are black eyed peas in my auntie’s coin purse.
She keeps moonlight in there too.
   Because luck is far more precious than loose change.
Tell me how your sister folds indigo leaves between her toes,
smuggles cotton flowers under her arms,
   and promises that where we are going there will be color.
Do the women in your family wrap beeswax around their
ring fingers,
   tuck matchsticks in their collarbones,
   and vow that we will never know darkness?
I carry a cowrie shell in the crook of my arm.
It sings when my twins are near.
   I wear sea glass upon my ears because where we are going
   there will be music.
They call this survival,
   but we know better.
   Where there is a woman there is magic.
They call this survival,
   but we pack what we must
   because what we return to may no longer be ours.
They call this survival,
   but this ritual of making to leave
   before knowing where we’re headed is how
   we birth futures.
They call this survival,
   but the body is a compass
   and we are each other’s destination.