Light and shadow.
Gate and fence; barrier and portal.
Tears wept by the trees; blood drawn by the thorns of the barbed-wire fence.
While I worked this afternoon, I listened to it again, Lemonade, an album by a woman far younger and richer and more beautiful and more talented than I have ever been or will ever be.
What could I possibly have in common with Beyoncé?
And, as always, I cannot get through the hearing of it without the tears.
When it came out, I read review after review, the ones by white folks, especially men, dismissing it, the ones by reviewers of color recognizing its musical and technical genius. There were the reviews by Black women, largely informal, recognizing it for the Ode to Black women that it most surely is. I read the activist tributes to her willingness to take on the current climate in which the lynching of Black folks is again epidemic.
I saw the scandal-sheet speculations about the state of her marriage, about the all-too-clear accounting of Jay’s infidelities, about the endless imaginings of who did what to whom. I saw WhiteFeminism™’s unique combination of toxic envy and envious outrage, anger at her beauty and her sexuality and her so abundantly clear owning of both, dismissive of the “story” as tidy and trite and oh-so-unfeminist because, in the end, she elected to make it work. Elected. Decided. Chose.
I saw nothing of Beyoncé as conjure woman, although I saw her so clearly, vodou and hoodoo and brujeria and older medicines yet, an indigeneity as undeniable as it is is insistently unrecognized. But that is a story for another day.
On this day, I saw her again as not the near-billionaire hip-hop mogul, not as the singer and actor and celebrity, and the commander of command performances who is now covered in the gossip columns not as the wife of Jay-Z, but instead sees, behind her dark glasses, them refer to Jay-Z as the husband of Beyoncé.
All of that would have been enough for any day, rare as it is.
But today, what came through in the tones the world derides as vocal fry, in the vibrato of emotion that even the recording studio could not elide or erase, was her that essential twinning of love and pain that women of all sorts and stations know so well, that stitching of pain into one’s heart only to have love unravel it all again.
The whispers, muttered under the breath, wanting the confrontation so badly, and yet so terrified of what it will bring.
The bargaining, born first of disbelief, then evolving into a terrible thing, equal parts indignation and humiliation.
The point at which anger takes over, fury, rage, and still your voice breaks in those opening bars when you’ve made yourself strong and you know you can stand and deliver and your words betray you anyway, splintering into shards that tear your throat and your soul apart, and then slowly finding your voice again anyway, until at the end the fury takes over and you deliver your ultimatum and you are STRONG.
And you think about all the things you can do with your life on your own, all the brave things you’re going to do and try and be, with your girls or with the grind, and if you have to, you’ll do what daddy said and you’ll shoot that motherfucker because that’s nothing more or less than he deserves, and you’ve been practicing so don’t. fucking. cross. me.
And then you see what’s been, what’s built, what’s broken, what’s washed away, and you think, yeah, maybe you do have to leave, and you do it, or you try to to, but there’s something underneath it all that won’t. let. go.
And you see the beauty in what was and what is and what could be and you find yourself turning, returning, not so much coming back as springing back, pulled by something braided around and into and through your heart and soul, and as much as you can’t give it up, it can’t give you up either.
And so you go forward, and you do it with more data this time, you find your freedom, your emancipation, your liberation in the love you can’t don’t won’t surrender, and somehow you grow stronger in spite of because in love with and so does he and you haven’t forgotten who you were because you’ve found her but you also see that there’s no space where you leave off and he begins because you’ve been through too much and now it’s not a barrier, it’s a portal, not a fence, but a gate, not a shadow, but light and fire and warmth and love.
And you are in formation, because you’ve gone to war and you’ve lost and you’ve won and you’ve reached detente and you’ve signed the treaties and accords, and none of that matters because you’re still standing tall and strong.
Only this time, you’ve done it, made it work, chose it and sweated and bled and died and rose again for it, and now your tears are tears of knowing, of understanding, of gratitude even as they still hold the faint melancholy scent of loss that was and almost-was.
You are love and in love and you are both one and two and together you are free.
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