“Regina” by Valerie Speedwell
Regina is a blend of poetry and jazz, performance and lyrics, offensive, full of swagger, she found the world on fire and threw more flame on it, thick girl, addicted to jelly rolls and pies, the expanse of her spilling over chairs and benches and edges of things, fat but hungry for more because what they feeding her not filling her, dark-eyed girl, color of pitch, one tooth missing, her badge for living in a city made from a blueprint of ditches, hacked-off steel bars and water pipes, her kinky hair separated in two big twists, it’s too nappy to flatten and smooth with the sizzle of an iron like the pretty girls, the girls with good hair, gold hoop earrings big as hub caps in her ears, the girth of her squeezed into clothes too small because no one around to buy her new ones, preteen, pre-diva, pre-ghetto queen, unafraid to speak her mind, speak her heart, speak, sing, shout to anyone and everyone who can hear, to stamp her feet, wave her hands, snap her fingers, shoulders going, part prophet, part entertainer, ever combative, her mouth a machine gun shooting words to take out the crowd, to slay them into silence and admiration with her rhyme and her song, the rhyme of the streets in her voice, the rise of church rafters in her voice, the rhythm of beat boxes in her voice, you hear them going strong as she jumps from vowel to vowel, sing song in iambic pentameter, the special meter of the inner city child, flowing about New York, about Central Harlem, about daddy in penitentiary, momma gone in the needle, being motherless and fatherless, a long way from home, about being, having been, what she might be some day, money, money, always hustling for money these days, even as she’s saying this, sharing with you her heart, pulling you in, she’s a breath away from sticking her finger in your face, one hand on her hip, a Nubian jewel with a bite, fearless in the face of danger, things that’d terrify a grown man, send him running, armed only with words, words, blasted on the schoolyard, sidewalk, any piece of asphalt, she’s looking for an audience, looking for a crowd, for their approval and applause, and despite she’s fat, despite she’s ugly, despite the world expects her to fail, the crowd calls out go Regina, go Regina, because she is revolutionary and shocking, two snaps and a circle, what she has to say inappropriate, uncooperative, emotional and tough, but her delivery, half-spoken/half-sung, full of rolling music and finger snaps, is smooooooooooth, so smooth, smooth, smooth, when you hear her, Regina gives you goose bumps.
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Valerie Speedwell’s Artist Statement: Valerie Speedwell grew up in New York and now lives and writes in San Francisco. She’s currently working on a novel called Potluck: Recipes for Love, Passion, and Rebellion.