Magic Enuff

Poems

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June 25, 2024 | ISBN 9780593907986

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About the Book

Radiant poems that celebrate Black Southern womanhood and the many ways magic lives in the bonds between mothers, daughters, and sisters, from the bestselling author of Memphis.

“A gorgeous collection exploring the bond and beauty of Black womanhood.”—Warsan Shire, author of Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head

“God can stay asleep / these women in my life are magic enuff”

An electrifying collection of poems that tells a universal tale of survival and revolution through the lens of Black femininity. Tara M. Stringfellow embraces complexity, grappling with the sometimes painful, sometimes wonderful way two conflicting things can be true at the same time. How it’s possible to have a strong voice but also feel silenced. To be loyal to things and people that betray us. To burn as hot with rage as we do with love.

Each poem asks how we can heal and sustain relationships with people, systems, and ourselves. How to reach for the kind of real love that allows for the truth of anger, disappointment, and grief. Unapologetic, unafraid, and glorious in its nuance, this collection argues that when it comes to living in our full humanity, we have—and we are—magic enough.
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Praise for Magic Enuff

“These are lush poems full of radical love and strength. Tara Stringfellow is a guiding light of tenderness and power. Her words are a balm. Magic Enuff is a gorgeous collection exploring the bond and beauty of Black womanhood.”—Warsan Shire, author of Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head

Praise for Tara M. Stringfellow’s debut novel, Memphis


“A rhapsodic hymn to Black women.”The New York Times Book Review

“Tara M. Stringfellow will be an author to watch for years to come.”—Jacqueline Woodson, author of Red at the Bone

“Shows tremendous insight into the effects of violence on Black women in America, told from a captivating Southern female perspective.”—NPR, “Books We Love” 

“A dazzling display of female resilience . . . Pulsing with heart and beating with soul.”The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Recommended for anyone who appreciates Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, or Gloria Naylor.”Library Journal (starred review)
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Excerpt

Magic Enuff

Picking

my grandfather
did it
a sack of hemp
tied to his shoulders
filled with clouds
of a fruit inedible
his daddy did it we all did it
we didn’t know no betta
he says it was a job
before, it was a life
the only one a Black body
could make a dime on
he trails off
sips the whiskey
I’ve brought him
you know
being in all dat cotton
I ’member the singing
most of all
a great moan
then ’nother
then ’nother
then ’nother
comin’ in waves
startlin’
sorrowful
like the voice
of God


Origins

Once in Atlantic City, after she couldn’t take it any longer, she picked up a bottle and sprayed mustard all over his shirt like silly string. He laughed a high, unsettling laugh in response. Shoved popcorn in his mouth and, walking earshot behind her, said she really must be a no name nigga from Memphis if she think she gon’ get anywhere with three babies no degree and a black face. People on the boardwalk didn’t know what to make of it. Some laughed. The women didn’t. They looked at her. Then at the stroller.

He gave her a black eye Easter night. She said he was a cheat jus like his Black ass daddy and that’s when the fist came—­unexpected, quick, soundless. She rebounded against the peach-­colored wall. Went after him with a butter knife of all things, circling him round and round the dining room table that was littered with scraps of hours-­old pork. The police officer was nicer than most. Let me sit on his lap and play with his flashlight while he took his notes in our kitchen.

My almost-­ex-­husband is always late. After another fifteen minutes, he walks whistling a familiar tune, in carrying his elegance like a satchel and looking as he always did in that caramel wool coat, spitting image of Jack Kennedy. When he sits, still humming Sinatra, I hiss out an angry whisper: you know my check engine light has been on for months, I’m at my wit’s end, I’m using this refund for bills. The tax preparer across from us kindheartedly pretends not to hear him call me a Black bitch. Years ago we had a pregnancy scare. He fell asleep with his head on my belly talking about the Cubs and humming Sinatra songs. Angels cheer ’cause we’re together he crooned. Over and over.

Sitting on our back porch in Memphis, I pass my sister the bottle of rye I’ve hidden in my purse. Remember when you damn near killed Tony? she asks. She’s talking about the time I walked into a hotel room in DC and saw my sister, all five feet ten of her, lying in some foreign origami pose on the floor while her boyfriend stood over her swaying drunkenly, leisurely like paper in the wind. The police officer said I went after the boy’s neck like I was wringing out a damp rag, but I couldn’t tell you what happened. All I remember was Kristen on the floor and wanting to tear out that boy’s trachea with my own teeth. We laugh about it now. I ask her why on earth she thought it a good idea to date a Yankee. Uppity niggas. The lot of ’em. Her laughter dances along to the song of crickets in the night. Still cracking up she says I looked like a bear bout to claw his eyes out. We sip whiskey. No, I say. I looked like mom.


Hot Combs Catfish Crumbs and Bad Men


lent she’d send us out
come back with a basketful she’d call
my sister and i caught black tadpoles
with dark hands thrust into warm bogs
seeking, unafraid
my mother bent over cast iron skillet
read entrails in the hot oil
men will fail you more than the Lord
she swung a rosary over the stove
a pendulum pointing south
my sister collected hair thick as a nest
from all the old combs in the house
buried it deep in red clay
daddycomeback she chanted

God can stay asleep
these women in my life are magic enuff

About the Author

Tara M. Stringfellow
Tara M. Stringfellow is a former attorney, Northwestern University MFA graduate, and two-time Pushcart Prize nominee whose debut novel and national bestseller Memphis was a Read with Jenna pick and longlisted for the Women's Prize in Fiction. A cross-genre artist, the author was Northwestern University’s first MFA graduate in both poetry and prose and her work has appeared in Collective UnrestJet Fuel ReviewMinerva RisingWomen’s Arts Quarterly and Apogee Journal, among others. After having lived in Okinawa, Ghana, Chicago, Cuba, Spain, Italy, and Washington, D.C., she moved back home to Memphis, where she sits on her porch swing every evening with her hound, Huckleberry, listening to records and chatting with neighbors. More by Tara M. Stringfellow
Decorative Carat