“You Cain’t Help What Come Up on You”

Ashunda Norris
| poetry

A Grandma Ossie proverb

it’s 90 degrees in a georgia august
& there goes my sister marchin down buckeye barren
fingers twirled around a 30 gallon dolla sto trash bag
full of no one knows what the fuck & she got that
determined gait on her. struttin in her madness my aunt on the phone
tellin me: your sister walk for 5 minutes & rest in the ditch for 10.
that’s when I think on the one time my sister ran,walked down from
the house to a church. sat right on them church porch steps & told
the po-lice that she was restin. restin for what say 12 & my sister
say she trainin for a marathon even though it’s pushin 100 & she
ain’t left the house in a year & some change. tail end of sorrow in my
my mama’s eyes. she ova there watchin a wonder deteriorate beneath
her own shadow.

it’s bout three hours later & my sister still trudgin down that
highway like it’s our backyard. one of my cousins want to just
haul off and lug her lanky ass right in his car. reason she stompin
down the road in the first place is cause she don’t want to go to the
doctor. sheriff done served papers & when she get them handed to
her, told my mama: I ain’t going nowhere & you can’t make me.
that’s when she packed that big ol trash bag & call herself leavin for
good. sheriff finally send somebody down to help & my sister let
them know she filin a complaint cause she a law abiding citizen & all
she doing is walkin down the road that ain’t breakin no laws. deputy
go on to say he got some papers that say she gotta go to the doctor.
my sister, turnin on what she think charm brilliance: whose signature
is this? a judge didn’t sign off on this so I want to file a complaint of
harassment. on who say the deputy. my sister tell that man she
complainin on her whole family & his office too. by now deputy all
impatient & tired of goin back & forth with my sister’s mania. she got
two choices: get in the car or get put in the car. she get in the car.

it’s three days later & my sister in a psych ward refusin to give them
aides permission to hand the call code out to my mama. I act like I
don’t care I can’t call my sister & check on her. I act like it ain’t a
stance she done made against the family. I try not to take it personal.
I act like I got two sisters instead of three.


Ashunda Norris is a Black feminist multidisciplinary artist with creative work that encompasses film, poetry, archiving, and her own theoretical frameworks. Ashunda’s writing has been featured or is forthcoming in Gulf Coast, Torch Literary Arts, Obsidian, Taint Taint Taint, Root Work Journal, Fence, and other noteworthy publications. Born and raised in the heart of rural, red clay Georgia, Ashunda is now a bonafide, citified bitch living and creating in Los Angeles.

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