On the eve of Rihanna's new album, r8 (rumored to drop tomorrow, 3/26), I'm dropping this poem for Riri/Miss Robyn Fenty, goddess and poster child for my soon-to-be Poet's House workshop, Bad Bitch Poetics:
Poem for Rihanna
Because you pose next to a penguin
in daylight, and by nightfall you prop
up a slow loris, matching spit
with animal. Do you know
that the slow loris, endangered,
bites with toxic saliva?
Because in “Man Down” you wear
platform heels the color of dart frogs,
keep a pistol in your underwear
drawer with which you shoot
your rapist. Because your only promise
was not to be sorry, and from that oath
you tattoo Isis, wings spread,
sieving your skin. Because once
you were filmed in the tall grass.
It was August. Sparklers swarmed
the field. Ireland unpeeled your rind
with its golden shade. Because next
the farmer who owned the land
said, “The state of undress
is becoming inappropriate.”
Because despite yourself, you left
the premises. Because your name
is Robyn, and Robyn hides
most of the time. Because she emerges
in Barbados, where the tide
wracks her knees and the sun tames
the hair on her neck, transporting
you back to girlhood—that small
girl, the shy one, who guarded
herself with a notebook,
left the island at sixteen.
Because a 777 transported
you to seven countries in seven nights.
Because you held your fans
hostage with diamonds.
Because you never said you’d conquer
your flaws. Because I don’t want
to live in a world where self-respect
is governed by what a woman does
with her vagina. How about her
composition? How about her empire?
Because once I sang “We Found Love”
in Yogyakarta with a stranger
and his guitar before he broke
fast at dawn. In the same city
as you, I’ve searched all floodlights.
Where is Rihanna in this city?
I’ve asked Paris. Where is Rihanna
in this city? I’ve asked New York.
Because in Houston you told a dancer
to dream big, dream huge
as you slipped her money.
Because in “Half of Me” you admit
that not giving a fuck is only half
of it. Because I don’t know where to find
love in a hopeless place, but you remind
me, Robyn, again, again: it’s possible.