Poem for Rihanna

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.