Call us something lovely 
    mischief changing robes. 

Call us hardened honey’s brownness 
    on the tip of the tasting spoon. 

Brown hands cradling inherited softness 
    or head cook, in a country church, hymning. 

It’s cold, darling. Come inside, make a cream-colored psalm of me. 
    Call me gospel—I don’t mind harboring millions of maybes at once. 

Call us steak knife to clean meat from between teeth 
    or steak knife to skin prey. Pray we don’t snare you. 

Cornbread crafted from spoiled milk or nickel-nicked knuckles. 
    Fault lines haunting thighs. Crimson eggs nesting, in wait, between breasts. 

Been called liars & midnight’s evil twins. Deceits blossom like fungi— 
    Black girl will hatch a long red snake-thing—a bloody cord that strangles on 
   Black girl will Sin with anything with half a heartbeat—even a dis-ease. 

That’s fine, honey, call us Pestilence’s hands
   slowly—edging Atlas— 
       the reason he begs 
          & drops it all. 

Call us end of days or pretty despite the Blackness. 
   Come into my soft coffin, my mouth buzzing flies. 

Touch my heat-strum, one more time, 
   I don’t mind, I offer the death card to everyone. 

Been called trouble 
      that good 
         good kind.

“Roll Call: New Tarot Names for Black Girls” from THICK WITH TROUBLE by Amber McBride, copyright © 2024 by Amber McBride. Used by permission of Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.