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Teri Ellen Cross Davis

About the Poet

Teri Ellen Cross Davis holds an MFA in Creative Writing, Poetry from American University. She is a Cave Canem fellow, a Pushcart Prize nominee and has attended the Soul Mountain Retreat, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.

Her work has been published in many anthologies including, Bum Rush The Page: A Def Poetry Jam, Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem's First Decade, Growing Up Girl, Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC, and Check the Rhyme: An Anthology of Female Poets & Emcees. Her work can be read in: Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Gargoyle, Natural Bridge, Sligo Journal, ArLiJo, MiPOesias, Torch, Puerto Del Sol blog, Poet Lore, and is forthcoming in the North American Review.

Her first collection, HAINT, is scheduled to be published in June, 2016 by Gival Press. She lives in Silver Spring, MD with her husband, poet Hayes Davis and their two children.


Spring 2016 »

Fade to Black

“…embedded racism extended into the aesthetics of the medium itself…the technology and grammar of cinema and photography have been centered on the unspoken assumption that their rightful subjects would be white. . . The multicultural realities films increasingly reflect go hand in hand with the advent of technology that’s finally able to capture them with accuracy and sensitivity.” --The Washington Post, October 17, 2013

Only now can pixels completely capture
the mulatto ancestors born in Virginia,
the freedmen of Georgia, the sharecroppers
in Lafayette County, Arkansas, the winters
yellowing successive generations in Cleveland.
Only now does the camera rhapsodize
over the freckles pale blossoms,
continuing their spread, like seeds,
every year, each crop more noticeable
than the last. The lens focuses
on the pores’ gentle sag as the skin
ushers in the fourth decade; the areola’s
circular spill, nursing’s bulls-eye;
the faded ripples, broadening streaks
on the abdomen and thighs, smooth
reminders from their stretching boast
twice taut, now slack; the adolescent scars
on the left inside wrist-the only physical
reminder of a parents’ divorce; the darker
brown and black moles— little peppered
volcanoes once seen on Big Ma’s face—
now popping up, more each year. A closer
angle spotlights the spiral curl of the hair,
a decade free of chemicals, softer now,
assertive, tangled in reflection. Finally,
the close-up— a mirror, and I am discovering
how slow love is, even slower acceptance,
but traveling down the road I was born to know.




Because I want to be seen
I strip down comes
Josephine’s feather skirt
Sarah’s prodigious bottom
Dorothy’s come-hither stare
Aunt Jemima’s red kerchief
Mammy’s wide bosom
National Geographic’s tribal nakedness
History in each garment on the floor

Not full frontal, nor profile
Not the background
Nor the body reclining
Standing, I name myself
Shedding the fiction of availability
Becoming nonfiction
Let the prose of me
Gild your tongue
Separate the double-speak
Fingertip, lip to limb
You read the tome of my skin
This body in a new language- my own




the hymen wants to
please me ... cure me ...glorify me
make an entrance upon breaking

where shame .guilt .relief stain
cold water and soap knuckle out
please come out ...don’t let her see ...don’t let him see

farmer ...if your crops spot
if drought digs in
the ground refuses to flourish

grab your daughters ...if they be virgins
drown them in the nearest lake
brick them into a nearby well

block them from the peeking sun ...brick
by blood by brick it carefully
so the gods see ...and reap your returns


Teri Ellen Cross Davis ~
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