how she keeps

Two poems by Sherrie Fernandez-Williams

she wonders how long before her / own body knows it is the keeper / of treasures and her mortal soul has / endless chances to get things right.

how she keeps

she wonders how long before
her frame knows all it must
do is extend, bend, land; a shifting
of weight, a solid gait,
a privilege, a mechanism

motivated, first by curiosity,
now, a matter of hope,
an ordered self well cared for

reminding her to stay in motion,
a rhythm, a camel promenading,
across the saharan where we
all begin. tiny hair of the inner ear
bounce to tinariwen

she thinks of a taurug
woman of the desert,
the keeper of valuables,
her tent at the center.
free in love. one thousand
years of a people traced through her.

she wonders how long before her
own body knows it is the keeper
of treasures and her mortal soul has
endless chances to get things right.

nomadic blues fill the empty places.
her limbs swing. her body
carries memory made and found;
friday night banter-filled pop-ins
her grandmother’s immigration
records stored in a database.
she prints, punches, and place
history into a red binder purchased for
such findings. she wants to know joy.

extend, bend, land, a shifting of weight,
her state of mind, her way of being
fully integrated. full of intent
tinariwen sings to her. As she hums,
sand spills from her fingers. her body,
her tent is the center, the keeper.
she is believes as she walks



a crop bound
and dispersed
of distressed
wombs now burnt
or buried
return to
keep eye on
the crop they
were yanked from,

and the fig
and millet
that fed them.
crop like root,
a yam, cross
bread, of both
forest and
downward to

removed to
chop cane to
better a
king’s tea. birthed

babies too
part british,

sail once more
to new land
yielded of
infected root
cropped out
but extant, weave
dust and air for
food, cropping

because they
are hungry.



Sherrie Fernandez-Williams, author of Soft: A Memoir, is a recipient of an Artist Initiative Award through the Minnesota State Arts Board, a Beyond the Pure Fellowship and SASE/Jerome Grant through Intermedia Arts. She was a Loft Mentor Series winner in Creative Nonfiction, a Jones’ Commission Award Winner through the Playwrights’ Center and was selected for the Givens Black Writers Collaborative.  She’s published poems and essays in various literary journals including Aquifer: The Florida Review, Wrath-Bearing Tree, and Serendipity among others.  Her work is also featured in the anthologies The Poverty and Education Reader and How Dare We! Write.   Fernandez-Williams discovered her need for words in Brooklyn, New York, where she was born and raised, but she “grew up” as a writer in the Twin Cities.