Raven Leilani

The Happy Black Woman

The happy black woman is on the uptown R, mango and cayenne in her teeth. She splays in the shade of her braids. She ripens under the river’s summer glass, and no one dares audit the grades between arabica and midnight. She is supermassive, light and heat flickering a deep throat. Death and suction. She appears at your door, slinging metadata from her archive of stars. In other words, the happy black woman collects her debts, pulls from death, a mouth. She eats you out of house and home, inverted sunshine on her thick, moon-blue thighs. The happy black woman is insufferable, most loved when suffering. But a happy black woman cries in a train car without wondering what terror she’s confirmed. She is fat and yellow, black and bald. She is leaning breathlessly against her house as it floods with funereal lace. She is in the mosh, killing God, embarrassing the continent of Africa with her two left feet. She is a Texas bama, a suburban mama jamma frying birds and bananas. She is a darwinian demon, code switching between the curb and the corner office, pulling herself out of a hat, this and then that in a single turn of a hummingbird’s jeweled throat. She is the nigger’s doughy new suffix, turning crops of cotton into tulle. The happy black woman says nigga and means hello. The happy black woman says nigga and means please go. The happy black woman does not say the n word, but when she’s finally home and her bra is off she says it all the time. The happy black woman does not say woman to black men, does not say black to white women. The happy black woman doesn’t delve too deeply in the politics of her best white friends. The happy black woman doesn’t have any white friends. The happy black woman has a fist beneath her fro that snaps unauthorized fingers. The happy black woman isn’t marketable. She does not sell books, does not open movies, does not live to the ending, must be pretending. The happy black woman walks out of one audition into another. A pregnant teen, a welfare queen, a libertine. A too saditty, surprised you’re pretty, mammy titty. A so well spoken, sidekick, token. The happy black woman parts her legs and shows you real cognitive dissonance. She prefers prozac to prayers. She is a virgin with sweet, bourbon cheeks, afraid of being kissed. The happy black woman ain’t your ride or die. She can’t wait to say goodbye. She recedes into the dusk with her jewelry and coconut oil, leaves you high and dry. She gets in her car and she drives. She is somewhere between twenty and fifty five. She knows it is too good to be believed. She is trying not to fall, waiting for the day she does, and everyone is relieved.


Raven Leilani’s work has appeared in the Columbia Literary Journal, New Haven Review, Granta, Psychopomp Magazine, New Delta Review, Silk Road Review, Ruminate, Blueshift Journal, and Bat City Review. I am also pursuing an MFA at NYU.