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Tiana Clark reads her poem BBHMM, responding to Rihanna's music video for Bitch Better Have My Money.

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Tiana Clark:

"BBHMM” from I Can't Talk About the Trees Without the Blood by Tiana Clark, © 2018.
Used by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.

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Hi I'm Tiana Clark.

I'll be reading my poem BBHMM. I'm really interested in acrostic poetry -- poetry that is responding to a piece of art.

And I was really inspired to actually respond to a music video,. Rihanna's music video Bitch Better Have My Money. When I saw it I was completely awestruck and in a trance and I watched the video probably 20 times in a row and I'd never seen this kind of power before.

And where a kind of a black female is in a position of power and in charge and has her own agency and an act of retribution and getting her own money. It kind of became this power that I wanted to possess and kind of play with on the page.


   after watching the music video

I, too, want to be naked,                           zebra-striped
in the almost dried accountant's blood,             sticky
and sucking                 a fat blunt inside a Louis Vuitton
suitcase brimming                        with the newest money.

This                            is another way to see myself, too,
in the way Rihanna      nooses       a white woman   up
by her smooth feet,    a blue-blooded pendulum    swaying
as her beautiful tits       look more perfect than ever.

Why did that image excite me so?        No,       not the tits,
but the simulated lynching.                    It feels so damn
delicious          to say bitch.           Bitch better/bitch better have
my money
   inside my mouth.              I hate it when people

talk about black artists                          being capitalists.
Why can't we thrive in something rich and green too?   And let us
be loud about it?  Let us be loud       without consequence.
Remember when we were dating?   I wanted you    to pay

for every meal, and yes, the movies taught me that love
was someone reaching for the check   first.
But there is no such thing as a free lunch.  Someone 
has to pay     with the fruit from their body.       Yeah, I'm spreading

my legs      for someone else, because I'm hungry     and always
at the end of some kind of altar.     Even now, I'm paying   for my doctor

to reach and scrape inside me    to say     I don't have cancer.
She tells me       I need to start thinking about babies

because of my age.        I think, Bitch...    I'm not ready.
There will always       be tithes and offerings.  At my church,
they called it first fruits.      My mother gave me quarters
and as a kid            I waited for the clink at the bottom

of the bucket being passed.  I believed God heard this too.  
Somewhere    someone is counting the cash behind a velvet curtain.
Once, a boy said, suck it, bitch       with his heavy, dense hand
at the back of my head            pushing.  Pushing              is

another way to mean     pay me what you owe me.  I didn't forget.
Yeah, I see the total       at the bottom of the receipt.
I have so much    debt.
                                 I am forever    in the wettest red.