Cebo Campbell

Conversations With Women

Heaven is a wilderness, so I remember it. A mad, damp, unconquerable. Innocent rage spiraling in the pattern of the universe. All of it Woman. Little flowers, mighty vines, trees to the height of atoms. What God creates, creates. And so God adds death in her soil. To make precious what grows. This is where I found Mary. A bud too young to preside over her own memories. Too young to warden what eyes, skin, and ears smuggle through the stigma of being. Burdened to stir from darkness a cosmos. She neither called to me, nor her I. But loosed her petals to curl me into her turning. Turning, turning, and turning deep in the black soil.

First language is sound. Miracle. Thumping and whirring. Which is like the humming of stars. Which is like the throb of notion. Which is like beginning. She wasn’t speaking to me. Not to eyes or nose or bone. But to the heat in her ribs working to warm me into something. Go on. Mary says. Go on. Of the woman’s sound, all that I will ever be is reverb. Never voice. Echo.

Similar was it, for all I know, to peeking through a telescope. And seeing Jupiter.

Difference possessed when Dee Dee said, “You a boy!” She spit it at me. Spat it with such force, I dumbed into her pink and my blue. My hightops and her jellies. Her warnings and my liberty. I could see vigilance braided into her hair. Caution laced over her shoulders. She smiled. Shook her head in the way only older sisters can. And let me play with her dolls.

Granny spanked us with bare hands raised high enough to black the sun. Pain and lesson in rhythm. “Didn’t…I…Tell…You?” Not anger words. Memory words. Summoned from the earth to burn a backside. Didn’t I tell you? Hadn’t she? There was so much to tell: This is how you learn. This is how you love. This is how you protect. How to whip a callous for joy. Didn’t I tell you of all the things in between? Rape and rocking chairs. Blood and water lilies. Of all the places God won’t go. And all the places God never leaves. Told. In rhythm. Until sand filled her mouth. Until only hands remained. Same hands that pulled babies from her children. And before that pulled cotton from stems. And before that pulled lions by their mane. Old, royal hands. Capable of a stinging to outlive words. Cause there was not enough breathing in the time she had left to tell it all. Not to tell it all.

Joni said boys can’t be pretty. Said boys can’t stare long into mirrors and imagine themselves at 30. Can’t wear ruffles or paint their nails or carry Whitney Houston notes in front of people. Can’t cross their legs. Can’t dance with their hips. Can’t play house– ‘less it’s to sit there and shut up. You can’t drink from a straw, eat fried chicken with a fork, or decline an offer of tobacco. I asked her what, then, could boys do? She spat her gum on the floor: everything else.

Be sure to buy the book to read them all!

More NovelsContinue Reading

Shareable Snippets

Follow On Instagram

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

12 30 19


07 22 18

Yellow Scarf

07 18 18

Hallo Berlin

07 18 18

Kitchen Table

07 18 18

Vacant Lot

07 18 18

Norwegian Maple

07 18 18


07 18 18


View More


I am an author and a Creative Director.

As a full-time creative (VP of Creative Services at Spherical), I spend most days writing in the nooks and crannies of my available time. I wake up at 5:30am just to get in a few hours putting words on paper. I write on the train. I write on planes. I write waiting in lines. I feel I have to write. The reason is simple: representation.

I often tell the story of Ferris Bueller; a kid who decides to skip school and, on charm alone, steals a car, impersonates a cop, drinks underage, tampers with computers, and at every step exposes his best friends to peril, only to go home and fall asleep with his mother to kiss him into sweet dreams. I asked myself if Ferris were Trayvon Martin, how might that story end? I know the answer. So do you. And this is why representation is so important. I aim to contribute more stories into the world that diversely feature regular (but beautiful) lives made extraordinary. Art, I believe, is the only way to accomplish this. All my creative work is inspired by and aims to add to all the great work in the world.