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what is the true determinant of joy?

Updated: May 2

what is the true determinant of joy?  


Is it never having to argue my existence, ever-safe in the knowledge that I am human, worthy and deserving of all good things? I could save my words for wonder; shared secrets between sisters. songs in languages I don’t know. cries of unbridled pleasure. I would be free of sorrys, maybes and ifs, my tongue becoming a silver, pointed thing capable only of commands and reciprocated I love yous.  


What are the markers of happiness when one is constantly situated between violence and isms, lying fetal in a body meant to walk upright? Is it vengeance?  Bittersweet nights spent bathing in the blood of our enemies? 


Those come easily to girls swallowed by our demons, so joy feels like freedom; like cleansing with fire and rising from the ashes. In the aftermath, we grow medicine trees and clay homes out of our long-awaited rightful revenge. We rejoice in our old bones and worn muscles, our only true forms of inheritance.   


Joy is slow fingers and hot oil in my hair because I have no job, no master, no oppression — simply time to tend to myself as a Black femme should: carefully, leisurely, with love and intent. I grow rose beds in my garden, peppermint on my windowsill. I sit, listen, and breathe because these are the only demands of me. 


If life is a quest and the goal is to be free, what then does it mean to be truly liberated?  


All days become holy days. Alter workers dress in their best whites, draw circles of powder around their stools, and stir their pots. There is time, dedicated time, to talk to our ancestors. To return to them. Again and again. We become unafraid. We remain relentless, standing in righteous truth because it is ours and the only true form of ownership. 


There are so many words. In my mother’s tongue and yours, so I have to wonder if joy is never being misunderstood. Or if the utter meaningless of language that has suffered such violence and rage that it’ll choke you before it could ever free you renders these paltry words useless, thus making joy movement. Action. Choice and solidarity. If I put my mouth to yours and breathe life into you. If I share this aching desire to be a bird in the sky by carving it out of my chest and burying it in yours, is joy found in the moments we share?


And if it is none of these things, then joy is simply my prerogative, the one thing in this life I’ll claim without shame or indecision, for it is mine and my only true form of entitlement. 


2020

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