TYEHIMBA JESS

Millie-Christine: On Display
We count the blessings of our doubled shell
with each breath. We prove we’ve endured faith’s storm every time we rise to face the crowd’s faceas
we pay our dues. We’ve proven ourselves
to those who doubt our form. We have performed on display. We’ve been richly, rudely paid
for science. We’ve been taken town to town
-been photographed half-nude, verified to prove veracity. They’ve scanned each side
like prize bovine: We’ve been pawed up and downfrom
my twin’s navel to between her thighs and then back up, staring into my eyeseach
sawbone has searched us from spine to loin-
We’ve been probed, prodded, and roughly examed- from backbone to backbone, from hip to hip,
our wondrous oneness exists. We’re conjoined.
and we’ve lists of doctors who understand our miracle is real. Hear and see this:
We’re not frauds, but born of providence:
God mended two souls into one dark skin.
Millie-Christine’s Love Story
Here – this is our story I want you to hearour
own duet. Listen to how we’re bound in unison. Listen to the grace we have
-one body crooning two notes. By God, we’re
like sympathetic strings. Each sung sound ringing within me and my other half;
airborne, shook and shimmering through my head,
with Christine’s voice at my side. I have sung with Millie’s embracing contrapuntal,
in a way very few could comprehendwith
souls ablaze. This is how I know love- so you can see my life is brimmed. It’s fullwith
every breath we’ve got. I’m filled completely,
the way any other human would love. I live each day like I won’t see its night,
I love my song and dance and familythe
way you love your own blood. Twice as much. I’ve double the cause to celebrate life.
I love this burden that we’ve been givento
ride the shared wake of one blood’s rhythm…

Millie and Christine McKoy
We’ve mended two songs into one dark skin We ride the wake of each other’s rhythm
bleeding soprano into contralto beating our hearts’ syncopated tempo
-we’re fused in blood and body – from one thrummed stem
budding twin blooms of song. We’re a doubled rose
descended from raw carnage of the South with a music all our own. With our mouths
bursting open our freedom. We sing past rage seeped in the glow of hand-me-down courage
grown from hard labor that made our mother shout,
spent with awe. We hymn to pay soft homage
to the worksong’s aria. It leaves us drenched in spiritual acapellas,
soaked in history like our father’s sweat flowing soul from bone through skin. We pay debts
borne of and beyond the flesh: we are just
two women singing truths we can’t forget
from plantation to grave. Lord, here we are, from broken chattel to circus stars,
freed twin sisters who’ve hauled our voices far… we sing straight from this nation’s barbwired heart…
Millie-Christine Buy Land
We’re freed twin sisters who’ve hauled our voices far…
We melodize worldwide. More than just freaks, we’re certified global phenomena:
Wir singen in drei Sprach und machen es schwarz!
Nous avons chanté le français á Paris! We’ve sung hymns before Queen Victoria!
We speak more than one tongue. Wherever we roam
we’ve made our wealth. For gratification, we earn respect. We give solid proof that
this gift’s pure gold! While we travel the road,
we pay mortgage on our old plantation – the Lord provides for us. We make greenbackswith
dimes hoarded by pinching francs and pounds
for our folks. Thus, we buy liberation from each gawking crowd. Meanwhile, dollars stackagainst
servitude. We sing freedombound
-and we know the cost. We’ve overcome from the root of our guts. We give back
with duets all mingled up to heaven
-we’ve bought land that once enslaved our parents…

Millie-Christine are Kidnapped
Straight from America’s barbwired heart
we’d been rented and sold, then snatched! Taken like doubled dark treasures; entertainment
at the age of three – we’d been kidnapped afarlike
contraband, we’d been shipped to Britain, imported by a scallywag agent –
we’d been stolen from mother and master. Absconded,
we’d been smuggled to freedom’s soil. And yes, from slavery we’d slipped into libertythe
thief ’s greed had set us free! Although bonded,
though we’d missed family, were we not blessed? because of our great popularity
we’d earned a London court’s sympathy, and thus,
we went back to bondage in mother’s arms. we sailed back to our Carolina home.
We returned to a master we could trustchoosing
between homeland and untold harms, torn ‘tween family or freedom’s unknowns
our mother left England and went back South –
Straight into Dixie’s rebellious mouth

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