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Protective Style

by Jana Ross

She is growing her hair like a blanket around her body

Moss Woman

hangs her head in a river

She has spent a lifetime learning about herself

And found that

She has to start by loving herself

This often means an investment in boundaries

After the current has cleansed her,

She casts a protection spell around her home

But the one beside her bed each night is a body of stone

And sinks into her room of dirt

This lover who watches her

looks hungrily

“Can you give me a thousand strands?

That is but a limb to a tree”

No, she replies, if I do, I shall bleed

So the lover looks at the ground and rips up vines and leaves“

I build my own”

But every handful of Earth,

Each taking of life,

Put a pain in her side

Until she was curled around her crown

And when the lover returned,

Proud of the mimicry,

Viewed not the limp body of the Moss Woman

But instead, where she laid, a great Sycamore

She had turned into a tree

(Copyright Jana Ross; Black Diaspora, 2023)


Jana Ross, the grand prize winner of the African Diaspora Award, has always kept diaries and journals as a child. As a young girl, she exchanged poetry journals with her best friend. The intimacy of community remains one of her most cherished aspects of poetry and sharing stories. Artists like Gwendolyn Brooks, Virginia Woolf, FKA Twigs, La Dispute are among those who inspire Ross’s work. But she also credits friends and family members. In particular, her auntie, Sharon Bridgforth, a writer that she recommends checking out, inspires her the most.


Subscribe to Kinsman Quarterly, a tax-exempt, non-profit literary journal with the mission to amplify BIPOC and underrepresented voices.

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