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Peace Floods the Body: Bobbi Rush’s ‘Language of the Crow’

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The first presidential debate occurred last week. I texted one of my editors, Cara, “Are you going to watch?” And when she told me that one of the themes of the night was “race and violence,” I had to swallow my anxiety. Instead of watching the spectacle, I decided to practice radical self-care: I chose to step away from digital media and to read more of Bobbi Rush’s new book of poems, Language of The Crow. As I was reading, my friend Jenn messaged me that watching the debate made her feel like we are living in a simulation—a feeling that I’ve been consistently attempting to avoid. When I step away from the news and away from my screens, when I read written words and turn pages with my hands, I feel grounded and whole again. 

I have been delighting, word by word, in Rush’s third book for a few months. I’ve been taking it slow, savoring the language and intention that the artist imparted upon each page. Rush’s words are a welcome respite from the constant barrage of psychically draining digital information. In a time where empires are seemingly falling and chaos reigns, Rush’s book filled me with a sense of stillness and purpose. The author’s ability to use language to invoke vivid imagery of ascension and depth, especially her use of repetition, added to the meditative quality of her work. 

 

Bobbi Rush

Born and based in Baltimore, Rush is a writer, singer, model, and jewelry designer who seems to be in love with the world. She’s the creative architect of her own universe. Rush says that self-publishing this book in September has set the stage for other projects she plans to put out soon, including a jewelry collection featuring handmade clay pieces that she calls Water Is A Mothafucka (WIAMF). After releasing a new song earlier this year, the contemplative writer is thinking forward to her next music project as well. 

Rush told me she couldn’t say definitively what compelled her to write this book: “Maybe time, or the fact that I must write and something to share came out of it,” she said. Her answer is as ethereal and elusive as her writing and singing voice. She said her greatest artistic influence is her mother who she describes as a “craftswoman, writer, playwright, designer, singer, author”—a polymath much like Rush herself.

 

 

Bobbi Rush

Remarking on her favorite author, Rush stated, “There are so many women I love. So hard to say. But the first to steal my heart and mind was Ntozake Shange.” She wished peace to the transitions of Shange, who passed in 2018, as well as her mother, who passed in 2006.

The opening words of Language of the Crow bring us into the middle of an assertion of absence and endurance: “… And so i must carry on without you.” The line, which suits the mood for this entire year of longing and adaptation, sets the tone for the rest of the text, an exploration of major shifts and growth through short, free-verse dispatches that explore and praise divinity, roots, water, blood, flesh, fluidity, and embodiment. 

Each page contains concise but heartfelt thoughts and observations from Rush. Many of these read like meditations on a moment, like the vertical invocation to healing and ascension, “Crow,” which appears about a third of the way through the book. Here, the word “UP” is repeated nine times down the page, all caps, a ladder of two-lettered text. At the bottom of the page, the alchemist author offers instructions to “repeat as many times as necessary.” I have returned to “Crow” in several moments of anxiety and despair. With each repetition I inhale and exhale, finding my breath becoming more still, and more peace flooding my body. 

I’ve found myself echoing other words from the book since I started reading it. The phrase “having a love affair with the sky,” which begins the manifestation poem “Such Purity,” sang to me, as a woman who has fallen in and out of love with the world and with the sky numerous times. As I read this line I immediately felt a tremendous amount of peace, thinking of The Moon, The Sun, The Stars, and storms. Rush’s text reminded me of the fabric of the universe, and I felt the velvet weight of the firmament of the heavens that we are all suspended under but so often forget. 

The manifestation continues later through the poem “Beautiful, Mysterious.” Rush observes, “God is thick in the air as she is every night”—her naming of God as a “she” made me feel powerful. The image conjured by the phrase “sky drenched in stars” allowed me to visualize a divine and Black woman god. Through divination and creation, this God activates the nighttime with glitter in the form of stars. 

 

Short, spiritual, succinct, and sincere, Language of the Crow is a primer on liberation, self-discovery, introspection, and intuition.
Teri Henderson

Incantation and the pairing of the sacred and profane are melded together in this poetry by a Black Baltimore woman sharing magic and wisdom to her reader. The final line of the book, “I am the activist of all my insecurities,” is extremely compelling for me—as a Black female creative reading the words of another Black female creative this final moment was special, especially in a year of adjustment and flux. The line made me think about the hours I have spent alone this year, ruminating, pausing, averting spirals, and constantly recalibrating, sometimes quite painfully. Reading these lines forced me to ground myself and to fully dwell in the present moment.  

This year has involved so much self-reflection and isolation. The ability to read, to find peace, allowed me to reclaim agency over my anxieties and stress. I used Language of the Crow to return to myself during a tumultuous moment, and I am certain that I will repeat this exercise when I need to in the future. Like many people, I find the current state of my life disorienting and contradictory. With COVID restrictions slowly defrosting in some places, we seem to be returning to some normalcy at a snail’s pace, even though the coronavirus is still very much alive. I feel like I have used the phrase “surreal” in my daily vocabulary to the point that it’s losing its power—I told a friend recently that this world is making me yearn for more adjectives. And I know that I am still seeking human connection. 

Reading Rush’s book made me feel more connected. At just twenty-eight pages, it is a quick and enriching meditative experiment. It allowed me to return to art, to return to words, to ingest information that was healing and fulfilling. The titular crow is the author’s mirror; through the crow, Rush’s voice ascends up and off of the page. The crow’s ascension parallels the writer’s internal echoing for freedom and, in a larger sense, resonates with the battle cries of Black women in Baltimore and beyond. Short, spiritual, succinct, and sincere, Language of the Crow is a primer on liberation, self-discovery, introspection, and intuition. There is power in her poetry and in her work. The strength of herself and her conviction is evident on every page. 

 

 

Print copies of Language of the Crow are currently sold out, but you can purchase a digital edition through the author’s website.

Images courtesy of Bobbi Rush

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