Adrienne Oliver

Archive of Treasured Baggage

It must be a rule that bookstores have hidden
chairs. I suppose the State Department of Nostalgia
certifies wobbliness to ensure peak uncertainty
that it might hold. They are, of course, an office
of that hiccup drum kick Tribe uses so well.
My girls call it paradox, which is a fancy word
for God, but who reads poems with four-letter
offerings? The truth is I’m just learning how
to be human here. Brightness for sale all around
and critters approach the door, knocking at entrances.
Desperate moths, hungry to be seen. Torn seams
on a tattered book are the space between girlhood
and now. In blankness: a soul, drawing lines
from that to this. kintsugi. the Marigny. Queen Charlotte.
Auntie Toni. A chandelier in an ordinary room.
Though I’ve never seen one, I curve my hand just so,
nuzzling my camera in preparation.
Frida Kahlo’s ornate broken heart: I didn’t understand,
and then I did. The steam coming off city streets
on summer nights does just that — heats the day
with its wonder and stench until we call it our own.
A narrow hallway, an old mirror undusted, the way
your body finds mine at night, still carousels in the rain
from afar, the grocery store at 10am on Thursday.
My wide hips, these thick thighs, their earned slowness.
In the end, I tuck a love note on a shelf just to never know.

Adrienne Oliver is a performer, public school educator, single mother, and a Black woman in each of those realities; her work is to become a worthy ancestor. A 2021 PEN America Emerging Voices Fellow, her students call her ‘Our Lady of Everything,’ and her films and writing have appeared in the Virginia Film Festival, Spark and Echo Arts, Puerto del Sol Black Voices, Dear Lois Magazine, and Maximum RocknRoll. Adrienne curates and hosts the Coco Sprinkler Citrus Poem reading series and Jericho Brown calls her “the only person who reads [his] poems better than [him].” She is currently in residence at the McGuffey Art Center and writing her first book. Find her @adrienneoliverrr or at

Frida Kahlo, standing next to her work, The Two Fridas, Everett Collection Historical

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Spring 2021