She’d walk up and take the sandwich
from your hand to feed her kids

She’d wear red ’round her rear on Sunday
to Sunday service

Her lips were painted red

Her nails were painted red

She made looking away from you
look easy and telling you off
even easier

She boldly walked into church and
kissed the preacher’s cheek

She laughed loud and
folded money into her bra

She’s the reason the witch doctor wore rose-scented cologne

The painter had to paint her
he said
and she allowed him to follow her around for days

He knew she drank beer and
smoked cigarettes

He knew she lived in a greystone on St. Lawrence Avenue with her mother

Her mother baby-sat her kids

She shopped once a month at Marshall Field’s and
paid extra to have things delivered

The father of two of her three boys
was Robert King
one of “Big Daddy King’s” sons
from the King’s Report

The painter painted her
by looking into her window

He painted her
while she undressed in another room
and half her body
including one butt cheek
was exposed

He painted her
under the light of a shaded lamp
wearing only pumps
brown skin and
milk beneath her pores





poet Vida Cross poses in a black and white photo playing with some of her curlsVida Cross’ work has appeared in Reverie Journal, Reed Magazine, Make Magazine, WarpLand, Mochila Review, and the Journal of Film and Video. In 2008, she received an Illinois Arts Council Special Assistance Grant for Bronzeville at Night: 1949. She was named the Honorable Mention Award recipient by Elizabeth Alexander in the 2010 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Cross is a recipient of scholarships from Cave Canem, The Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, and Voices of Our Nation writers’ retreat.


“Bodacious” originally appeared in TLR: Refrigerator Mothers, and is retrieved here as part of our Vigil for Mother’s Day 2022