PAD Challenge Day 14: Black Steel Magnolia


PAD Challenge Day 14: Write an ekphrastic poem.

Black Steel Magnolia

I met her for the first time on Saturday, June 17, 2023,

at 10:30pm, in Charleston, South Carolina at

One Hundred and Eighty-Five East Bay Street.

In the right wing of the private dining room,

is where you can find her.


She’s in an ornate gold frame.

I was too distant to decipher 

the painter’s name in the

lower left corner of the canvas of

blended oils and acrylic paint.


Her background is midnight black and purple.

She looks like the big momma that many

in this generation needs today.

Her skin is medium, deep bronze,

smooth like silk. No blemishes.

Over a U-shaped neck,

her oval shaped face owns no smile.

More like an RBF. 

Perhaps, she’s confused, disdained, 

maybe a little exhausted but clearly alert,

or just appalled. Her eyebrows are relaxed

and medium arched.

Her left eye, decorated in pink pastel eye-shadow,

is bigger than her left. Her lower lip is heavier than the top.

I imagine the width of her smile,

What’s withholding it while adoring her natural,

black, thick, and coarse hair that covers her ears.


I assume she’s clothed in a collared dress,

the shade of mint green because her plus size

body frame is visible from the waist up.

Only her left arm, which she holds a

budding magnolia by hand, 

is visible to the living eyes of the guests.


I wonder, was it given to her.

Did she find it or pluck it during summer?

Did she hold it to her nose, close her eyes,

wished that she had good fortune and joy like it?

Was she The Help?-

a well-known domestic worker

of the deep south, paid only $3.50 to $5.00 a day

to clean, fold laundry, provide childcare to children

that she did not conceive and cook soul food

that her family were missing or couldn’t afford.  


Maybe, this self-portrait is homage,

to the head cook that once chopped

the collard greens, chicken, and tasso ham,

and pureed red peppers, and peach chutney,

now gathered in my Down South Egg Rolls

or did she once clean and seasoned the seafood,

chopped the potatoes, corn and orka

tossed in my Low Country Bouillabaisse today.


Photo Captured at Magnolias Charleston, SC.
Art rights reserved to original artist.


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