In honor of Black History Month, espnW is running essays and poems throughout February on influential black athletes.
for Simone Biles and Simone Manuel
Miraculous is a woman
her dedication, her skill,
the body that she wills
to slice air high above
heads, land precisely.
Her squared shoulders
She tumbles in a leotard,
commands every shift in muscles,
the master of limbs in her own flip.
The twist of her body
swift and exacting
as she loops, spirals
her way to lift arms
upright, arch her back.
Miraculous is the woman
who snaps into focused
taut line as she barely
breaks the water's surface.
No jet engine or combustion
Ignites her push past
the others determined to make
their mark, but she is so focused
her hands touch the lip of the pool.
Her nails polished red, white, blue.
She covers her mouth as she bobs
in the water and begins to weep.
These two Simones, in namesake and spirit, sever
wind and water, declare hard-fought victories, recall
another Simone, called Nina. She sang loud and clear.
I wish, I wish, I could know how it feels to be free.
Tara Betts is the author of Break the Habit and Arc & Hue. Her work has appeared in POETRY, Essence, NYLON, and numerous anthologies. Tara is also one of the co-editors of The Beiging of America: Personal Narratives About Being Mixed Race in the 21st Century. She teaches at University of Illinois-Chicago.