Shanta Lee, The Topography of One’s Body

What does it mean to have secrets as the topography of one’s body?

It is true, not all secrets are created equal. Some add a sway to the hips while others…well…they are a poison that eat us from the inside out.

I’m Tellin’

All unsaids, All secrets are not created equal. Some secrets kin with our bodies because our bodies know that they need to be the safe, the harbor for such things. This is not about that. Some secrets turn a walk, a regular gait to a saunter because the body tastes its sweetness. This is not about that. Certain kinds of othas, secrets that is, well….they bloom somethin else, the poison that eats us from the inside out.

This be bout dat. Dat latter kind. Dat otha kind.

It’s not just in the toxic we trust. We grow. We throw seeds. We replicate it. 


When I was a child , there was a statement that we would say that would check the perceived wrong doer. It would be something like, ’Oooooh, I’m tellin.’ What precedes the ‘tellin’ is the series of oooo’s mixed with the arrangement of vowels and consonants after that short phrase all together, in sum, in calculation, may make the 24 million miles long tail of Hailey’s comet green-eyed.

I’m tellin’ was a threat. 

It was to check the doer who was already in deep doin wrong. It was a  nod to the way one was willing to betray secrets, willing to betray the real monster who hid under covers.

The tellers of the toxic became the snitches, the snitches  is who we said would get stitches     In those streets

What does it mean to have secrets as the topography of one’s body?

Be damned, dare stitches,  dare the can of whoops ass…I’m tellin.

No threat…but invocation


Viens ici

Je ne te l’ai jamais dit mais

Oui je l’ai fait


Gwendolyn said it best, “…Even if you are not ready for the day,

It will not always be night.” By not ready, we mean whatever you are holding.
Whatever is hiding within the folds and wrinkles and twists of
unmade beds.
Whatever is being passed across through invisible notes

All ink doesn’t vanish. Some just wears…refusin’ ignoring

By not ready, we mean through the hush of phone calls.
The phone calls that contain whispers.
The phone calls that have no phone lines that require that and only THAT one other person picks up the receiver

The thing that returns to the pit spiraled tight behind the spiral of the belly’s button. The thing that makes it feel like each look by another means they know it because of the way it reads on the body. Tethered and bound. Whatever it is that you are holding and hoping that the sun won’t beat you to it…It’s coming

Je le referais

Je le referais juste pour le chemin


What if we said that the keepers of that kinda….  are the sleepers who never awake. What if we said we will nail their coffins shut

And forbid them from wake. What if we flipped the script on the secret keepers, the pain dwellers, all gates and their guards,

The bottom feeders who feed on the toxic blooms, the corpse eaters who grow fat full and bloated  off the bodies that become emaciated from thoooose kinda secrets

What if…We take their power back. We read the topography of the secret laden body and become fluent. Armed with the tongues that know how to untaste poison, daggers in hand.

We  the kind who realllll good with the way the sun sneaks up, how it creeps from behind the curtains of dark. The heat, we feel it on our shoulders. We refuse to hide from the way it will come get us

Nous  avons tous été pese

Nous sommes toujours trouve…voulant

Nous ne pouvons pas le nier

Something about the way a secret taste

Jevu hu fair sa

Shanta Lee Gander is an artist and multi-faceted professional. As an artist, her endeavors include writing prose, poetry, investigative journalism, and photography. Her poetry, prose, and personal essays have been featured in The Crisis Magazine, Rebelle Society, and on the Ms. Magazine Blog.


Dark Goddess: An Exploration of the Sacred Feminine February 2022  – Spring 2023 * Fleming Museum of Art


Black Metamorphoses  (Etruscan Press, 2023)


Dreamin of Mama While Trying to Speak Woman in Woke Tongues

Shanta Lee, MBA, MFA * (802) 275 – 8152

Feature Photo Credit © Shanta Lee 2015

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