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erica lewis - Lil' Homie, or For the Love of Mary

Life has been messy. I’m not even talking about COVID or pandemic life. Of course, everyone has been affected one way or another this past year with some sort of pain or trauma, I just never thought that I would be faced with questions like: What do you do when your everything dies? How do you continue to create when you no longer have a purpose or a muse?

My mother, Mary, was sick for a long time. In the last few years, I slowed my life down to be with and care for her; it was a privilege, not a job or burden. While she was ill, I wrote and published two books, daryl hall is my boyfriend (Barrelhouse) and mary wants to be a superwoman (Third Man), about her family, my ancestors, and how they raised me, what they went through, how they struggled and got by in this country as black, white, and Native American people. Things got to a point, however, where it seemed like I had run out of things to say. I couldn’t write; I couldn’t focus on anything.

I had a fair amount of restless, creative energy that I had no desire to manifest through language, but could no longer continue to internalize. I started to channel that energy into selfcare and started creating oils and creams here and there for myself and my mother. I made oils to soothe our scalps and grow her hair back from the various treatments she underwent. I even made her a cream for pain and inflammation that did wonders for her joints and bruises. I told one poet. Then another. And another.

Poet Sommer Browning and her custom dream whip body butter

When I felt like life had all but drained my creativity, I started lil’ homie apothecary. Poets have been my main customers, supporting this word-of-mouth endeavor, raising funds, which helped pay for my mother’s ongoing care and cover some of her expenses, including helping winterize her home in Ohio, the home in which I have been living since her passing in December.

lil’ homie keeps me connected to my mom and has changed the way that I think about creativity and re-connecting to the world. This project, something that was born out of pain and necessity, has become a substitute for the words that stress and trauma have taken away from me. Creating these healing oils and butters not only keeps my creativity flowing but allows me to channel some of that inventiveness back into writing, which I am slowly starting to revisit and re-imagine.

Being a woman of Native American, black, and white descent, it is important to share the stories of my ancestors. I will never stop sharing these stories about my family and the beautiful black and indigenous people that I come from. lil’ homie keeps me determined and purposeful, telling stories in new ways by creating lux, natural, handmade, micro batch self-care products with purpose and intent. I still have something to say, it just may not always be through the semblance of a poem.

I found some of my mom’s oils while cleaning out her dresser drawer. She was known for being a collector of fine scents. I don’t know where they came from, how she got them, or how to get more, but I used one of the oils that reminded me of her to create a special body butter for myself called, “i am my mother’s child.” She is still my muse, and she is still guiding my creativity. Everything I do is still for the love of Mary.

erica lewis

erica lewis was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Herbooks include the precipice of jupiter (2009,with artist Mark Stephen Finein), camera obscura (2010,with artist Mark Stephen Finein), murmur in the inventory (2013);and the box set trilogy: daryl hall is my boyfriend (2015)and mary wants to be a superwoman (2017) and mahogany (2023).Her chapbooks have been published by Belladonna, Lame House Press, and AfterHours/The Song Cave. She lives in San Francisco.

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