Remember how confused you felt after seeing the trailer for Lemonade? Well, if you watched Beyonce's visual album on HBO, which combined film, art, and some incredible new songs, it may have left you just as perplexed. From diving off buildings to cheating allegations to wedding photos, the visuals, along with the poetic music, were top-notch. It left fans feeling #blessed, but also with tons of unanswered questions. Is Lemonade all about Jay Z? Is it about Beyoncé's parents? Did Jay Z cheat on her? Is everything OK? But perhaps the most powerful element to the album was Beyoncé's speaking parts throughout the songs and chapters, which features poetry by Warsan Shire, a Somali-British poet. More often than not, the words in Lemonade were eerie. What does it all mean?
Beyoncé speaks slowly and distinctly against quiet backgrounds with crickets in the distance. "Anger" ends with the words "Why can't you see me? Everyone else can," while "Apathy" begins with, "So what are you gonna say at my funeral, now that you've killed me?" In the middle of "Resurrection," she says, "Why are you afraid of love? You think it's not possible for someone like you. But you are the love of my life." Deep stuff, am I right?
So what else did Beyoncé say in Lemonade? Here it is, broken down by title:
I tried to make a home out of you, but doors lead to trap doors, a stairway leads to nothing. Unknown women wander the hallways at night. Where do you go when you go quiet?
You remind me of my father, a magician ... able to exist in two places at once. In the tradition of men in my blood, you come home at 3 a.m. and lie to me. What are you hiding?
The past and the future merge to meet us here. What luck. What a f*cking curse.
I tried to change. Closed my mouth more, tried to be softer, prettier, less awake. Fasted for 60 days, wore white, abstained from mirrors, abstained from sex, slowly did not speak another word. In that time, my hair, I grew past my ankles. I slept on a mat on the floor. I swallowed a sword. I levitated. Went to the basement, confessed my sins, and was baptized in a river. I got on my knees and said 'amen' and said 'I mean.'
I whipped my own back and asked for dominion at your feet. I threw myself into a volcano. I drank the blood and drank the wine. I sat alone and begged and bent at the waist for God. I crossed myself and thought I saw the devil. I grew thickened skin on my feet, I bathed in bleach, and plugged my menses with pages from the holy book, but still inside me, coiled deep, was the need to know ... Are you cheating on me?
Cheating? Are you cheating on me?
If it's what you truly want ... I can wear her skin over mine. Her hair over mine. Her hands as gloves. Her teeth as confetti. Her scalp, a cap. Her sternum, my bedazzled cane. We can pose for a photograph, all three of us. Immortalized ... you and your perfect girl.
I don't know when love became elusive. What I know is, no one I know has it. My father's arms around my mother's neck, fruit too ripe to eat. I think of lovers as trees ... growing to and from one another. Searching for the same light.
Why can't you see me? Why can't you see me? Why can't you see me? Everyone else can.
So what are you gonna say at my funeral, now that you've killed me? Here lies the body of the love of my life, whose heart I broke without a gun to my head. Here lies the mother of my children, both living and dead. Rest in peace, my true love, who I took for granted. Most bomb p*ssy who, because of me, sleep evaded. Her god listening. Her heaven will be a love without betrayal. Ashes to ashes, dust to side chicks.
She sleeps all day. Dreams of you in both worlds. Tills the blood, in and out of uterus. Wakes up smelling of zinc, grief sedated by orgasm, orgasm heightened by grief. God was in the room when the man said to the woman, "I love you so much. Wrap your legs around me. Pull me in, pull me in, pull me in." Sometimes when he'd have her nipple in his mouth, she'd whisper, "Oh, my God." That, too, is a form of worship.
Her hips grind, pestle and mortar, cinnamon and cloves. Whenever he pulls out ... loss. Dear moon, we blame you for floods ... for the flush of blood ... for men who are also wolves. We blame for the night for the dark, for the ghosts.
Every fear ... every nightmare ... anyone has ever had.
You find the black tube inside her beauty case where she keeps your father's old prison letters. You desperately want to look like her. You look nothing like your mother. You look everything like your mother. Film star beauty. How to wear your mother's lipstick. You go to the bathroom to apply your mother's lipstick. Somewhere no one can find you.
You must wear it like she wears disappointment on her face. Your mother is a woman and women like her cannot be contained. Mother dearest, let me inherit the earth. Teach me how to make him beg. Let me make up for the years he made you wait. Did he bend your reflection? Did he make you forget your own name? Did he convince you he was a god? Did you get on your knees daily? Do his eyes close like doors? Are you a slave to the back of his head?
Am I talking about your husband or your father?
He bathes me until I forget their names and faces. I ask him to look me in the eye when I come home. Why do you deny yourself heaven? Why do you consider yourself undeserving? Why are you afraid of love? You think it's not possible for someone like you. But you are the love of my life. You are the love of my life. You are the love of my life.
Baptize me ... now that reconciliation is possible. If we're gonna heal, let it be glorious. 1,000 girls raise their arms. Do you remember being born? Are you thankful for the hips that cracked? The deep velvet of your mother and her mother and her mother? There is a curse that will be broken.
Something is missing. So many young women, they tell you, "I want me a hu — see, all them make me feel better than you." So how we supposed to lead our children to the future? What do we do? How do we lead them? Love. L-O-V-E, love. Mm-mmm-mmm. Hallelujah. Thank you, Jesus. I just love the Lord, I'm sorry, brother. I love the Lord. That's all I got.
When your back gets against the wall and your wall against your back, who you call? Hey! Who you call? Who you call? You gotta call Him. You gotta call Jesus. You gotta call Him. You gotta call Him 'cause you ain't got another hope.
You are terrifying ... and strange and beautiful.
The nail technician pushed my cuticles back ... turns my hand over, stretches the skin on my palm and says, "I see your daughters and their daughters." That night in a dream, the first girl emerges from a slit in my stomach. The scar heals into a smile. The man I love pulls the stitches out with his fingernails. We leave black sutures curling on the side of the bath.
I wake as the second girl crawls headfirst up my throat, a flower blossoming out of the hole in my face.
Take one pint of water, add a half pound of sugar, the juice of eight lemons, the zest of half a lemon. Pour the water from one jug then into the other several times. Strain through a clean napkin.
Grandmother, the alchemist, you spun gold out of this hard life, conjured beauty from the things left behind. Found healing where it did not live. Discovered the antidote in your own kit. Broke the curse with your own two hands. You passed these instructions down to your daughter who then passed it down to her daughter.
I had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade. My grandma said "Nothing real can be threatened." True love brought salvation back into me. With every tear came redemption and my torturers became my remedy. So we're gonna heal. We're gonna start again. You've brought the orchestra, synchronized swimmers.
You're the magician. Pull me back together again, the way you cut me in half. Make the woman in doubt disappear. Pull the sorrow from between my legs like silk. Knot after knot after knot. The audience applauds ... but we can't hear them.
These words are truly haunting, and will give us a lot to dissect and talk about going forward. In true Beyoncé style.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article did not mention that Lemonade featured Warsan Shire's poetry.
Images: Beyonce/YouTube; Giphy
This post was originally published on Apr. 24, 2016. It was updated on Aug. 22, 2019.