Black in Costa Rica

Hitchhiking with my Intuition in Costa Rica

costa-rica-one

THUMB OUT to the road it’s time for an adventure. “Will I get raped?” It’s a damp day on the Caribbean Coast of the Costa Rican jungle as I stand by the road with an Australian I met just hours before. The bus we’re waiting on never shows so I decide we’re going to hitch a ride. It’s my first day off work from my random hostel receptionist job and he’s a guest continuing his journey. We chat the basic shit as we wait, and I think about the fact that country after country, hostel after hostel, none of the other travelers I encounter look like me. The cleaning people look like me. They my kin so we be vibin’. “I am a traveling Black Queen,” I tell myself. “I am an anomaly in motion.”

To travel the world as a Black Woman takes intention, knowledge of self and a special kind of patience  ̶  especially when ignorant travelers can’t seem to wrap their mind around how a Black Woman can speak fluent Spanish. I just want to scream, “The Diaspora Bitch!”, but I digress.

To travel as a Black Woman is also an exercise in fluidity; an exercise in how much you can challenge your mental conditioning and perceived inferiority; and an exercise in how much you are willing and able to trust your intuition. Us Queens are blessed with the unique gift of magically precise intuition from our ancestors, and on a journey away from all that is familiar, we learn to tune in to it in the deepest of ways.  I have a flashback to a meditation I practiced the night before on Uranus, the planet of spontaneity. I decide to let her be my guide today.

A car slows to a stop in front of me. I look in and see two young guys— the driver who I barely notice and a brown passenger with smiling eyes, shoulder length hair, and gauges in his ears.

“Where are you going?” He asks me.

Feeling poetic I respond, “To the end of the road.”

There’s only one road that runs the Caribbean Coast so he smiles knowingly and responds, “To Manzanillo?”

I say “Si.” He says “Si.”

The vibe feels Irie so I hop in the backseat with my trust in Spirit, and the Australian follows silently.

In the car I briefly start to question if I made the right decision but before I have the chance to go into a mental downward spiral the cutie with gauges whose name turns out to be Luis asks me if I have any papers to roll the Ganja {another word for weed ya lil nerds}. I laugh and tell him that something told me to get some papers earlier in the day but that I got distracted in the store and forgot. He laughs with me as he grabs a big bag of shaggy herb from under the seat. “Ayeee, I chose some weedheads?!” Intuition check—confirmed.

 

costa-2

I relax in my seat knowing that I chose well as we ride through the jungle, crossing narrow bridges and having easy conversation until we arrive in Manzanillo, a town that I heard to have very strong Rastafari roots. I feel the town throwing me that ‘we laidback but have a rough edge’ vibe as we pull to a stop in front of the beach at the end of the road. I like it.

“Good vibrations,” I say to no one in particular. Gauged cutie smiles with a nod. We are here.

The Australian goes off to find the guy he’s couchsurfing with and I shake his non-melenated vibrations off my wavelength like a rattlesnake shakes off a layer of dead skin. I walk towards the ocean and dip my feet in the water as Luis and his friend Kevin find a spot on a bench nearby. It’s the same Atlantic from the States, but it feels so different.  I feel Luis looking at me as a light drizzle starts to drip from the sky. Insecurity creeps into me as I wonder, “Should I join them? Do they even want to hang out with me?” But I challenge myself to walk back. When I reach them, Luis smiles with a freshly rolled joint in hand and says, “Smoking timeeee.”  I chill out and get cozy on the bench. Kevin sits next to me as Luis sparks up.

It’s my first time in Manzanillo so I’m taking it all in—the crashing waves, the kids playing, and the black and brown sand that somehow seems to mimic the pigment of the locals I see hanging out in front of the seaside bars and stores.  This place is vibrant—antique and decrepit yet pulsating with a hidden life that I know appears once the European and American tourists riding around on their brightly colored rented cruisers are gone. I’m intrigued—Luis passes the joint.

 

costa-3

We talk about the indigenous people of Costa Rica and how the Spanish colonizers raped them, figuratively and literally. We talk about how the United States is built on the backs of Black people. We talk about the Jamaican immigrants who came to the Caribbean Coast to work on the railroads.

“So were they paid?” I ask the guys, “Or were they slaves?”

They look at each other kind of bewildered, then back at me as they reply in unison, “They were paid.”

In my head I’m like, “Damnnn, so not EVERY place that has a Black population outside of Africa means that they were brought over in chains and whipped and tortured and raped for centuries? ”

Now don’t get me wrong, there Was slavery in Costa Rica, it lasted until late 1800’s, but this was my first time ever witnessing the setting created by a willful migration of Black people. No wonder the vibes here are so…different.

 

costa-4

“You want to go to the lookout point then go for a swim? It’s about a 30 minute drive. ” I hear Luis ask me. “Mmmkay they haven’t killed me yet AND they are droppin’ knowledge, should I take a chance and trust them some more?”

I hit the joint and calmly respond, “Sure.”

At this point, I’m high as a kite and we all have the munchies. I run off to the ocean because I’m having one of those, “I can’t believe this is real life, the ocean is REALLY right here!?!” moments while Kevin goes to get sandwich supplies. When Kevin returns, he and Luis strategically assemble a delicious meat, cheese, spicy mayo, tomato and Dorito sandwich on a French baguette—right there on the bench by the beach.

I watch intrigued because this is clearly something they’ve done before. It seems like they’ve been friends forever. A handful of locals stop by to chat with Luis while we eat, and once we’re done crushing the sandwiches we wash it down with some random orange drink then head towards the point. We are back to driving through the jungle, now better aquainted and barefoot, sippin’ on some light liquor from Panama called Tamborito (Little Drum) which goes down suprisingly smooth.

Punta Uva literally means Point Grape  in English. Maybe it’s called that because there are a series of rocky points along the Costa Rican Caribbean coast that resemble grapes on a vine. I could be wrong. We pull up and get out.  Luis tucks the Tamborito in his swim trunks as we pass the tourists on the beach. I think we’re just gonna chill and swim when Luis looks back at Kevin and I and says, “Let’s go UP to the point.”  No more intuition checks. These guys are kind and genuine; my Spirit just trusts. “Let’s go UP!”

Tipsy, full, and still a lil high, we begin our trek through the jungle. Our feet gush in the mud as we climb and reach for branches to stop us from falling. We slip and laugh and grab each other’s hands when we’re about to bust our asses. Luis does a little double squeeze everytime he grabs mine. I giggle but then go back to focusing on the ascent.

There are points when we could literally fall off the cliff and into the crashing waves below so I take a moment to thank my body for coming through when I need it most. When we’re near the top, Kevin accidently drops the random orange drink chaser off the side of the Point — I take the Tamborito from Luis and tuck it in my sports bra to ensure that it doesn’t suffer the same fate. A last stretch and we make it to the top.

We reach Punta Uva and I am breathless. It feels like we are in the middle of the ocean. We can see the surfers trying to catch the massive waves to our left, but straight ahead it’s nothing but deep blue. It’s absolutely beautiful. We all take a celebratory shot of Tamborito then I chill and meditate while Luis and Kevin relax on the grass.

 

costa-5

The guys snap me out of my meditation by singing my name. I rejoice in the sound of their lovely voices.

We drink more and talk about how they’ve been friends since they were 9, the hatred of the modern world, and my plans to escape the United States of Amerikkka. I tell them that I’m a creature of love just out here tryna vibrate higher. Kevin chuckles, Luis smiles, and we fist bump in agreement.

After a while we take a last shot of Tamborito to shake our nerves before making our way back down. This trek is just as slippery and hilarious as the climb up—mostly because we’re drunk and Luis is freestyling and singing Billie Jean by Michael Jackson every time we slip since we’re “moon walkin” through the muddy jungle.

When we get back to beach level, we peel off our sticky clothes and run our muddy bodies into the warm caribbean waters at Punta Uva Beach. Kevin is not a huge fan of the rocky bottom so Luis and I go in deeper and splash and float and play like kids. We laugh at the Europeans posing on the beach. We talk about souls and spirits. He spits a few bars and I act as his hype man as I float on the gentle waves.

 

costa-6

Before I know it, it’s dark. We get back in the car and head to Puerto Viejo aka Old Port. This is the bustling part of town where precious cargo like food and slaves and later the Jamaicans arrived on the Caribbean Coast, and where there are popping beaches, bars, and restaurants. We bypass all of that and stop at a little food stand run by an indigenous woman to get spicy beef patties. They are delicious. I’m happily shocked by how the natives and Jamaicans have found a seemingly natural harmony. Luis leads us to a basketball court where black people are gathered playin’ ball and rhythmically beating on drums. He joins in on the game while Kevin and I chill back and watch.

I’m vibrating like the drums.

When he’s done, he sits next to me and rolls another joint, and then we walk a few steps to the beach to puff and chat and rhyme. There is majestic ocean energy everywhere and I’m in awe and thankful that my life is unfolding this way. It all started with my thumb out to the road.

Intuition Confirmed.

 

  • First appearance in Daughters of the Diaspora  www.daughtersofthediaspora.com
Lennette Abad-Manzueta is an Afrikan moon child who lives her life in between the lines. Her life is anchored in the concept that we are born complete beings tasked with the challenge of digging deep within ourselves to uncover our truest potential — despite the forces obsessed with oppressing us. She hopes to use her words to empower and reinforce the Diaspora’s connection to Self, Spirit, and the Continent. Her outlets include meditation, yoga, cooking, and conversing with strangers. She’s also an avid explorer and warrior-in-training. Lennette earned her B.S. in Economics from the University of Delaware because it made sense at the time. Feel her vibes.

 

 

Rajah Reid

4-1-0

Granddad hit the track again
and bought lil’ sis and I a slurpee
Ma says he gambles all his money away
but when he wins, he treats us
like I imagine a father would
and suddenly summer has forgotten
itself. Sweat rolled off a plastic cup cools
better than my body
or the window a/c older than memories of heat-
heavy Baltimore
summers. Granddad left and the day has remembered
to be sap drooling down the chin of worn wood.
There is nothing better to do than go outside or
watch Jerry Springer, so, we watch
and learn to speak American dysfunction.
Ma won’t be home from work ‘til 6 so the day is ours
to waste. We find fun in the smallest
injuries and of course I am the dark
one and she is the round one. One push
too hard and one of us is falling off the sofa and ma
is coming home with that look
like, whoever ain’t hurt might lose they life
or at least a smooth patch of skin so now
we both straining our eyes for tears hoping that the
prelude to a bruise is enough. But ma
came home with that look like the world
sitting on her shoulders a little
too heavy. Cousin Wayne got locked up
again and now nobody feels
like cooking out for the
fourth and all I wanted this
summer was to eat burgers and go
see the fireworks fulgurate
the downtown skyline and know that
flashing lights don’t mean somebody got shot.
and pops don’t mean somebody got shot.
and now all I have is this dry 7/11
cup reminding me that my body
can’t produce enough wet
to make summer forget it ain’t summer
unless one of us gets stolen.

I am a black, queer writer and poet based in Brooklyn.

Joseph Harris

IF THEY GUN ME DOWN (LIKE THEY DID YOUR GRANDFATHER)
To My Four-Year-Old Son Zion

 


Zion, my son
When encountering police 
Try not to hold anything shaped like a weapon
So slip out of your skin boy
Shed that melanin like so many scales
Let it slide off your shoulders like your life depended on it
While pushing it past your waist, try a little shuck and jive
‘cause no one ever got killed for cooning
SMILE!
Big! Bright! till your gums swell to bursting,
Like they’ve been beaten with nightsticks
Let ‘em see your teeth
Maybe their whiteness will protect you better than begging 

But above all else remember
not to hold anything shaped like a weapon
So lay down your dignity 
Let it settle on the ground like lifeless limbs
Like mothers grief, like it’s just been choked out by the NYPD
Let it lay there dying, sitting in the sun, rotting like misplaced faith
While witnesses gather, maybe you could dance,
It serves the dual purpose of showing you are unarmed and happy

But first, make sure you’re not holding a weapon
So leave your pride at home, 
Sit it on the shelf next to your next of kin
Scrub all your online photos, 
Only take pictures of you holding: 
diplomas and kittens and sunshine and stuffed animals,
Don’t you dare grimace
Boy you better grin like rigor mortis has set in 

PANTS?? Hell no your can’t wear pants!
Don’t you know pants have pockets and pockets hold dangerous things like:
cameras, phones, gum, numbers to lawyers
Zion, haven’t you been listening?!
Boy you better put on something a little less threatening like:
    A casket, a funeral suit, a toe tag

 

Put on something that fits:
like prison jumpsuits,
like stereotypes 
like bullet wounds, 
like billy clubs, 

Something they can recognize like

like “he was coming right for me”,
like “he fit the description”
LIKE “he was reaching for my gun”
Remember anything dangerous you did in the last week 
can and will be used against you..
So make sure you don’t: breath, walk , exist…
As a matter of fact if you were so kind you’d kill yourself and save them the trouble 

They got better things to do
Don’t you know they got comedians to grieve and coffee to sip
Don’t you know they got lawns to mow?
Don’t you know game is on?
Zion, don’t you know?

They think…

you deserve this?

Joseph Harris has been writing & performing poetry for over 10 years. Ann Arbor was his first poetry venue and from there he has spread his particular type of logic far and wide. He has been published in MingleWood, Off the Mic, A2 Brute’and Anthrax is Safer than Poetry. He was on the Ann Arbor Slam Team from 2003-2007. He was the Rustbelt Individual Slam champion in 2005, He was the National Head to Head Haiku Deathmatch Champion in 2006. In 2007 He founded the Spitfire Poetry Slam in East Lansing, Mi. In 2008 he was part of Scott Woods national 24 hour poetry reading. In 2010 he hosted the Midwest regional Rustbelt Poetry Slam. He is currently a 5th year Ph.D. student in the Teacher Education Department at Michigan State University where he teaches among other subjects “Reading, Writing & Teaching Poetry”.
Last but not least he is the father to 3 wonderful children and was husband to a beautiful wife all of whom provide him with endless inspiration… whether they like it or not.

Deonte Osayande

The Liquid Dragon Speaks of Ares

 

I’ve watched my dad disintegrate,

a wicked legend

acting like a stranger

in the house he built. There is no easy way

to tell a man they treat beer

bottles like shining suns

and their sons like bottles

easily recycled. Honestly I love him

but he is the reason

I learned how to hold a broken women

long before I learned how to kiss one. I know

how this legend is supposed to end,

with a confrontation

and then replacement. His demons

make him drink

while mine steal away my sleep. The fire

stays in his chest, but I am quick

to spew out glacial lava. My tongue

can make men burn, and freeze

at the same time. I’m not biting at the hand that fed me

I’m trying to let it know I can feed myself. I don’t have time

to fight my father or his demons,

because if we were in the wrong location

there would be a witch hunt for us both.

Deonte Osayande is a former track and field sprinter turned writer from Detroit, Mi. He writes nonfiction essays and his poems have been nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology, a Pushcart Prize and published in numerous publications. He has represented Detroit at multiple National Poetry Slam competitions. He’s currently a professor of English at Wayne County Community College, and teaching youth through the Inside Out Detroit Literary Arts Program. His first full collection of poems entitled Class, is going to be out with Urban Farmhouse Press in 2017.

Anthony Febo

my father is a country boy – I am a city kid

 

growing up he fell asleep to the coqui’s lullaby

and I to the crying of ambulances

he was raised with Spanish sprouting from his tongue

and I had English and Spanish mixing in my soiled mouth

and I couldn’t tell which language

was a flower or a weed

when he goes back home, he goes for a run

to see the people he knows will still be in the places he grew up

when I come home, I sit in my favorite coffee shop  

and let the people I think might still be there say hi, if they remember me

we are similar in loving where we come from

but when my father smiles, you are welcomed into family

and I am still learning how to look people in the eye when I shake their hand

 


my father’s heart is less like a bloody knuckle after a bar fight, and more like the stitches used to heal the wound

 

I have never seen my father bleed

but I’ve seen his scars

proof that he has been opened

proof that time will heal, but remind you

of where you came from

my father trained in martial arts since before I was born

if my memory serves me correct

there is a picture of a newborn baby me in my father’s black belt uniform

proof that my father wanted me to continue fighting

if my memory serves me correct

when my father was nine

his dad lost his fight with Alzheimer’s

then three of my dad’s sisters

then his brother

then two more of his sisters

proof that some fights you can’t win

some scars you can’t see

my heart is less like the punch that breaks the board

and more like the scream that blocks the pain

the first time I asked my lover if she had seen a certain movie, and she said

yes I saw it with you

I laughed, although I wasn’t joking.

proof that humor is a good defense from scarring

proof that some fights are inherited

last night, I had to remind my father three times

that my dog and my cousin share the same name

and we laughed after each one

proof that laughter can hurt as much as a punch

proof that humor and tears can come from the same place

me and my father’s hearts

are less like the picture of us holding each other

when I finally became a black belt

and more like the promise I made him

I will never forget this moment, Dad

I will never stop fighting

Anthony Febo is a poet, actor, youth worker, lover and friend. He founded the college and adult slam poetry scene in the city that birthed and raised him, Lowell, MA. He also co founded FreeVerse! a organization that works with Lowell’s youth to better understand themselves through poetry. He has been a teaching artist for the last 10 years and just recently became a full time artist through the collective Flatline Poetry. He is Puerto Rican as hell. So you can catch him in the kitchen or on the dance floor ready to show you what that means.

Mathias

Interview with My Father/ Dinner

I remember when I was you,

All the electricity

None of the outlets

 

I ask, does it make you feel powerful
He told me of boisterous bar brawl

battles where he’s had too many
Talked to the wrong mans woman
Made bets he couldn’t float
How he would throw whole men over tables
Break whole collarbones if need be

Yes son
It makes you feel powerful
Like you can do anything you set your appetite to do
And I got a mighty large appetite


Hes a large man.

Could drink my body weight

in anything Hennessey

I ask does it make you feel full

 


He told me he remembers whole meals

pushed in a small cup that didn’t smell like

grandmas meatloaf. It was too strong to savor
I don’t have room for anymore anything after this

 

Yes I’m full
No, I haven’t eaten solid food in days
I miss your mother’s mac and cheese
nowadays all she does is yell at me
She wont feed me
She keeps pouring my dinner down the kitchen sink
She cries when I smell like my dinner coming home
When I smell like dinner late at night
When I wake up early to get a start on dinner
When I miss work because dinner ran long  



I have dinner till I can’t hear her anymore
till i can’t see the judgment in her eyes no more
It’s just me and my supper now
No woman to tear me from…….To talk me down when

Lullaby me through these nightmares
I don’t need a warm body to feel complete no more

I asked does it make you whole
Whole person?

Whole man?

Whole father
He says

Why bother with these human things
I would have paid your college tuition

But I had this hunger for something

you can’t cook up in the kitchen


It gets expensive leveraging car payments

against  brown paper bag bounties
Sitting in a thunderbird
embracing your bottle like soulmate


Next to your wife like a punching bag
Your kids like a thousand bones that

grew out of you already
Your son screaming through tears

wishes you didn’t eat today

wishing you would starve
I remember when I was you
staring into the abyss of absolute after work


afraid of the monster in my hunger
The aftermath of facing the

whole glass and becoming my
dad afterwards

I’m afraid
all that dinner on the table all those bones
the god dang electricity
none of the outlets

Mathias has been on both teams that he’s slammed for with The Writers Block slam team in 2015 and The Writing Wrongs slam team in 2016. In addition to poetry Mathias has Hosted several events including “Italian Food and poetry Night” an annual event he co-created in Columbus Oh since 2013, “The Writer’s Block” poetry night twice, and serves as the official reserve MC for the Ness Open Mic Experience.  He is currently doing work with The Harmony Project as the sole poet on a full stage performance alongside the Columbus Arts Choir which will be housed at both the Lincoln Theater as well the Ohio theater.  
Faith and preservation of identity play a large role in Mathias’s work. He’s the middle child of a single parent household that was always the awkward nerd of the group. These concepts are weaved into his pieces and play a large part in his stage identity as well. The most import things to his art are God and family and how each play a pivotal role in keep the person grounded.

Allen Merck

Anointed a Father – an Essay

I fell in love with my child the first time I held him.  When he looked up at me, I claimed him as my son and declared myself his father.  But shouldn’t it take more?  A father is a teacher, protector, role model, even a disciplinarian, but at that point in his life I had only shared my body heat and provided a small sense of comfort.  I had given myself a title without putting forth the effort or understanding that it’d be up to him to appoint me the position.  Like farmers, fathers plant seeds, watch them sprout with pride, and provide them with nutrients and an environment sustainable for growth.  Unfortunately, we often stop there.  These actions only address physical necessities, so how can we offer only this and expect emotional connection in return?

Shortly after my son’s birth, I returned to work.  I was in the Television industry, and my job would often require that I arrive early and leave late.  This gave me just enough time to kiss my still sleeping son goodbye in the morning, and play with him for about an hour when I got home.  Yes, a roof was over his head, and food stayed on his high chair table – both figuratively and literally – but I didn’t feel present enough.  My wife would call, email pictures and videos, or even try to re-create his accomplishments when I returned home, but I wasn’t there to see them firsthand.  She could identify what each cry meant; I couldn’t tell if he was screaming with joy or distress.  I felt that she had solidified her position as a mother to him, but he only saw me as that nice man that came over at night.

I feel similarly about my own father.  He never lived in my house, called me on the phone, or provided financially, but every so often, he would pick me up and take me somewhere fun.  I like the guy, but I never felt significantly influenced by his presence in my life.  He asked me to call him dad when I was five years old – prior to that, I called him Big Allen – and though I complied, it wasn’t my conscious or personal decision to anoint him with the title.

When I reached high school – though I already possessed the man’s first two names – he asked me to consider taking his last name.  Keep in mind, at that point, I had identified as Allen Merck for fourteen years.  It suited me.  Every member of my immediate family was a Merck.  It was part of my identity, but he, having fathered no other male heirs, wanted me to change to further his own legacy.  The request didn’t upset me, but I was shocked.  Did I owe him something?  Was the market price for Red Lobster’s Endless Shrimp special worth my sense of self?  If so, I would have been fine with the cheddar biscuits.  In the end, I just redirected the question, and when he reached out three months later to go to Ponderosa, he didn’t bring it back up.  Your kids don’t owe you anything, and you shouldn’t expect them to be you.  If you value the idea of passing on a legacy, you need to make an effort early and often in your child’s life.

I recently left the Hollywood, and now work as an educator.  As a result, I spend more time at home and am able to see my son’s growth and progression.  He knows I’m Daddy and I’m constantly working to solidifying the role.  He trusts me and knows that I’m there for him.  He possesses many of my physical characteristics, but his mental and emotional makeup are a byproduct of my influence, as well.

My devotion to him is slowly being reciprocated, but I’m realizing, more, that it’s not about that.  I’m dedicated to my son because I love him, not because I want him to be dedicated to me.  I don’t want him to make changes in his life to make me proud; I want him to make changes that benefit his life.  I don’t want him to be me.  I want him to take my knowledge, skills, and anything else I can provide, and build upon them to define himself.  Then, I won’t need any compensation, because I would have already been a part of it all.

worthy

I still worry if I’m doing enough at times.  I get distracted, exhausted and busy.  I can’t always offer him the attention he desires, but fatherhood isn’t defined by any single act.  Failures come as often as victories, but you can’t stop trying. You always have to put in work and continue to prove yourself worthy to be a father.

An uncommon, but undeniably true expression states that it’s a lot easier to make a child than it is to raise one.  This rings especially true to men, like myself, who’ve borne no first-hand witness to an actual, no asterisk, full-time, in the house dad during their upbringing.  The entry into fatherhood is an amazing challenge that men raised in non-traditional households are undertaking with no blueprints or instructions. However, we’re dedicated to getting the job done right.  My name is Allen Merck, and I, like many native Detroiters, am a FIRST GENERATION FATHER.  
Raised in Detroit by a single mother, I have the ability to draw from my childhood experiences and juxtapose them with my son’s current situation as part of a nuclear family.  Spending the last six years in Los Angles, writing copy and championing Diversity efforts at CBS Television network, I have the unique opportunity to rediscover the city that I grew up in, and record the experience.  This provides me with a distinct perspective and a worldly voice.

Ayana Koduah

Little Black Girl

Twelve years old,

 first day of school,

burn marks on my chest.

I told a story,

that included a science lab

and a chemical spill.

Didn’t include me

religiously appyling bleaching cream

beaming with pride,

from a compliment

on how light I was becoming,

how acceptable i was becoming.

Little girl,

women that look like your mother will tell you

black girls don’t play in the sun.

You will fail their paper bag test,

they will tell you,

you’re the bad version of themselves.

you will spend days

bleaching your skin to perfection.

Little girl smile,

the sun is beating its gold into your skin.

On the day you relax your hair

It will smell like you’re burning.

Beauty is pain

you’ll tuck into your screams

Remembering all the broken combs.

Your body will still

For years, beauty will mean burn marks on your scalp.

Little girl,

your hair is a tree,

Growing to the sun,

Don’t tame it.

Nine years old,

your mother will sit in your classroom

spoon feeding you lunch,

you stopped eating

Because

your thighs rubbed together,

Your butt never fits into anything

fat felt like something disgusting to be.

You will learn,

not everyone is built like the magazine.

Little black girl,

on the day your hips widen and

 your breast protrude,

coming into being a women

your every action will be deemed promiscuous.

Men who look like your father

will now find your sex attractive.

Wrapping themselves into your broken places.

Whispering words that feel like glue

 but They will tell you they find you hard to love.

So treat your body like a temple

and start to call this temple home.

For there will be men who will love your hard parts to cotton candy,

And teach you to love things that make you love yourself.

Little black girl,

on the day they ask you what you want to be,

free is something valid to want to be.

So be.

You can find the mole hill

make it into a mountain

climb it to the clouds

and free yourself.

for all the things you call escape,

little black girl be yourself

with a spirit that’s

stoking a fire

your breathing will sometimes feel like a burning furnice

you will walk this road alone

You will find yourself in the rumble of it all.

You will dust yourself off.

You will love your broken pieces whole.

You will bask in the sun and find your glow.

hold your head high!

its your battle cry,

you’re just a warrior in the making.

 And know,

if I were to die and come again

a little black girl is what I hope i’d be

Cause falling in love with me is the happiest i’ve ever been.

Ayana is an Afro-Guyanese poet. She is a pen hoarder,  tea enthusiast and circle skirt aficionado currently residing in New York. She was an Urban Word Grand Slam Finalist and has performed on many noteworthy stages including The Apollo Theatre and Bowery poetry club. Her forthcoming chapbook “Cassava Bread and Pepperpot” is a response to the current state of human affairs, her running home to self-love and healing, her preparation for a fight. You can find her ogling at your local flora, humming off beat or people watching on the J.

Hiwot Adilow

Mushiraye

 

I draw a wedding scene &

My mother spies the page or

I tell her about the aisle.

Either way, she catches it &

spits stop. Warns dreaming

of a knot will only tie me to

a war torn home. I look

at the drawing & find blood

on the page, a ring around

the bride’s eye. I decide

to keep my finger bare

like my legs were once,

un-bristled, hinged tight.

 

Rigid, whiskey lipped,

gripped like a bottle’s neck

full of violence I cannot slip

into love. Verily, I am

my father’s daughter until

one day I bleed My mother’s

way—quick crying war.

My body becomes a boat

fleeing a rabid shore.

My skin is spanned &

I dream the distance

safe.


On Leaving

 

I can ice my own eye and fly I learned it

from my mother her late night going

under one July’s drizzle  through osmosis

and a shared twin bed I learned the body’s

rattle after ravage after rape she left and

I was left the only lady of the house no other

neck but mine to adorn with his hands no

other back to back against the wall but me

 

 

Hiwot Adilow’s poems have been published or are forthcoming in Winter Tangerine Review, Nepantla, The Offing, and Duende Literary. She has been featured reading her work on CNN, NPR, and Wisconsin Public Television. Hiwot is a Callaloo Fellow and member of the First Wave Hip Hop and Urban Arts Learning Community at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was born and raised in Philly.

Sarah Maria

las-single-page0001
Sarah Maria Medina is a poet and a fiction/creative non-fiction writer from the American Northwest. Her writing has been published in Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Midnight Breakfast, PANK, Split This Rock, Raspa Literary Journal, and elsewhere. She was a finalist in Indiana Review’s 2015 Poetry Prize. She is also the poetry editor at Winter Tangerine. Medina is Boricua (The United Confederation of Taíno People). She is at work on several projects. Find her at www.sarahmariamedina.com & @crushedmagnolia