**FEATURED POET ** Simone Person

on learning you love a dude who ain’t shit

if you were honest with yourself you knew he wasn’t shit the first time he said he’d never heard a Prince song when he didn’t know what challah was had never tasted cornbread and his AAVE was cobbled from Stillmatic but here in your sad college town he’s cute a little short and maybe the dick is on that staccato stroke but here you are pineapple upside down here you lost the fat girl bravado you built and every time he looks at you it feels like you have a chance like maybe everyone was wrong you aren’t a professional victim so when he kisses you don’t think of the ocean and the brine and the dying coral and the garbage plastic island floating somewhere learn to crave his teeth straining across your tongue how he grabs your ass so hard there’s crescents denting your hips teach yourself  it’s  just  how  desirable  you  are  not  his  attempts  to  cum quick  so  he  can  leave earlier


Exclusionary Black Girl

 

i fire bricks place them around my feet when i open my fifth grade locker and find folded paper slipped through the vents, graphite me limp and swinging from the approximation of a tree and i take it to my teachers and they hold a meeting and the white boy who drew it, who’s been whispering porch monkey to me for weeks, says he couldn’t have done it ‘cause shoot i can’t draw like it got stolen from the louvre and that settles it the rest of the school year slips by before i even learn what porch monkey means

 

i smooth stones stack them up to my knees when my white boyfriend says racism is wrong but nigger’s just a word and talking about it reheats the issue, slavery was so long ago, even though it’d only take a few hours to drive to a plantation and the grass growing over my ancestors’ graves is short and soft, even though my grandmother was born sixty-seven years after it ended, you got a white mom so it’s not like you’re Black for real anyways

 

i put a straw roof over my head close the gaps with handfuls of mud as the white bartender in the white bar swoops over me and a friend to serve white patrons, his face twists into surprise after we say something, mouth folds into i didn’t see you shrugs when asked what he thinks that looks like, and i know he’d never really see us at all as he turns back to his white patrons when we leave

i dig a moat boil water to pour over my walls when my brown

boyfriend defends the antiblackness of a non-Black Latina classmate, you can’t really get mad ‘cause it’s not like she’s white so what’s the big deal, all you want is community with other Black girls, it’s exclusionary, we need solidarity for the revolution and i want to know why the foundation has to start on my back but i don’t say anything, just build so good that no matter how long the street lights have been on or how far my name carries in the night wind nobody can find me again


Erasure of the Suicide Note I Wrote Before My Unsuccessful Attempt

 

I don’t want                                                     me,

                                 I’m not “here.”

                                                 I                           want

to leave

                                      to be split                

                      be sad                      in better terms,

                to hurt                                 for long                                        I’m successful

I’m                         dogma                                    weighed

           heavily                                        

                            spirits, don’t want       here.                           go.


Accretion

 

as a child i envied

venus fly traps

their ability to snap

themselves shut

to turn invasion

into strength

 

my body flowered into disappointment

 

i was a warm home

for boys who kiss with their teeth,

with hungry hands that have seen too much

 

i am shrouded under a crown of fury

 

a wolf of a girl

i prayed to be an orchard

legs closed, eyes to god

 

i am everything i never wanted

 


oneironaut

i don’t dream but sleep

like an actual baby—

every two hours and i’m up

i trace growing ceiling shadows

as the moon shifts and turns to sun

 

over the summer pain

bloomed in my hip fell

down my leg pooled across my shin

now i don’t sleep—

worse than a baby a boy i can’t love

dreams dreams hard wakes complaining

of gauzy hands pulsing

around his skinny ankles asks me voice sleep-thick

to follow him

for a glass of water he’s afraid

to go alone there’s ghosts

in the hall a fog of a man

crouched near the baseboard

 

asleep he tells me he loves me

whispers names for our future children

begs me to hold him the plump

of his cheeks soft against my throat he won’t

remember this in the morning

 

when he is gone

even his body’s indent left

on my mattress puffed out again

i’ll call my mother asking if she dreams

no she says not since meeting your father

this is a joke and not this is bitter and not

but i know she does

 

once she dreamt of finding

me in her kitchen my eyes black holes

my mouth a starless void

another time:

closing her eyes on the freeway

the wheel sliding from her fingertips

car drifting to the next lane metal against guardrail sparks a snap

not that i’d ever do it she says

it’s just a dream


Simone grew up in Michigan and Ohio, and is a second year Fiction MFA candidate at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Five on the Fifth and Beecher’s Magazine, and her chapbook was a finalist selection for Black Lawrence Press’s Spring 2016 Black River Chapbook Competition.

Akosua Zimba Afiriyie-Hwedie

Ode to This Body That Fills Itself With Flowers

After Gabriel Ramirez

 

at midnight, my body is all wake.

all moon in tight dress, taking

on the night. I stretch &

all the flowers within

me stretch. I dig

out the weeds from inside

my skin. grow  Corepsis-filled eyes.

correct my body: correct my chin

growing above my back, looking

past      to find which day took my lover

& that love, looking past     to find

why I did this or said that. this

body knows to walk through

fires till the flames learn to

bow. I call myself a butterfly.

unbox. give myself a

hug. wrap myself,     around myself,        around myself.

watch my layers,      wrap around my layers.

see brick,     wrap around brick.

see a rainbow surround itself.


The Sacrifice of Praise

 

She wild

fire growing

reaching up

all her reach up

all her do is reach –                         

& pray herself a heaven up there.


Akosua Zimba Afiriyie-Hwedie is a Zambian-Ghanaian poet raised in Botswana. She currently lives in New York. She is a Callaloo and Watering Hole fellow as well as a Cave Canem workshop participant. Her work has appeared in The Felt.

Wus Good At This Table?

“Don’t feel bad if you can’t sing along/ Just be glad you’ve got the whole world” – F.U.B.U.

 

Let me be clear, I wouldn’t even be writing about Solange if it wasn’t for Beyoncé. I say this with no shade intended, as I am not an actual member of the Beyhive nor am I one of those ignants that hinge Solange’s success on her sister’s coat tails. It is simply that I don’t particularly care for soprano voices. It takes a special tone to keep me diggin the voice once it stays hitting an A above middle C (or in Alicia Key’s case, attempting to hit that A #ShadeIntended). When A Seat At the Table dropped, I was more hyped for you than with you, nahmean? I’m thrilled when them Knowles women succeed. So I’ma be real and say I first heard Solange sing when she was on SNL. And I only checked that joint out cause that sweet Insta video of Tina and Beyoncé picking her up afterward.

Reminded me of my own sisters.

Then I saw a video about the history of that hair crown Solange rocked the fuck outta. And then I watched the performance. Real.

 

So when Heffa-in-Charge Siaara Freeman said bitch you a music editor why don’t you review an album the rest of the world has heard or like do your job in any kinda way really,* I was like, oh word? What about that Rihanna joint and she was like that was a year ago sis and then Interview Magazine had Beyoncé interview her own sister and I remembered I hadn’t actually checked out the album as a whole, so here’s my review of A Seat At The Table.

 

First thing’s first, Solange is an Artist.

She would have been an artist no matter the family, no matter what her big sis got up to; she’d be in the basement mixing tracks or a Garage Band prodigy or in the underground clubs sitting in on jam sessions. In fact, I am almost 100!!! that she’s done those things exactly. A Seat At the Table plays and dances with so many genres and gives not one nary a single fuck about making a banger. There are no bangers on this album.

This shit was for us, but most importantly, this shit was for her.

She is exactly Black girl fly about the privilege to work as an artist and create what the fuck she felt she wanted to create. Overall, the album is reminiscent of Badu’s Worldwide Underground or Jill Scott’s first volume because you can put it on and enjoy from beginning to end without actively listening. You find yourself wandering your house, washing your draws or whatnot humming “don’t touch…mah…haaaaiiiiirrrr…” without really thinking about it. Maybe it’s just me.

 

What Solange is not, is a polished craftswoman. Beyonce has got perfectly executed, highly produced and polished everything. She reigns, at a remove from the common mortal. Solange welcomes, beckoning you join in as a full part. She is allowed to play and experiment, to show an inexact creator, as you see in the rough a cappella interlude with Kelly Rowland and Nia Andrews, “I Got So Much Magic, You Can Have It.” Feeling triumphs over precision always in what feels like a brilliant move to further distance herself from any easy comparison with her sister.

It seems clear that they love and respect each other for what they themselves are not.

In a society endlessly fascinated with celebrity life and perceived beef and patriarchal “catfight” bullshit, what we know is that these sisters got each other’s back. First. Huh, Jay?

 

This is the joint to drop when you put out the bottles and the house party is kicking off. As people come in, it’s easy to talk about and over, to enjoy while eyeing prospects; it’s mellow. Then the drum gets a little funkier, the bass drops harder and you look across the Solo cups and see someone you don’t know mouthing the same words and y’all smile. E’erbody ignores the interludes since that first listen-through (though they actively serve as the connecting through-line that enriches the simple lyrics). By the time “Scales” comes on, enough people have arrived that its time to switch it out to something a little more turnt. But thank you, Sol-Angel, for laying the good vibe.

 

*Siaara will claim it didn’t go like this and that she gently suggested Solange’s album and that may be true but also we speak Slytherin so you never know.


Amber Flame is a honey-beige black unicorn. Does all the things. Queer, here, still ain’t used to it but stays breathing. Works as The Hand‬ of This Week in Blackness and other hustles. Regular dandyfemme/prettyboi except when incognegro.

Is

About

It.

Goddess X

All My Daydreams Keep Coming Out Bitter and You Know Justice is My New (Black/Love Song)

 

i wish the imperial wizard wasn’t found

for two weeks

i wish his body bloated

tangled in the reeds

with the small fish

and the crustaceans

nibbling

away at the good meat

i wish the local news showed the carrion

on the bank

like katrina

i wish he didn’t get national coverage

a face

or a name

i wish his family never found out

what happened to him i wish the pigs

didn’t investigate i wish they’d shrug

i wish they’d say that’s what happens

to crackers who can’t keep their mouths shut

in this town i wish cracker had a history

like nigga that way i could hurt them

some nights when i am evil

and hurting and afraid like they

made me i wish he had a black

death

i wish the bitter on my tongue could turn sweet

when i write it down i wish bloated white bodies

on riverbanks could make my ancestors smile

every now and again i wish a thousand white

bodies would float on the banks of stolen rivers

i wish that did not make me so evil

tonight i know

it makes me an evil person i wish /

i had a tongue

or a body

that wasn’t so bitter

and my black looks so

different now beautiful now

don’t all the love songs sound like

rot?


Goddess Gets Mad, Gives God a Death Sentence and Henrietta Still isn’t Free

 

when does a black body die?

when does its consciousness end?

do cells carry their own

memories

and violence?

my cells carry violence.

does this mean Henrietta Lacks still lives?

does She feel the violence

of 96 years in Her trillions

of pieces left alive?

is She holy spirit?

if we call Her name

will we feel Her

on our tongues

in our blood?

is there a god?

if Henrietta feels all of this

why does he prolong Her suffering?

is he without mercy?

did he forget

about the tortured body

scattered before the world’s eyes?

in the world’s breath?

through the world’s blood?

are there world records in heaven?

is god trying to see

how long She can go

before She breaks?

does god ignore

black pain?

does he mourn it?

does he live

off of it

like offering?

like lamb’s blood?

does he laugh?

does god make a black

body minstrel show in paradise?

is Her resilience an untrained acrobat

on tightrope

with no net below?

how long can a slow

death stay

before it turns to dust?

were black women always

just supposed to turn to dust?

or die slow?

will Henrietta ever know rest?

 

i know their god

like the black of my blood.

he is made

in their image.

i am armed with

sock and d-battery.

i will swing

and swing

and swing until

he falls. he

will fall.

and Henrietta Lacks

still won’t be free.


Goddess X is a sad sick​ queer black witch, storyteller, diasporic transfemme, Pink Door Alumna, survivor, sister, student, repping the African diaspora. She has just published her debut book of poetry, Blk Grl Sick, which can be purchased at createspace.com . Her work centers on blackness, queerness, trans womanhood, sadness, and joy. You can follow her on twitter @GoddessX23

Lauren Yates

Motherfucker

 

I.

The Oxford English Dictionary first cites use of “motherfucker” in 1889. At the trial of Levy v. State, the killer testified that he was called a: “motherfucking, bastardly son-of-a-bitch.” The Court pardoned this man’s bloodthirst: he had earned the right to slash open his accuser with righteous indignation.

 

They say black slaves invented “motherfucker.” It referred to the white men that had raped their mothers. It was easier to call the slave master “motherfucker” than “father.” Easier to reduce him to an act of lust than thank him for giving you life.

 

II.

The three worst things to call a man are motherfucker, bastard, and son-of-a-bitch. Each insult stacks itself on a mother’s back. We smother her with our weight, call her children illegitimate, punish her sons for being half-woman.

 

In school, I was the only kid with a single mother. The only kid without pictures of her mother in a wedding dress.  The stay-at-home mothers worked every bake sale. As I passed by they would whisper: “Those kind of fathers never stick around.”

 

III.

My mother refuses to call herself the Other Woman. The motherfucker had promised to leave his wife. I still can’t curse my father without dragging my mother through the crossfire.

 

My father has reclaimed motherfucker. When my mother would tell him to man up and raise me, he said he was just the sperm donor. It was easier to reduce himself to an act of lust than admit he gave me life.

 

IV.

They say “motherfucker” was the worst thing a black slave could be called. It meant rapist, it meant monster that thinks black people should be whipped, traded, and sold.  

 

My mother asks me what it is like to date white men, if wanting it rough feels too much like life on the plantation. When I tell her my white boyfriend dumped me for calling him “rapist,” she says, “That has nothing to do with me.” She had learned these words from my father each time he got her pregnant.

 

V.

How dare anyone accuse him of penetrating someone’s mother, of beckoning hell without a wedlocked baby blanket, of suckling milk from the breast of an impossible woman.


Baptism

 

When I was baby, my father took me to get my ears pierced. I could not have been more than a year old. I can picture my mother turning red, steam coming out of her ears, like a cartoon character. I know this fury, the way she saws your name through her teeth. She says I used to wear magnet earrings. The backs were little square magnets glued to my earlobes. Matching my earrings to my outfit was as simple as putting a report card on the fridge. After high school, I went two years without wearing earrings. The holes never closed up; I would be stuck with them forever. My grandmother used to wear earrings to bed, heavy costume jewelry. One night they tore from her ears. She has a small line in each ear from the hole to the tip of the earlobe. She never got re-pierced; instead, she wears clip-ons. She says a woman is supposed to have pierced ears, that it is better I did it young. As if I didn’t get pierced before I could speak, the choice made for me a secular baptism.


Proof My Parents Once Had Things In Common

 

I.

During the Gel Pen Boom of 1999, I wrote my book report

on Lydia, Queen of Palestine. Every few pages, Lydia’s mother

would call her ex-husband’s new girlfriend “That Woman.”

Loyal daughter she was, Lydia named her ugliest doll

“That Woman,” a witch she always killed off in fires.

 

My mom called my dad’s new wife by her name.

She bit back insults with a stubborn dignity,

like a Death Row inmate refusing her last meal.

 

If Mom had recognized her, we would have picked

a different line. Just the thought of “That Woman” knowing

what groceries we buy, or seeing Mom without makeup.

 

As they ricocheted niceties, I noticed a woman

with an epic wedgie. I whispered about it to Mom.

“Don’t make fun of that woman,” she said. She looked

toward my dad’s new wife, as if staging a photograph.

Normally, she would have laughed.

 

Once the PR stunt was through, Mom explained:

I couldn’t let her think we were talking about her.

 

II.

At the roller rink on Christian Skate Night, my dad

gave his Kirk Franklin CD to the DJ. He spun and spun

in the middle of the floor, while I clutched onto the railing.  

 

When he lost his balance, he propelled himself toward me,

and pulled us down to the ground. “What’d you do that for?”

I yelled. Then, he told me, “If you’re already going down,

you might as well pull down someone you love.”


Lauren Yates is an introverted Leo who lives in West Philadelphia. When she isn’t researching how microaggressions impact queer people of color, Lauren spends her time writing and performing poems. She has an uncanny ability to name that tune from only a bassline and can find parallels between any two things, no matter how unrelated they are. For more information, visit http://www.laurentyates.com.

Alayzah Wilson

Things I Must Teach

my son.  in the world in which I bring

my son there are things I must show him at dinner I’ll pass him survival

tips like mom please  pass me        the salt

giving him strategy

as if I was sending him off

to war. I will be

sending him off to a world

at war. A world that didn’t deem him

worthy. And though I would treat him

as a king .The world would deem him

as peasant .Lower than them .Unworthy

of justice He’ll find that gun barrels are always shorter

than alley ways .And gun barrels always lead

to shorter endings than alley ways. In the world

in which I bring

 

my son into there are things

I must teach him. Keep your head

down. Keep your voice low. Don’t

draw too much attention to yourself

I don’t want to see your outline drawn

on a sidewalk. Please be respectful. Avoid

any confusion with the police . Always

be respectful to the police, Pull your pants up. Keep

 

your hands out of your pockets. It is better

to be silent than to be silenced. Oh please dear

son of mine understand that I didn’t want you to come

into a world of war your skin it seems is fighting

a losing war. I don’t want to see you shot

down . I just want to lift you up. But they’ll shoot

you even with your hands raised

people can never tell me it’s not

about race . The race between running feet and a bullet

with my future son’s name on it. I never want

to see a grave with his name carved on it .I won’t ever be ready

to bury a child .Not anyone’s. Not my own. I’ve know his name

since the third grade lately it seems his name will be mine to know

alone


I’m 16 years old and I started writing poetry in the 8th grade, I know that isn’t that long but it seems like forever for me. I’ve found that poetry is the outlet I’ve always been searching for. It allows for creative expression and helps me to have unfiltered thoughts and just put them down and make them seem real.

Taylor Hall

Where Were You? A Response to the Women’s March (and My Facebook Friends)

On the day of the women’s march in Washington, I could not hold my grievances so I aired them out. After seeing video footage and photographs from the march, I took to my personal social media pages and shared the one thought I couldn’t let go of:

There were mad amounts of white women at the march, as if they weren’t the reason Trump won.

As expected, as a black woman speaking up about the march, I was met with everyone’s favorite claim: I was being divisive. I was met by two non-black people of color telling me that I shouldn’t discourage anyone from marching because, and I quote, “We’re all in this together.”

Honestly, at this point words like, “Unity” and “We” cause me so much irritation that it makes my ass itch.

I even had someone I’ve admired for years throughout my college education make a similar point, quoting that Ella Baker wouldn’t have asked, “Where have you been?” and instead responded with a, “Glad you’re here.”

Well, it’s 2017 and I am a black woman still marching and fighting for my rights. My feet hurt. My back hurts from shouldering all of this pain and struggle inherited from the people who marched and fought before me. My damn head hurts from always being there to clean up the mess white women make and offering them a hand and forgiveness. Black women have always been in this together with everyone, from the black men that consistently refuse to acknowledge their ability to oppress us, to NBPOC that rarely show up and out for us like we do them, to white women that always, always, always want to know, “Why we make this about race.” because they still can’t wrap their minds around our simple request to be seen for all we are.

I can’t be Ella Baker. I can’t look at you and lie and say, “I’m glad you’re here.”

It DOES matter where you were before this moment because I know that your involvement here, right now, is rooted deeply in self-interest and completely half-assed.

I have something I’ve been battling with and it’s my desire for you all to see me completely. When I speak up, you condescend and play victim, you only reply when you want to berate me for my very valid opinion and I’m tired. Suddenly, all of you want unity, but you’re late as hell to the party.

Where were you?

And even now, after all of this, where are you? Why aren’t you comparing and contrasting how police officers respond to groups of white women protesting and how they react to groups of black people arguing against injustice? Why can’t you notice that you sound exactly like men when you hit us with that, “Not all white women.” response and show us how you feel when you aren’t as quick to shut that down when you hear it. Did you stop those women that took pads and wrote on them instead of just donating those items to less fortunate women? Did you tell that woman at the protest with the “No pussy, no power!” sign how exclusionary that was?

I want you to know I see you.

I’ve seen, or rather noticed how absent you were at protest, how silent you were when we were organizing. I see you.

I see you and I raise you nothing. Not a finger or fist.


 

Young, broke and fabulous is how writer Taylor Hall describes herself. On any given day you can catch her on twitter or at your local bar ranting about the world. You can read more from her at her blog, Whattaysaid.com where she documents the many trials and triumphs of life as a young, black woman in America.