Na’amen Tilahun

Rupaul and What is Unspoken

I will be using she to refer to Rupaul and other drag queens here as that is their preferred pronouns while in Drag and the pronoun used most heavily by them within in the show.

 

Talking about Drag Race means talking about Rupaul. Numerous contestants have spoken about how tightly controlled the show is, how regimented every part of it is, how committed Rupaul is to keeping things on track. She is not merely the host of the show but the driving force behind it’s creation and enduring popularity.  

 

You are sitting in front of the huge black television. Legs crossed, arms limp, mouth and eyes wide open. You spend most of your time with television, too guarded for your family, too honest for friends you sit and search TV for some reflection of yourself. You see a large black drag queen in sequins and a blonde quaff that makes her even taller cracking jokes that go over your head, innuendo you won’t get until years and years later. She draws attention on purpose, commands people to pay attention and they have no choice but to do so. She is too honest like you, but she makes people laugh with it, and you feel a connection. You watch as she interviews the Mayflower Madam and suddenly there’s an odd bubble of emotion burning in your chest, a feeling of not being alone, of knowing you can do anything.

 

Years later watching a clip of this interview online it becomes clear that both Rupaul and The Mayflower Madam (Sydney Biddle Barrows) are performing gender, selling femininity to the audience. Sydney Biddle Barrows is recasting herself as a businesswoman, avoiding the taint of judgement our society likes to mark sex workers with but in this she is aided by our society’s leeway for attractive blond white women. Rupaul on the other hand isn’t just selling a female illusion, she’s selling the highly-popular blonde bombshell illusion with a large black man at the center of it. And people were buying it! The Mayflower Madam is obviously skilled but Rupaul is a fucking expert. I remember this realization while I watching the first season of Drag Race, what I like to call the vaseline filter season – where everyone looks slightly blurry and decades younger. I sat there and watched these girls sell their own idea of femininity but they weren’t the expert salesmen that RuPaul was and the cracks of sexism and racism begin to show through.  

 

At some point you realize that Rupaul is one of the most skilled manipulators of others opinions and prejudices, it’s one of the reasons she’s able to rise so high in mainstream entertainment. It’s one of the reasons you admire her so much, she shows that brown people, queer people, people like you can carve out a spot for themselves if they’re smart enough. And all this is years before gender variance is talked about openly or widely. As time goes on you also realize Rupaul is utterly unwilling to examine her opinions or prejudices in any detail. You first become aware of this when you learn about Shirley Q. Liquor, a drag queen who performs in blackface and talks about being on welfare and having nineteen kids. You read Rupaul defending Q. Liquor’s actions and you learn just because someone is a hero to you doesn’t mean you can trust them or they give a shit about you.

 

The contestants imitate women, love and worship famous women but in this, they turn women into something other than a human being. They are idols but also somewhat unreal because of that. They constantly use the word ‘fish’ – which so many women have had used as a derogatory slur from gay men specifically – and also cunt and bitch, terms that are regularly cast as insults against women. The drag racers use them as positives sure but they don’t really have the right. It’s almost like they are re-claiming these words, the problem is those aren’t their words to reclaim. To say nothing of the show’s relationship with race – the complete blindness to cultural appropriation, the lack of any discussion of racism within the community. Manila Luzon uses a horribly racist chinese accent and gets rewarded by winning the challenge. Sharon Needles continues to use blackface in her act, even after winning, even after QPOC in her hometown of Philly have talked with her about it. Carmen Carrera was vilified by contestants and winners alike for joining the call for the show to stop using the insults ‘SheMail” and ‘tranny’ because it personally hurt her as a former contestant and transwoman. Everyone ignores that detail, the pain. In many ways fans of the show and contestants act like tea-baggers, accuse those who complain of being too sensitive, of being too politically correct. They see only their own liberation as the goal not the rest of the community’s safety as well.

 

You continue to watch the show and notice the more personal insults, you watch jokes about size and color and teeth and intelligence get thrown around with vicious aplomb and you chuckle but also you wince because you know about those insults, you know about showing a brave face and pretending it doesn’t hurt.  At the same time the contestants grow closer, they form bonds and friendships despite of the insults. You wonder about being so damaged that an insult feels like love, you wonder if this is a mirror.

 

In the recent season the eventual winner, Bob the Drag Queen, was called ratchet repeatedly, to the point where it was included in her winning song. Bob the Drag Queen has talked about the use of the word, staying careful to say away from words like racism and prejudice but trying to educate others on the origin of the term and the ways it is used to talk about brown people specifically. She was obviously aware of why this was problematic but also clearly aware that Rupaul is in control here. You just have to look at Carmen Carrerra’s complete erasure from the Drag Race legacy and the way the other drag queens will either not talk about her at all or denigrate her for standing up to Ru about her discomfort around the use of transphobic words to see the potential consequences.

 

You watch the conversations around Drag Race swirl online and you see people engage over these topics, you see people change their opinions though never Rupaul or any of the others from the show. You wonder why you still watch the show but everytime you catch an episode you remember. You remember that this is still the only place on TV that you can see queer people interacting with each other, especially queer people of color. You get to connect with some version of yourself, some member of your community that isn’t a walking/talking stereotype like 99% of the times people like you appear in fictionalized media. You get glimpses into their lives, their struggles and even though it’s edited for television to be dramatic, the words and emotions are still real  

 

And there is some hope, maybe not for RuPaul but for the contestants. This last season featured an all QPOC final three which hasn’t happened since Season three and just as importantly two of the finalists – Kim Chi and Bob The Drag Queen had no problem discussing race although they kept it subtle and didn’t talk too much on it because after all it is Ru’s show and when you play in Rupaul’s world? You play by her rules, and her rules don’t want your politics to be progressive or anything other than Rupaul’s own.

 

There are cracks though and hints of more and those are enough to keep me going, until another show decides people like me are worthy of broadcast.


I Have a Dream…about Beyonce

Of all the dreams I have

the hardest to dispel are the waking ones,

a jumble of fantasy and hope

leaves me blinking false promises out of my eyes for hours,

For example:

Part 1 – The Meeting

You’re finally in New York, nervous about your first public

reading in this town, the audience a mass of white as far

as you can see, yours the only brown face – or a lone

raisin in a sea of milk as mother used to say, the poem

about how changing coasts changes nothing and racist,

homophobic fucks are everywhere, confused faces and

lukewarm applause greet your thunderous ending which

compares New York to Scarsdale; underneath the limp-

palmed response is a beat, resonating in your chest,

someone stomping their heels to the beat of the poem,

the bright sound ends with the rest of the “applause” but

you’re already pushing through the crowd of people

deliberately awkwardly not meeting your gaze so they

don’t have to comment, you don’t care, you only want to

find the beat that made your chest pound, the corner

where it emerged is an empty circle of space as if

whoever was there had too much presence, too much

spirit, the clustered hipster rejects too afraid to fill it, the

shape of your lone fan lingers in the perfumed air and

awkwardness of those remaining; in the center of the

circle is a lone strand of blond hair curling in on itself

and a tuft of black chinchilla fur, you put both holy artifacts

in your pocket and leave the bar feeling you won, the city

does not seem as sad with these totems against your skin,

at the next reading the same thing and at the next the same,

always the rhythmic stomp, always too late to find them,

always some clue left behind, the top of the bedroom

dresser has become an altar, an umbre of blonde hair

shades from bleach-the-fuck-out-of-your-scalp to JLO,

furs from chinchillas to foxes and minks to arctic wolves

are laid out in a delicious murdered animal patchwork.

Every night is a prayer offered

Part 2 – The Apartment

When Queen Bey mentions someone’s name it is a

canonization, a pop-media saint declared, forget

jesus she is the god of flawless…or photoshop

depending who you ask, when she tweeted your name,

when she posted the video, it elevated you, the calls from

friends who forgot you years ago and exes who broke

your heart, they all want to take you out to lunch, dinner,

brunch, sex, anything to access her through you, the only

call you return is Queen Bey herself, when meeting you
present her with a wiglet

made from the strands of hair

she left behind, she offers you an apartment and

patronage, leave it to Queen Bey to bring that shit back,

so now you’re set, a nice condo where you look down

on people, faucets that run cristal, hot and cold closeted

rappers at the door day and night, just wanting to

“collaborate” on getting their dick inside of you, no

need to worry about money or  shelter or drugs cause

any friend of Queen Bey gets it at no cost, all you have

to do is write, the lifestyle to which you want to become

accustomed is yours, when you perform the audience

is full of stars, sunglasses and nodding heads, none

of your friends show up anymore, cause they’re jealous,

it doesn’t matter anyway, Queen Bey has brought your

ass up to the east side and as mama always said it

doesn’t matter who you step on on your way to the

top as long as you don’t plan on coming back down

Part 3 – Shatter

You are on the phone with Bey-Bey every night,

she is your sister, friend and patron, and this

has caused a problem, one you could not have

foreseen, you can now only write about Bey-Bey,

in becoming everything that you know she

becomes all you can write, the matching gold

tones of her skin and hair, are the only way you

describe the sun, the rumbling purr of her voice

is thunder and music and voices, her constant

calm even when everyone else in an elevator

is losing their shit is a trait of every character,

every story is set in Houston, every main

character is a singer with a cheating daddy

and secret siblings.  you hide this for a little

while, rely on work you did earlier but you

can’t hide it  forever, the way getting to close to

the sun has burned your talent to ash

Part 4 – Gutter

You end up in the gutter, Beyonce won’t take

your calls anymore, mostly cause she’s changed

her number, your former friends won’t mostly
because you no longer have their numbers,

Beyonce has stopped talking about you so

those multitude of fans and hangers-on are gone,

you are alone and bursting with ideas, you write

everywhere on cement walls with the old nub of

a grease pencil, you suck dirty bum cock and

spit out the semen in your palm, scrawl around

his relaxed, loose body with it, you break open

old cans of paint and pound messages into the

sidewalk, across flags, the whole city of New

York is your piece of paper and paint, blood, shit

and filth is your ink, you write about fame and the city,

about scrounging for food and drugs, you write

your history on the bones of the city, not just the

last year but your entire journey, you hope it might

lead you back to before but this is the

real world and your art is no magic wand.

Part 5 – Redemption

You are known again,
for the crazy things you paint

around the city,

you avoid the spotlight,

avoid a name

or a gender

or a shape,
you are just you turned inside

out and it’s all you want to be

but every once in awhile

you catch the perfect flair of a blond weave,

or an artful turn of leg

and you know

she is watching and would

take you back,

you also realize that time

in your life is over,

so you turn away

 

This fantasy, this is what I want, the rise and the inevitable fall, the high-rise condo and the gutter, the power and blindness to my own fall.


 

Na’amen Gobert Tilahun writes stuff that has appeared in io9.com, Queers Dig Time Lords, Full of Crows, The Big Click, Eleven Eleven, faggot dinosaur, Shipwreck and more. Huis debut novel, The Root was released in June 2016 and was named an ALA Rainbow List Top Ten book for 2017. You can find him talking shit on twitter @Naamenism

*2017 Weed Poem Winner – Goddess X

Other Side of the Cage

 

one day

i will take a bus

to denver colorado

smell the thin air

coated in the stench of liberal white folks’

spotty memories

dump as much purification oil

from the nearest black-owned witch shop i can find

in the basement of every white-owned

million-dollar business

that sells marijuana

and set the city on fire.

i don’t know how to fiddle

but i’ll sing a song while the city burns

whatchu gonna do when they come for you?

the work ain’t honest but it pays the bills

what we gonna do when they come for you?

but i… but i…*

 

i’ll forget the words but the melody will be sweet enough

to give me/to give the whole city

a cavity

to cover the stench of smoke

and violent memory in the air

i will be captured and handcuffed

and probably gagged to stop the music

it reminds them of liberation

of promises broken and they are supposed to be

The Good Guys

an fbi agent with a mean mug will shove me

into a poorly lit interrogation room

we will talk

about america

i will tell him that i stood my ground

i will tell him that they were making their own communities

like black wallstreet

that i was threatened

i will tell him about the black woman in alaska

facing decades in a cage for the crime

that made them all of their fortune

i will sing him a sweet song

and his mean mug will melt

into confusion

these are things he can’t remember

then the world will call me terrorist

and i will laugh

because it’s funny

this was patriot’s business last

night burning cities built

The Land of the Free

i will laugh

it’s funny

how quickly they forget

a sweet song

how death row’s echo is loud enough

to give cavities

how the brothers i am caged with

haven’t seen a dentist in years

how white folks with perfect teeth

never seem to listen

 

don’t worry baby

i know there’s confusion

god’s gonna see us through now

peace after revolution

you do whatchu gotta do*

 

goddess x

*lyrics in italics from erykah badu’s other side of the game


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

Victor Billione

Ten Times Out of Nine: I’m Only Human

 

1   pray you catch me

there are no roads

that do not lead to me
every thought
a whisper hoping
to be caught
frontiers never

come easy


often a few steps

delayed by deep time
lengths of breaths
always a seeker

nonetheless

 

2   hold up

 

if i light the sky
by holding you above me
we glow together

 

3  don’t hurt yourself

 

life’s not been easy
since i decided to take hold

 

life hurts
growing hurts

 

love heals the
parts that don’t die

 

4   sorry

 

a moment of weakness
was to hear you profess
your love for me with
such a beautiful voice
through a smile so
familiar with untruths
your first being: hello

clearly my love
was never intended to
live safely inside you

 

5   6 inches

 

a kiss knows well the
unity of time and space
knows what has
been forgiven and forgotten

living long enough to cover the

distance of its object
living with no
immediate expectation
a given gift without condition

 

6   daddy lessons

 

our name means to
grow to be better
our name lives on

victoriously

 

7   love drought

 

they rely on you
as discoveries of other
pleasures emerge
they move to welcome
other possibilities
for definite comfort

nothing personal
they want you
when they have you
wild as winds

 

should they return
to drink again from
your reservoir
don’t allow them
to taste you so easily

look them in their
mouths to see
how much
their tongues
have dried
over time

 

8   sandcastles

 

when your home begins
to show evidence of
having been lived in
dust only settles in the
unoccupied places
we stay there until
the walls come down

it seems easier than
making fertile gardens
out of burial grounds
reserved for wishes
that never took flight

there is no shame in
building homes not
meant to be lived in
just don’t expect to
stay there for long

 

9   forward

 

the darkness upon us
shall not hide our way
light far in the distance
ushers in the day


a sky whose faults are frozen
hidden from the sun
protects us all who tend the land
until our work is done

 

find a few or many more
who help us sow our seeds
gather up our harvests
heal our sores that bleed


we lay among the grassy hills
swaying with the wind
like fields of purple flowers
we think not of an end

 

our lives we lead with purpose
creating as we go
sometimes forced to leave behind
a life we dreamed we’d know


we flow toward the gifted seas
that shake us at our core
then raise our heads and travel on
knowing there is more

 

10   freedom

 

black. you black?
you all da way black
wouldn’t know black
if it was placed on your face
but you all day black, doe?

 

can’t see how yo’ black
ain’t the only black
how you get free
critiquing like dat?

do you own black?
how’d you even get black?

 

free. you free?
you all kinds of free
wouldn’t know freedom
if it came and kissed yo’ face

how you crying Kmt
claiming hotep

when you blame black

for being black?
how’d you get like that?

 

11   All night

when i think of you
i think of poetry

 

spent all nite 
pondering the things that you say
want to hear you say my name
call on me as we go deep
young blak talk sex to me

i want to put young love 
on the tip of your tongue 
promise you will keep me warm
would you mind if it takes all night
if it feels so right
come give your love to me

(don’t stop)


make me move
lock the door
show me more
pull me closer to your soul 
free xone until we lose control

 

i want to be the one you need
play jazz for me 
put your body next to mine
this body needs quality time
come across the line 
runaway with me 2nite

 

can i enjoy this moment
as I look through your pictures
believing someone like you
could be with someone like me

two black eagles
flying against the wind
making love in the rain


we could go on and on
and on and on and on
and on and on
and on

it’s just poetry
just poetry

 

12   (in) Formation

it’s bigger than Beyoncé
the revolution upon us
is gonna hit
don’t forget the paparazzi
cocky fresh dressed to impress
ready to party
make another trip
we found another body

kill us in the street
kill us in the car
killing us still won’t change who we are
we will never overcome this racist shit
they keep giving it
we keep taking it

it’s in the water
everywhere that we look
another one gone
at the hands of the hook

 

no trial
no jury
the fact remains
when your skin is your weapon
you’re pumping guilt

through your veins


A Detroit native, Victor Billione Walker (pronounced bil-LEE-yon) is a singer, poet, and self published writer whose work addresses issues related to race & equality, men and masculinity, and queer experiences.

Billione is author of several independent books including a short novel titled ‘No Tea. No Shade.’ and a poetic play titled the ‘Birth of Mars’.

Some of Billione’s poetic influences include Sonia Sanchez, Jessica Care moore, Ursula Rucker, Ntozake Shange, the Last Poets, and the late Chantay Legacy Leonard who was a collaborator and muse.

Billione currently resides in New York City, where he is completing work on a forthcoming collection of poetry titled ‘Love/Revolution’.

For more information about Victor Billione Walker, visit GetBillione.com

Photos courtesy Ken Anderson Photography/The Ken Experience

Khaya Osborne

“Ode To All The Children I’ll Lose In Pursuit of Just One”

 

to the bleeding soft/ to the rose that died on its vine

before it was even alive/i love you

 

your body

stressed to the axis of non-existence

my expectations crushed your

not beating heart

too big/ to love something so

small

to be loved/ by anything so 

small

 

i hear your cries in my sleep/ i rock your dusty crib with trembling hands

i shake your father from his sleep / wondering what he’ll think of me/ when we finally cross paths 

and chaos-swirl you into almost-breath

he had better be good with blood

       and bad/ with hope

i clutch at air trying to reach for your tiny fingers

soft as carrots

pluck your potential names from

the bottom of my chin and crook of my neck every Saturday afternoon

Pluck P, Pluck C, Pluck O, Pluck S

Pluck Hirsutism, Pluck Preeclempsia

Pluck 2 to 3 times more likely to lose you 

In Utero

for such a common condition in women

i’m surprised you do not have a simpler

way of getting here 

 

i abstain from your soft, thin cooing at every meal/

i carry you/ everywhere but the one place you can be/ you can’t stay where i ask you to sleep

and it fills me with such fury/ i now understand why my mama thought/ whoopins would teach me how to breathe

your crib in me

my lips, my chest, my glassy leaking eyes

my bitten fingernails, my curved bones, my swollen flesh

 

i have stressed myself to hollow home

an uncushioned bassinet for your chubby skin

to curse/ you haunt me,

gurgling cries over my shoulder/ phantom limbs that brush my cheek like a bathtime tantrum

 

i have stressed myself to your death

i have stressed myself

unworthy, unbleeding

unbodied, unwelcomed

to being your mother

 

may you forgive me

this simple mind, this simple black girl,

desperate/ to bleed for your ripe

desperate/ to be your lifeline

     to be somebody’s mama

              to hold you and call you something / plumeria-scented and a violent shade/ of tenderly kissed 

 

in my dreams/ i am holding you to my chest and you are nursing/your eyes,

an indiscriminate shade 

of brown/ blink up at me and you are trusting 

 

                you are soft

 

          you are finally all the hassle/ and its worth i worked hard for

 

and then 

 

the lights go out

 

my arms close around nothing

my trembling lips

porcelain tears/ are the only anything in the room fixed around

 

a newly useless brown nipple

 

you are nowhere

 

forgive me/ for swallowing you in darkness / before the light could ever reach your eyes


“Infertility: Spotting It In Others Now”

 

They say/ it rests in the belly of 5 to 10 percent / of US Women/

/That couple who can fuck/ at any given week even though the boyfriend’s hemophobia excused him from a dissection in Bio/ The girl who retweets all the same baby videos as me/ always adds a little heart and crying emoji/The woman whose Twitter Feed is unrefreshed on April Fool’s Day/The girl who keeps an extra bottle of FDS/ in her backpack, tucked between her AVID folder, several empty water bottle

a pack of waxing strips

 

Friends/ who never ask for tampons

Friends/ who do not discuss marriage

Friends/ who are good at holding things in/good at retaining information/ good at never discussing the future

 

The girl who sits/ in the back of Economics class/ plucking at her throat

Exasperation painted across her features/ A silent ‘You again? Back so soon?’/ The woman/ in line behind me at Walmart/ with a wedding ring on/ and a short phone call with her mother/ in which she is the only one asked after 

 

and me/ how i did not bleed for nearly a year/ how everything i ate tasted like someone else’s funeral/ how i could not stop growing patches of stubble in all the manly places my father takes the time to attack before work

 

how i/ instinctually/ stopped incorporating the future into my vocabulary/

no more/ someday

no more/ soon

no more/ next week

no more/ tomorrow 

 

no more/ promises

“Fishbelly Insides”

 

it’s still gon be a white girl disease to me

 

this black skin refusing to be soil

just means it must have been

bleached

 

this sadness

that makes me crawl into bed and play

Duffy/ Katie Castello/ Adele/ Alex Parks

this white girl shit

this being empty

this hollow church

      hollow body

      that has forgotten how to bleed

 

nothing black forgets how to bleed 

 

this diagnosis

this long line of grandmothers cut short

       like a tree stump

this gentrified suburb/ this sunburn/ this burn/ this heat

 

this decimation/ this holy land

this tundra

this empty, this empty, this empty

 

it dances without rhythm

seasons everything it eats with the herbs/ of a people it does not know

prays standing up/ eyes wide open

 

this hollow

this hollow 

this nothing

 

it’s white girl shit

it’s unyielding/ i guess/ chronic 

a tender whistle tossed into the mississippi air

and plucked from the lungs of a black boy

any black boy/ a shepherd/ of his early homegoing

 

this vengeance 

this divine intervention 

telling me/ do not bring a child into this world/ you will never have what they need

 

that’s white girl shit


Khalypso is a 17 year old poet and actress born in Berkeley, CA and
currently residing in Elk Grove, though she will always rep South
Sacramento. Her work centers primarily around charting the complicated
existence of being colored and woman and alive—a metaphysical dilemma
she wishes she could conquer and whose defeat she would whisper the
secrets of into Ntozake Shange’s ear. Her work has been published in
or is forthcoming in The Rising Phoenix Review, The Columbia Review,
Crab Fat Magazine, and Vending Machine Press.

October Rising

“Words”

 

I became intimate with “Words,” during my infancy… “

Words” became my first playmate, my best friend, my confidante…

Tottering around my childhood home, I learned to utilize “Words” expeditiously, speaking in phrases, bypassing the seemingly nonsensical, monosyllabic utterances rendered by other youth in my age demographic…

I strung together sentences beneath the exuberant tutelage of my professionally educated mother. My fascination with “Words’s” intricate design, graduated quite expediently from oral regurgitation to verbal origination.

I developed my own form of cuneiform, with a toddler’s flourish, patiently perfecting the tenuous link between that which is “said,” and that, which is “written.”

I become the author of my life, ostensibly mastering my fate.

Sculpted letters became sound, to which I attached meaning, that metastasized into paragraphs, which elongated into pages that became rudimentary expressions of my talent.

I watched others struggle to conjugate verbs, while I entertained invitations to join Advanced Placement Literacy classes.

I wrote my first book at five (unpublished), and continued throughout my childhood into early adulthood, regaling eager listeners and readers with unpublished pieces of authentic literary work that gained me notoriety as an innocuous, yet brilliant, burgeoning authorette.  

I preened at their commentary, reveling in the knowledge that my Purpose in life was birthed from my kinship with “Words.” Be they spoken or written, I was never without them…

Until… …My daddy died, and “Words” failed me.

The betrayal was as instantaneous as it was crippling. How to adequately put into “Words” my shock…? My anger…? My disgust…?

How could I aptly convey my desolation…my fear…the sense of abandonment that now blanketed my security?

The absence of “Words” was noticeably offensive because of the devastation left in its wake…

We were no longer in tandem, because I NEVER gave permission for “Words” to bring into the corporal plane that which I would not even entertain through errant thought.

I never sanctioned my father’s death!

“Words” must be spoken into existence so that THAT which was NOT could be brought to fruition!

I didn’t give “Words” my permission…

My life force, intertwined with “Words” since my beginning…stuttered, abandoning me to a confusing emptiness that would not allow my to shape sound beyond the metaphorically silent scream of my transfixed lips.

My somber mien did not reflect my new reality…

Because the day my daddy died I lost more than my father; I lost my connection to the Son…

My identity, my self-expression, the salve for every anguish I’d ever sustained, lay in my ability to express myself thru “Words.”

Through “Words” I connected my soul to the spiritual plane.

Through “Words” I accessed God…

As I gazed at my father’s inert form, lying so achingly prone in his hospital bed, I tried to process that his body was not the only one in the room suddenly absent a soul…

I, too, had become an untenanted shell of what was once whole.


October Rising – I am a former aspiring author who decided to parlay a hobby into a profession.  Teaching is what I do; writing is who I am…

Dagmawe Berhanu

Black Heaven (inspired by Danez Smith)

Somewhere, a place that isn’t here, Black angels

carve themselves into stained glass. Do back flips

 

over break beats, and freeze

time in an instant.

 

Lift their hands in praise, with no fear of looking like guns.

Black boys pick flowers

by the garden. Sweet singing like Sunday choirs. No longer worry

if the streetlights come on.

 

Brown girls are draped in clouds and jump rope on golden concrete.

They wrap their afros up like halos and dance with the Sun.

Last night, I hid

my voice somewhere in the back of the moon,

Didn’t care if I had lost it.

 

Last night, I spread my skin atop the mantle to air out. Never knew

that my body could be something worth admiring. Last night,

I took my dreams

upstream. Sat them by the river, and watched them drown.

 

Do you know how it feels to be here and unseen?  

Do you know what it’s like to say goodbye to

a friend before you’ve said hello? Do you know what hell

we’ve been through to deserve this paradise?

 

When I was alive, I didn’t have that luxury. My mouth was a trigger.

My voice, the gunsmoke. But here, in this drunken abyss,

I decided to be God

over man.

 

Spoke myself into existence

 

Wrote my killer’s name on the bathroom mirror; America

Does it matter if it’s a dream if it feels this good? Heaven

is just a forever where there is no such thing as bye.

 

It’s going to the store and getting to come back.

It’s playing your favorite song

in your car as loud as you want.

Not watching your childhood sink away

into the Mississippi.

 

I don’t know where I was before, But I know I’m about 100 miles

north of somewhere better than I used to be.

 

They said we’d have to die to get to heaven.

I didn’t believe them. I lay atop it all, stuck.

Like streetlights on black skin.

Like angels, carved into stained glass.