Trace DePass

When Black Men Want to Leave


we heard the asthmatic baby cry when the door shut. we heard the bullet shell and body drop at the same time from miles away. heard you; that he was too busy to finish [or start] the note left us. heard him complaining about how much he didn’t like it here. heard this place smelled like how his day went. that was the last time we heard from him. there’s a special kind of silence when black men leave. we all thought it was him being himself and that he’d reappear, like he always does. we all looked at each other, hoping we could pet a stray tear back to it’s duct, with words. but, we all struggled for something good enough to say. throats got heavy. you could swallow and drown in your own spit a few times when black men leave. mouths gape a whale’s wail and flood themselves. it tastes like nothing new. how there are so many things we could have said to make him stay that a mouth wouldn’t utter. if he only knew how much we wanted him home and happy and our black man. now, a gone one. here:

the dusk rained into dawn. none spoke. we were tired and still drowning, watching the pitter-patter move in on us. how water taunts us with it’s large bodies when we try to look for something beside ourselves. what a gluttonous God. looked so natural, it nearly made the son want to be just like his father as if to be taken/gone was a hereditary thing.


prayer of a gnostic theist. Jamaica, Queens. ‘97.

most high,

thank you

                  for the wake for the fifteenth

praise – how i’ve held on since the first;

how the check let the little nigga

keep his phone & his wallet with how it

brought me my package; the divinity in

the bread/ i broke      5 pound loaves.       

2 grand each –      the father, the son, &

                               the    need     to     eat.

praise

             product; the duffle for it’s many

compartments; the nigga that tried me,

and then ran away;   facts, that i ain’t

  have to kill today; the cold of youth,

  its role in the gun,

                                  each bullet that

kept a metal jacket up from the floor;

the boo who would reign with blunts

and with fingers, would call upon a crip

from any top step to a turnstile. & to

our bowman’s dominant eye,

may her hand

                need not to whistle

the soundtrack to a scene as this:

the corner, wherein the streetlights

serve as beacons for a foot soldier,

& his watch,

                  &   the candles stayed

after he left.   bless: his family.

                        bless: my son.

be: a fence

                 on his way from school.

may he walk with the calm of two

headphones in his ears &, god,

kiss the callous,

like a don,  

                    off his hands

  in the southside of Jamaica

smooth his pace. shine his teeth.

make him be a better man than i was

[if i die in the interim of silence

before we speak again, then…]

amen.


Residing in Queens, NY, Trace DePass is an alum of Urban Word NYC, juror and editor at the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and was the 2016 Teen Poet Laureate for the Borough of Queens. He received a National Gold Medal from Scholastic for his writing portfolio, “Black Boyhood,” wherein one piece was published in Scholastic’s Best Teen Writing of 2015. Trace is interested in curating conversations on black queer, non-binary masculinity through prose, poetry, & playwriting.

***Featured Artist*** Siaara Freeman

Joy Lane is Not Dead

“Cleveland police said Stephens shot and killed Robert Godwin, Sr., the 74-year-old victim picked by Stephens at random. In one of the videos, Stephens approaches Godwin, Sr. on the street, and makes the victim say the woman’s name “Joy Lane” before fatally shooting him. During a separate video, Stephens said, “She’s the reason why I’m making this video. She is the reason what’s about to happen today.”

& some people are mad at Joy

for being

alive.   

 

     They be like:

 

                            how dare Joy

                            survive when

                            so much else did not?

 

& Joy is not safe in Cleveland

& Joy is not alone

 

                                           They be like:

 

                                                                   Joy left that boy

                                                                   & he went crazy

                                                                  

                                                                    Joy was supposed to be his

                                                                    said it out his own mouth

                                                                    it was all Joy

                                                                    fault all that blood

                                                                   that poor spilled

                                                                   stranger.

 

& some people wanna know where Joy is

hiding & some people say

the cops got Joy where

can’t nobody get Joy.

 

                                                     They be like:

                                                                             Joy did something terrible

                                                                             Joy must be some kind of hell

                                                                             cat. Joy probably used him & went

                                                                             to his homeboy or some shit. Joy

                                                                             aint loyal enough

 

                                                                             to niggas.

 

& some people say Joy just a woman

& what you expect from Joy

But guilt to follow?

       

                                                                                                   They be like:

 

                                                                                                  Joy ruined dude

                                                                                                  whole life. Caused him to kill

                                                                                                the old man & him

                                                                                                   self

                                                             

 

                                                                                                         Women be the root

                                                                                                        of all evil. Witches who rot

                                                                                                       a man into sin on any given

                                                                                                                       Sunday

                                                                                                                          Eve.

                                  

                                                                                                                                                                              


My Mother Is An Enchanted Portrait 
(from Delphi Riddle To Bellatrix Black While in Azkababan)

 

If I stare at you long enough you start to move, there is more
magic in this than I let on. I do not cry at you or on you instead
I dribble water to your face and make you do it for me, you are
my mother after all. Crying does make you look more

demented but what more could be expected of you? Walking away 
from the light just to run into it ? If my father split his soul 7 times
gave you a piece to hide, who did it hurt more? Did you not die

in his war, in his name, did you not pull me out, fierce as a wand?

your last shred of magic? the spell more want than love. I am called
a curse, but a curse is sometimes a gift opened the wrong way. Our
history is a worm feasted knowledge. Decay is a teacher best given

to the student who knows life to well, who dined daily with the evil
and did not choke. Doesn’t matter If I am the kettle or the pot I am
a Black, they say I am his child, and I am but I am more you

mother, a gust of steam scalding whatever is not the same broiling
urgency, lullaby sung to a wretched sea the sure sound of pain, loyal
like an obedient hatred. I sit here in the same prison

cell that was yours. The cell we share is big, sufficient in relinquishing
I say we, because I imagine you here with me, I don’t daydream us
into who we are not or into places we will never go. I don’t pretend you 
into apologizing

for the life you choose or for the ones you choose to take

I don’t. I think of us here, sirens, told we are too dangerous for the sea
too dangerous for the very thing that us brought us here. Some men
love the sea, other men despise it, but no man can really call it
theirs

alone. I think of us humming and the men become bloodless. I hear this
and rub cobwebs across my face until I feel 
fingers. Soon as I feel fingers I begin 
to bite. Soon as I begin to bite, my fear climbs

out of my chest and into your eyes. They call you
crazy, they say you can tell by your eyes. How 
they scream without you. The only part of your picture
that does not move. The only part trying to keep me
still.


Siaara Freeman is a friendly neighborhood hope dealer. She writes poems & performs them & publishes them. She has been published in the literary journals Elementz Review, Chicago Lit Review, TinderBox, Up The Staircase Quarterly, Texas Borderland Review, Rats’ Ass Review, and Freeze Ray.  She’s been on helly slam squads and even has coached a few.  She’s a BRAVE NEW VOICES ALUMNI and a coach of the 2017 Detroit Youth Poetry Slam Team.

She has made list of poets & tweeters & thrifters to watch! & has been interviewed by For Harriet on poetry as self care. She was nominated by Up The Staircase Quarterly for Best New Poet 2016.  She tries to feed people, including herself off this alone. She is a Slytherin & the current Lake Erie Siren.  She is a Connoisseur of Clap-back & Guilty Pleasures. I heard, she is growing her Afro so tall God mistakes it for a mic & speaks into her.

She is the Founder of Wusgood.black.

***Featured Artist*** Julian Randall

There is No Word for The Fear of White Women

And sure, a bird can be freedom or the converse. A wing’s implication is that flight is a methodical form of absence. But I’m saying more than that three stains became birds splayed against her shoulder blade, migrating nowhere. Or that I touched her back never suspecting wings even where the architecture implied it. This may not even be about fear, though it was abundant in the throbbing dark of her room. I might be the bird drifting somewhere out of habit and scarcity. I’m saying that I hated her almost as much as I hated what I would give to not be lonely. I hated her liquored breath, how she talked to me, the teeth of a hammer pleading a nail loose, the way she was the best I could do.


Ode to Being Called Mulignon at a Frat   Party & The Silence That Followed


Colloquially       it means Nigger
functionally       eggplant
my skin takes root     as his tongue
lolls wheat swollen in the swamp
of bodies dressed like a lynch mob
the theme of the party is hootenanny
the theme of the party is progress
the theme of the party is 2012
and everything is swaying
from the bass’ throbbing kiss

And still I know now the agony of silence

As my ex-roommate freestyles
and I know that nobody has heard him
Mulignon
               malignant
                                I am spreading?
No I root      I know       how this looks
if I go back to impulse     to throttle
to choke out     to pop off

I am the only evidence I have

And that is never enough
Praise now     the fallow knuckle
    the wilting of fists     the early winter     
how good I am at telling no one

How I had so much to lose
        beyond my skin
like his skin       ideal canvas for bruises
    to mark my turf      with peninsulas of loose blood
but still I own nothing
                                            but regret
   I pop my bones to the cadence of his voice
and wish the shifting of cartilage    could have been a song
I mean I did not flinch         I mean I did not lose my financial aid
that year           I mean if they gonna kick you out anyway
might as well break something
                                                      on the way out


Aubade With Panic Attack
After Ocean Vuong



Soft light
                      closed throat
I am        an aperture
   I flicker          in the yolk
of the light
                       fingers fail
to grasp at anything
        I pry open my own jaw
fumble for my phone
    between the yawning of graves panic attacks
play Alright
      a song always precedes the war

Alls my life I has to
                                       lie about where I am

                                    morning interrogation
                                    I audit my limbs
                                    for what I can still call mine

                                 by this point     I know I will pass out

                                I say often that I vomited
                                because a surplus of bile
                                is a better sin than a boy
                                with no lungs


                                       I close my eyes and see only blood
                                       there is enough crimson
                                       to name             a nothing

                                              my jaw is brimming with steam
                                                   I gasp       until the boy in my mouth
                                            comes loose    

                                                        a new boy dies each night
                                                  his name settles in my gums
                                            and blooms by dawn


Julian Randall is a Living Queer Black poet from Chicago. A Pushcart Prize nominee he has received fellowships from Callaloo, BOAAT and the Watering Hole and was the 2015 National College Slam (CUPSI) Best Poet. Julian is the curator of Winter Tangerine Review’s Lineage of Mirrors and a poetry editor for Freezeray Magazine. He is also a cofounder of the Afrolatinx poetry collective Piel Cafe. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as Nepantla, Rattle Poets Respond, Ninth Letter, Vinyl, Puerto del Sol and African Voices among others. He is a candidate for his MFA in Poetry at Ole Miss.

Mikey Cody Apollo

On What It Means to Love the Drug Dealer” –

                   

The most dangerous game I have ever played was simple:
Drive with unarmed black men in my car                                 and wait.

Wait for sirens,
wait for flashing lights.

                        Wait.

I realize this after another black man
is shot on camera in front of his girlfriend
                                                               and his daughter.

The video,
                            it haunts my Facebook
                                                                               for days.

Lingers like a ghost
is shared like toys and secrets                                 let out of the bag,

like
                         like weed let out of the bag,
                         like Xanex let out of the bag.

I cannot turn off the image of red blood
on this man’s white shirt.

Of censored faces,

                         and bodies that are too black,                          too explicit
to be seen by white eyes.

This man, he haunts my Facebook.
The photos are endless.

He wore ties,
taught children,
                     did everything right and still managed
                                                     to lose his life.

So what does that mean for black men who ain’t that?

For the young boys that wear hoodies
                                                                and grills
                                                                              and sell baggies?
I wonder this as I drive the drug dealer home.

Praise be the way he laughs.
                     A cacophony of flowers blooming                 and hip hop.

The way he is unapologetic in his moves.

I think of this when his eyes are red
                                                                                 and when his t-shirt is not.

The most dangerous game I have ever played was driving
                  black boys home,

A mystery of whether or not my car smells like pastime.
A shot in the dark,
                 in the dark,
                                           in the dark skin that both shields
                                                                                                                  and exposes
him.

Black boys be some type of magic,

 

whether they drug dealers
             or teachers
                                                        or homeless
                                                                                                                 or child.

Armed or unarmed.


                                                                                             Ain’t that magic?


The way they disappear and reappear
                     in hashtags,
how they are suddenly evaporated
behinds white hands and officers.

Black boys be allusion most days,
and the only way I can keep them

                   him alive

                   is by holding him in my passenger seat.

                  I drive the drug dealer home.
                  In turn, I build a home in the drug dealer,

                 despite them making him villain.
                 Make him monster,
                 the way they make him everything
                 but beautiful.


“13 Nudes: A Recollection of Nightmares”

Based off Anne Carson’s The Glass Essay

1.

In my dream, my first love is drowning at the expense of his own hand.

He places his head beneath the waves, exorcises the demons,

and is baptized inside a cloud of bubbles.

When he floats to the top,

I am on a distant shore,

burying my toes into the sand,

unaware of his shipwrecked body.

When I awake, I am covered in salt water.

I remove a seashell from the back of my throat,

place it to my ear and listen

as he screams on the other end.

2.

I do not tell my therapist about the recurring vision

of the man in my closet.

3.

Every time I close my eyes,

my room goes up in flames.

I am not sure if I am doing this on purpose.

4.

At first, the funniest nightmares are the ones about zombies.

They teeter like unsuspecting card houses,

dragging their rotting feet and bare knuckles.

They stroll right past me.

5.

When my friend was dying,

I thought of ways to convince the hospital

to let me sleep in the lobby.

I needed a place to store all the waiting.

I did not want to miss anything

more than I knew I would eventually

miss him.

The night before his funeral,

I slept so good,

you may have thought I was the one who died.

I am startled awake by his laughter.

6.

Alex and I have been broken up

for two years.

In 0.59 seconds,

Google produces 605,000 results

for “dreams about drowning”.

“Repressed issues are coming back to haunt you.”

“You are feeling overwhelmed by emotions.”

Results for years passed between us.

604,998 more reasons to love him more than Blake.

7.

There is a tiny voice

apologizing to the Devil.

I am not quite sure if the voice belongs to me.

I am not quite sure if I am asleep to begin with.

8.

Zombies do not eat other zombies.

Zombies do not waste calories on the dead.

9.

One night, I am in an elevator,

and right when it is about to fall,

I become conscious that I am dreaming.

I let it plummet anyway.

10.

After Blake and I break up,

I stop dreaming of the ocean.

 

11.

The zombie dreams are not funny anymore.

12.

Sometimes, I don’t know why I wake up scared,

but I would rather wake up scared than not at all.

13.

The goriest nightmare is the one where people

are stabbing themselves with needles.

Google says, “You need to mend a relationship or situation that has gotten out of hand.”

Everyone asks, “Which relationship? What hurts?”

I reply,

“Where do you want me to start?”


“What We Fail to Admit”  

 

Writing poems has always been more about others 

and less about me and all that I do. 

I have a heart consumed and smothered by lovers.  

I’ll never write notes about myself the way I do you. 


MIKEY CODY APOLLO is a spoken word artist who was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Much of her work revolves around her experiences as a Black woman and an intersectional feminist. Apollo has been writing since the second grade, and is passionate about both art and education. Her favorite film of all time is “Moonlight”, and her favorite poet is Kendrick Lamar.