***Feature*** Nicole Homer

Meeting Her Husband for Lunch

 

A taste bud is a curious machine:

it knows the stew but not the cook.

“The man in the kitchen…

Who is he?”

 

How can she know the stew but not the cook?

I answer every time: “Your husband.”

“Who…? Is he-…?

I was married once.”

 

I’ve answered her every time: “Your husband”

“That’s not him, but

I was married once.”

My grandfather comes in, pills in hand.

 

“But that’s not him.”

3 hours later, like an alarm clock,

my grandfather comes in, pills in hand:

Water and patience and a smile like forty years together.

 

3 hours later, like an alarm clock:

“Did I ever tell you how I met my husband?”

Waiting and patient and a smile like a fourth grader,

“You told me, but tell me again. I love hearing it.”

 

Did I tell you, yet, how I met my husband?”

My grandfather is in the kitchen listening to us,

“You told her, but tell her again. I need to hear it.”

“Well I was the prettiest thing…”

 

My grandfather is in the kitchen whispering to me,

It is twenty-five years ago and he is telling me the story:

“Well she was the prettiest thing

and she’d say, ‘ good lord, can that boy cook!’”

 

It is fifteen years ago and he is telling me the truth:

Your grandmother hasn’t been herself lately.

She finishes, “…and, good lord, could that boy cook!

He made the best stew.”

 

My grandmother hasn’t been herself in fifteen years

but the man in the kitchen

Still makes the best stew.

Her taste bud, at least, is a loyal machine.

 


A Warning to Boys Who Collect Shrapnel

For Sam White, historian, killed in his garage in 2008

while defusing a cannonball

making him the last casualty of the American Civil War.

 

A rusty bullet

travels slowly.

There is not the

hammer click gunpowder bang

of propulsion.

 

There is not even a hint

of bodies dancing like red capes

begging for the charge

nothing left of the in-through-out of ill-fated organs

and boys playing at war.

 

Do not doubt the metal

do not believe the rust.

It is a killing thing

and you are made of breath and beating

all muscle and bone.

 

A bullet is pierce and rupture

is blink and instant.

 

This sad thing is a soldier after a war

when killing is not quite a memory

but not a purpose either.

It is almost useless

like a warning to boys

who collect things

and imagine they have no past

 

Remember how, as a boy, you raced home

how you begged for the metal detector

how you followed its song.

 

How the fields murmured old secrets

and coughed up bullets.

 

There are things you cannot dodge.

This bullet has been moving towards you for 148 years.

 

When a bullet leaves a gun it never looks back.

If the marksman is good or lucky

the body,

the blood,

the chipped bones that scatter

the exit, unceremonious and quick

the after, the dirt and the waiting,

and then,

a boy with curious and uncalloused hands.

 

Holding the rusted metal,

you finger groove and time

dent and destiny

This is epitaph

etched down the sides of its body.

 

The kiss from the barrel

is just as must past

as much made of yesterdays

as your ex-wife’s hands

or the uniform, much too small now,

hidden in dustiest closet of your home.

 

Everything has a history,

even you

even the dirt

falling from the bullet

into to your hands.

 

Everything has a future

moving slowly towards it.

Even now your body is busy writing itself,

becoming less flesh

more dirt and ashes with every breath.

 

Remember how, as a boy, you held every bullet like a secret

how you thought war was made of stories and battlefields

how you imagined your body would endure

 

How the rust from someone else’s history

made your hands bloody


When My Newborn Daughter Holds My Grandfather’s Index Finger as I Did Thirty-three Years Ago 

 

I wonder when the days will stop pulling at my sweater

and let me be,

when I will mistake the steady decay of my body

for the calm of my living room chair,

when my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will stop asking my age

and file me under old:

that flat and static town

made of pictures and stories,

that precursor to unsurprising funerals,

that permission to marvel at the young

as if I had never lived there.


Red

 

Today I wear my hair up

with a red tie

so you know I’m half hussy,

half great idea.

 

This my mama’s dress

so I’m nothing new, either.

You can decide which is your favorite part;

I already know what

I like best.

 

I’m outside the house

waiting on a car

so you already know

I make bad choices. But at least I make something

of myself.

 

My dress red, too –

like my hair tie

and my lip stick

and these panties, got for $2 out a of a bin

at a store where everything is cheap including the clothes.

 

I don’t even like red

that much

but if you surrendering, you raise a white flag.

Don’t matter none if you don’t like white.


***Feature*** Brittany Rogers

Documentation:

 

The asthma attack

happened inside my class

we weren’t supposed to call 911

but the security guard did, and got fired a month

later. the girl’s mama arrived like this

was her daily lunchtime routine.

 

the fights burst into our hallways

like I was back on  Hoover

and 7 Mile cuz I had

skipped school with my dude

was minding my own business

when one girl winked at the other girls

man- except, here, at work,

I intervene-

it’s my job to not let black girls

be casualties in a tangled wreck.

 

I’ve gained back all the weight.

It hurts in places I can’t point to.

I don’t know the kids

names, still, in October,

but they speak mine like a prayer

and they waiting on me to show them a

deity  who make dead bodies walk out

of this burial ground.

 

Today, moths trapped themselves

in the broken light fixtures.

the mice didn’t come out

but i could still see the droppings

on the floor near my desk.

kill as many ‘and’s as you can in this poem.  can the poem somehow end on

this stanza instead of starting here?

 


Andromeda Talks Origin with Nymphadora

 

You began as most things

An accident

His lip curled in a shy kindness

A swarm of lies ballooning my cheeks

 

The spell to share pure blood

Shook our house

Like fireworks

Then fell to the ground- a shadow

Of dust.

 

Nothing worked. His smile grew.

My veins melted until I found them

useless

 

What is blood if it is  not

thick enough to rewrite

A lineage?

 

The Blacks have delivered the

Killing curse over less.

 

I shed my skin and grew

A new one that loved him

More than

itself


Brittany Rogers asks Nymphadora Tonks to Interpret Her Nightmare

Or

Mother Falls Asleep Watching Local News

 

I ended up in the

abandoned field by my house-

a forest of wands fixed 

on my swollen stomach. 

My stomach is an unwatched pot

brewing rust and chamomile.

The baby inside

senses the wands

and growls.

The wands bark back.

Then they are dogs

nipping at my brown ankles.

I smell of wet iron, a wounded pet

waiting to be swallowed whole.

They stand on hind legs

hands formed from

gunpowder and matches.

The baby shipwrecks 

into my pelvis. It wants

out. The hands point.

Ready.                                   

 


Brittany Rogers is a poet, mother, educator, and proud Hufflepuff. She is Co- Chief Editor for WusGood.Black, a literary magazine that highlights urban writers. Brittany has work published or forthcoming in Vinyl Poetry and Prose, Freezeray Poetry, Gramma, Black Nerd Problems, and Tinderbox Poetry. She is a fellow of VONA/ Voices and Pink Door Writing Retreat

Maurisa Li-A-Ping

words of affirmation

 

okay.
i see you.
so this how you gone step out hm.
you know you looking like a snack right, like a whole meal.
i see your chicken noodle soup and soda on the side.

 
you ain’t have to shine like that Black Girl.
got your glow lighting this whole room,
but we knew this,
been hip to the light.
sun and moon all jealous and shit ‘cause you done walked in.

 
okay, so now you know you just being extra!
slaying all your haters,
melanin poppin, lashes flourishing, waves on swim, curls jumping, brows laid, spirit aligned.
zamnn girl, you ain’t have to kill them like that.
you knew damn well they wasn’t ready, but i see you, i see you Black Girl
looking like a cup sweat tea.

wow! so you just gone keep slaying huh.
copy. cool. say no more, okay.
i see you over there looking like a bag of money,
you just gone keep robbing these banks with this look huh
this soul, this joy, this strength, this smile,
okay Black Girl.

 
you better fuck it up!
yas bitch, queen, trap gawd, person of the earth, scholar and student, all thee above
you better!
Black Girl Black Girl. Black Girl!
you so bomb, even metaphors fail you.
what is there, to compare a Black Girl to?
Black Girl! i done wrote this poem for you.
so busy slaying the game,
ain’t even look at yourself today.
here Black Girl here Black Girl

 
i wrote you a mirror.


in this universe, Blk Women are the moon

 

some folk wonder

what it might be like                     to be the moon

us Blk Women know

what it mean to be the light

shine so bright people be afraid of you

they misplace your pain for anger

Blk Woman sway

slow and steady into the sky

reminding herself of her gentleness

 

the first person that came to the moon was some white man

them always chasing Blk Women

go outta space for us

some folk come to visit just to say they was on the moon

 

but don’t nobody ask the moon how its doin’

folk don’t even ask if the moon wanna day off

they figure the moon so strong

it don’t ever get tired of lighting the entire earth

moons don’t cry, where they do that at

 

moon be like,

aint i

a woman?

 

 

some folk, don’t believe me and continue to wonder
what it might be like                     to be the moon
so i repeat the poem again

i know

what it mean to be the light

to shine so bright people be afraid of you

they misplace your pain for anger

i sway left and right

slow and steady, into the sky

reminding myself of my gentleness

the first person that came in me was some white men

them always chasing me

go outta space for me

some folk come to visit just to say they was in me

but don’t nobody ask me how I’m doin’

folk don’t even ask if i wanna a day off

they figure, Blk Women so strong

she don’t ever get tired of lighting the entire world

blk women don’t cry, where they do that at

 

i be like,

aint i

a woman!


Maurisa Li-A-Ping is a Black Queer poet, and educator raised by a village of Black women in Brooklyn, New York. Maurisa utilizes spoken word poetry as a site for social justice and inclusion to promote student learning and development on college campuses. Her dedication to her craft has led her to receive The Ernst Pawel Award for literary excellence, national and regional honors from The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Her performances have allowed her to touch stages at the World Famous Apollo Theater, United Nations, Poetic License Festival, Barclay Center and more. Maurisa is currently continuing her education as a masters student at Indiana University Bloomington and has forthcoming publication in Black Diasporas: Essays on being Black and Bicultural and the Coalition Zine.

Michelle Dodd

Fur

She calls petting,

grooming,

White washing,

curiosity

She said, “doesn’t your hair come straight,

I mean from the store”

Which is to say

She thinks

My hair is an invitation

For a passive aggressive,

“I just want your black hair to do a good hair, I mean white hair thing,

Like, can’t it be less animal?

Can you just be trained already?”

 

Wild doesn’t mean beautiful, or strong, or thick in America.

To be wild, means to be hung.

She suggested I wear my hair in a ponytail.

Nevermind how easy it is, for white hands to mistake rope for hair ties.

So I’m not surprised that she touched my hair,

Like it belongs to a house nigga from the south.

She pet me like,

I’ll be just another hashtag soon,

Like I was born dirty, and didn’t know how to brush the curl away,

As if the curl is a virus to be rid of.

She laughed as she asked,

“Is this okay?”

Disregarding any answer,

Anything

That would remove

Her white hands,

From something

That is not

theirs.


Michelle is a spoken word artist who loves slamming. She has been on Slam Richmond’s adult team in 2013, that went to the National Poetry Slam. She was also on The Writer’s Den Slam Team in 2016, that attended Southernfried (the largest regional competition in the USA for slam poetry). In 2017, she became one fifth of The Writer’s Den Poetry Slam Team, that is going to represent Richmond, Va at Southernfried and the National Poetry Slam. She is currently one of the coaches of the Virginia Union University slam team, and was recently named as the Program Director for The Writer’s Den LLC. Michelle also attended The Watering Hole Writing Retreat in December of 2016. She works with local schools, from elementary grades to high school, hosting writing workshops. When she isn’t doing poetry, Michelle is a mentor for Art180 in Richmond,Va.

Evolve Benton

East Oakland

The city smells like

cream and sugar.
Starbucks on the corner
where residents need to sleep.

Starbucks on the corner
where residents used to work.
Starbucks on the corner
the local donut shop used to lease.

The local donut shop
fed the neighborhood.
The neighborhood doesn’t
get fed anymore.

The neighborhood can’t
sleep anymore.
A white man
rides his bike
to the Starbucks on the corner.

The first white man I’ve seen
here in five years.
The white man almost runs me over.

He buys me a cup of coffee.
The barista asks me,
how do you like your coffee?
I tell him, Black!


Evolve Benton is a black and queer writer from Los Angeles, CA.  Evolve is a social justice educator and the Assistant Director at the University of California, San Francisco Multicultural and LGBT Resource Center where they focus on the retention and access to equity for underrepresented student health professionals.  They hold a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Antioch University of Los Angeles. Evolve lives with their family in Oakland, CA.  Their writing has appeared in the Dillard Review (2008), Trans bodies, Trans Selves (2014) and Outside the XY: Queer Black and Brown Masculinity (2016).

Twitter: https://twitter.com/evolvebenton?lang=en

 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/evolvebenton/

Claudia Owusu

Come to the Edge

 

Mama

greets the sun like

he the homie from the block

she ain’t seen in awhile”

                       –Nasra Adem

 

I was born boiling

under the heat of a West African sun at 1:30 p.m

sweat pouring like bountiful rivers of

coconut milk at the beach.

 

I was born in an exchange

with a father whose one leg

remained in one country, and the other

in another.

pacing back and forth under the brim of world

cup tournaments      where national allegiance

came into play. I was born i n the womb of a

mother whose body symbolized sex

smooth   mocha

complexion sweltering like orange stones on

dirt paths–

resilient neck reflecting the

testimony of the sun within the kiosk of an

electric fanned hair salon–

 

her glory ended

and began there.

 

throngs of women  arriving with stories of

their men on their tongues. leaving with the

smell of pink oil and dark & lovely relaxing

creams conversing on the strands of their baby hairs.

 

I was born speaking in tongues, justifying

arguments with adults at the top of stairwells

throwing worlds like baited fish on the cracks

of my teeth. young girl–not quite young, been

here

before.

seven year old girl mimicking Mama’s sex

appeal because that is all she knows.

 

with mini skirts and bare back tops

and afro beats on radios under harmattan heat

 

it was all birthed anew on long car rides to kebab bars

with the smells of guinness bottles and marital violence

evacuating innocence.

Mama ain’t raise no innocent

Girl,

Mama raised the

 

Sea

 


 

Your mother; or All the Mothers that I’ve Ever Secretly Wished Were Mine

 

i fold myself into the corner of the four inch room

as you run your fingers over the seasoned piano like

the spirals on a 2 ply notebook. you tell me about your

mother–how she used to chug her warm beers seated

on a mahogany bench before the black and white beast,

the living room light growing small with each gulp as she got

really into Alicia Keys and cried–her emotions spilling out

of her chest like a tornado in a Louisiana storm/ seamless and rigid.

you say this and I peer at you, stretching my finger to the lines

of your forehead as you play / you don’t seem real and i fold

my arms into perfect creases on my knees as your music swells

over my head .

the heavenly

gates open and tears bloom out of my eyelids like freight trains

under the safe sheet of mourning,

my shoulders heaving

my sobs echoing

the ways in which I am sure angels lament their immortality.

you ask me if I am okay. you say that my laughter

the way it moves through sadness, hard and stable,

smiling
i say, this?
it’s nothing.


Claudia Owusu is a Sophomore at Otterbein University, studying Creative Writing. She loves the color mustard yellow, and just recently turned 20. She thinks the number itself looks pretty old.

Belal Mobarak

A Son from North Africa

 

My cousin arrived a month ago

I tell him living here is not so bad

unless you are Black.

He asks, do I pass for Black?

I say I do not think so             maybe

I would mistake you for Dominican

which is to say  yes you are Black

unless you are not

what I’m trying to say is I do not know

if you are in danger.

 

A 19 year old immigrant asks

for help on his college application

his skin is a shade darker than mine

and didn’t speak the language but knew

to check off White on the application.

 

In my office another student tells me

he is West African

I tell him I’m Egyptian

His face lights up with a smile and says,

I am from the Ivory Coast.

His smile disappears  leans in and says,

You do not know where it is do you?

Brother, you beat us in the African Cup.

 

A Somali woman asked me

Why do Egyptians think they are not in Africa?

 

In a restaurant the waitress tells us

her name is Sanaya

I want to tell her I love your name

it is my grandmother’s

What I am trying to say is when

my friend Kareem asked me to translate

Chris Rock’s jokes into Arabic

he didn’t laugh at the jokes or my bad translation

he looked dazed and said

Is he talking about us?


Belal Mobarak was born in Alexandria, Egypt. Raised in Queens. As a middle child, writing is how he learned to finish his stories and poetry is how he learned to tell them with the least amount of words. Recently selected as a finalist in Brutal Nation’s Competition for Writers of Color. You can find his work published in Columbia Poetry Review, Newtown Literary, Blueshift Journal, and forthcoming work in DMC, Flock and Apogee Journal. He currently works for Higher Education in New York City.

Azia Armstead

Ode to the Dirt

I walk barefoot in my grandmother’s

yard to be soiled in your purity.

Mother of land oceans cannot

swallow, creator of town and tomb.

You sky for the dead,

ground for the living.

You allow everything to have

a backbone. When I hold you

I am praying with my hands open.

You fall through the spaces in between

my fingers & take the shape of what

the air bends you into.

Here with my feet submerged in the

all of you, you have a way of speaking

to me. Telling me that the

earth & I are like sisters.

Our skin the hue of both

mud & water.


Bad Luck

 

You got a roommate

he’ll hear what we do.

It’s only awkward if you’re fucking him too

– Frank Ocean

 

When I heard you

 

making her orgasm

 

I thought

 

maybe you came

 

home drunk                             again,

 

stumbled into the

 

wrong dark room

& fell into a

 

hole you couldn’t

 

tell wasn’t                    me.


Azia Armstead is a poet based in Richmond, Virginia. She currently studies English at Virginia Commonwealth University and is also a fellow of The Watering Hole. Her work has been published by JoINT. Literary Magazine.

Ebony Isis Booth

10 Reasons Why Your Right Eye Is Twitching

1

The French press of dark roast

in a travel thermos, sweetened

with amaretto liqueur before 10 am.

2

The letter from the IRS kindly

thanking in order to inform, this

year’s over-payment will be

conveniently applied to

’07, ’08, ’09.

3

The tax refund you get for

raising your baby sister’s babies

should not pay for the sins of

the woman you thought you were

a decade ago.

4

This is penance.

5

Your story is a uniform worn for

strangers. Spring weather is too

warm for cloaks, too bright to

hide your shame.

6

You can feel the fibroids

tugging your uterus up and

over themselves, settling into the

warmth. But, you have not told a soul

except your accountant, who held you

close and prayed as you wept. She

noticed the tremble in your voice and

hand when she tore the check.

She saw you.

7

You are surrounded by laundry,

almost constantly.

8

You are jealous of their freedom. They

are data points pinged from towers

across state lines with no budget for

gas, activities or snacks. They are text

messages of good will, dredged in guilt.

Relieved voice mail messages.

Proof of life in your palm, your phone

a grenade.

9

You tanked another deadline. You are

afraid that you might be as brilliant as

you pretend. And, who will watch the

children and ignore the laundry while

you are away, breathing your own air?

10

You are supposed to write, and cry

and drink about all of it today. You are

supposed to know when to say no to

the ice cream man. Explain why there is

no money or necessity for year books

in elementary school. Teach the concept

of never versus forever to children who

are younger than your debt.


Black Girl In Therapy

When you describe how black women / specifically / had their bodies and all cavities inspected / in addition to their hair grabbed / and slathered with lard / to prevent lice on auction blocks to your therapist / and she cries when you tell her that you are a descendant of this fact / but you don’t cry with her / because you can’t cry every time a white woman with kind eyes is hurt for your black life / or when one tries to touch your hair again or silence you / and it’s 2017 and 45 is in office / and you’re trying to raise a care-free black girl with mahogany skin and adamant curls in a school where she is the only one of herself  / and she misses her momma / and everybody wants to know if your pain is real / because they can’t believe you haven’t just up and died yet / and neither can you / and they will tell you it’s your fault for being beautiful / and you can’t make them understand that there is a bloodline of women who look just like you in other states that you don’t talk to / and you miss them all / and you can’t remember why you didn’t get your hair wet that day at the beach when you were seven and wearing your mother’s grief / and you don’t want to.


Ebony Isis Booth is a 2006 National Poetry Slam Champion, and recipient of Westword’s Mastermind Award in Literary Arts for her work as hostess of Café Nuba; Ebony Isis Booth is committed to her work. Since relocating to Albuquerque in early 2015, Isis has continued to fuel her drive toward art-ivism as Programs & Communications Coordinator for Harwood Art Center while simultaneously writing and performing original poetry and prose; heralding social justice, self love, and perseverance in and around New Mexico. In 2016, Ebony celebrated the inaugural edition of Burque Noir, a multimedia performance and art showcase centered around Black artists in New Mexico. Ebony Isis Booth serves on the Board of Directors for YWCA New Mexico as a steward of the organization’s mission, “Eliminating racism. Empowering women.”

Sarah Myles Spencer

Says the Blood to the Slave Trader

 

I saw you there once,

head, cloud thick,

smoking your ruins.

 

There is a room and a loneliness

inside it. A black         hole

itch I cannot reach.

 

A piece

 

missing.

 

All the mestizo in one room;

an island, chamber

of a gun. Who did we see

if not for ourselves?

 

Girl.

Ache.

Skin.

Revolt.

 

Small death in a new  tongue.

A song for each haunted

daughter and son.

 

First       born.

First       to see.

First       stolen.

 

I am the one

you forgot, Spaniard.

The low howl. Night

skin. Big mouth grin.

 

A blood witch

unknown to her

own power. Still

will never crawl.

 

No         rope.

No         chain.

No         whip.

 

I have already died

as many deaths

as the body can. I am

a room full, ocean

 

floor of limbs, slow

translation. There is

nothing common

 

in this blood. Rumor

is it lingers. Can spit

itself back into body.

 

Back into what survives.

 

Did you know I could

 

 

levitate?

 

 

I built this room.

Everything in it

 

is mine.


Sarah Myles Spencer is a mama, poet, singer/songwriter who’s worked with a variety of artists, including Snoop Dog, E-40, and (the late) Davy Jones. A multi-time Best of the Net Nominee and Pink Door Fellow, her work appears in Drunk in a Midnight Choir, A La Palabra: The Word is a Woman Anthology – Mothers & Daughters, Words Dance Magazine, Requiem Magazine, and more. For more info, visit www.sarahmylesspencer.com