Wes Matthews


the body’s sinking twists into anatomical grounds

weakened with a flesh temper to give torque

was called love throughout the open front.


this was a boy’s war story—finding new ways to twist

for the ground to cave.

Tenses of Gone


For my foreclosed house of birth, which still stands.


The days bestowed no ode

when the nights made them.


This was around the same time I wondered how hours

work. This was around the same time I learned how my dad works.

Everyday, he went to unique hands of hour

like he hated the last one or each one

& hung his glum coat on its ruby rack—

one day he came home

clutching a little white slip with matte red stamping

before it milled in the purple-hip flame.


This is the day I learned what vanish means.

For some reason, when I learned a new verb that action would

dull one of our possessions down to buckling shadow.

Our sheepskin rug.

Our smooching brown leather couch.

The way we held hands at the dinner table.

Sometimes a smile,

Dad many more days.



I spent ___ on end staring at the hardwood palate,

wondering if the mud-hemmed

roof would yawn

in the wake of a stormy day.


& while I regret not finding out

I do remember the cadence of my father’s footsteps up the staircase.



Somedays they vanished. Somedays they never came.

Wes Matthews is a 2016 & 2017 Detroit Youth Slam Team member.

JR Mahung

There Are Rules in Life


like be kind. put the toilet seat down after use.

wear shoes and a shirt to receive service,

do the right thing always. even when you don’t know

which thing is the right thing. the onus is on you to do it—


it’s like my dad did. or tried to do. or tried

to teach me as he said this is not a beating

it is a spanking and boy there is a difference— sometimes

but always in that chasm is some kind of lesson.


the night before my college graduation,

i am getting ready to stop. after my third glass of straight tequila,

which i had after my first glass of straight tequila,

which i had after a margarita. all of which i had after 5 beers.


and i remember there are rules to this shit

i promised my sister i would stop after 3,

figured it’s all good so long as i paused

after every third drink but this is not how rules work.


my dad watched his dad and his uncles,

who i call my uncles, each drown their consciousness

shallow in bottles. he promised his father

he would never drink. in the gaps

between whips of his belt dad said don’t


you ever. lie. to me. ever. again.

and somewhere in there is a lesson.

my sister says i take after my uncle,

slender with a back that bends forward


like a coconut tree in the breeze,

the one who, daily, drinks himself into

a place of peace. i drink when i feel pieces of myself


drifting. sometimes it takes leaving yourself to

leave behind hurt as well. but i’m waking up

in the morning and isn’t that it’s own discipline?


once, my other uncle once sliced a fresh, fat avocado with his breakfast


dropped his eyes down to where the beans lay on his plate

cut the silence only to say, you know boy

we’re all screwed up. every damn one of us.

when i was a kid i played a game. pretended


that each member of my family had died. the rule was

that i stopped once i drew real tears.

it always ended on my dad’s turn.

now that i am older i only imagine his eulogy


i’d like to say that he was a man who did the right thing.



like i did the right thing.

even when i did not know

what the right thing was.

even when the both of us were wrong.

The Author Explains JJ Fish & Chicken to His Younger Siblings OR the Chicken Shack as Church OR Angels With 6 Piece Wings



imagine everyone that once held you


their hands trembling


as they wished the whole world open at your arrival


consider those who carried them before


and those who carried them


seated at a table wide enough for us all


& we are a cascade of hands clasped


a row of heads bowed


may we pray our wonder bread soak the chicken grease just right


that our wings come with more than 3 of those small ass containers of mild sauce


that our fries stay crunchy from the shack to home


this chicken joint right here ain’t just no restaurant


the sound of wings anointing in the oil of canola


smell of lemon pepper salt a prelude to how it will soon swirl across your tongue


grease dripping from the walls


back in the day we had jj’s maybe once a week


or once a month depending what money came in from daddy work


he bought enough wings to keep us fed for the night


a tray of fifty would keep us on


through to the next morning


before school we watched the fries


& other fried things warming in the oven


some okra on occasion if we was feeling fancy


pack it in some foil with a tortilla from gram & there’s lunch


i know you seent a service before



tell me


what is more holy than this


gathering all that you love


& asking it to feast on its own joy


the crunch of manna sounding like its own psalm


a soul stirrers serenade like sam ain’t ever left from this earth


singing something bout six wings


& a lord of plenty


a lord of the forever seconds


of the sweet baby ray’s for when the mild sauce run out


of the bulletproof glass at the shop’s counter


may it be to protect our wings from the devil’s theft


may we unwrap our erasure from our own mouths


replace it with a gospel holy as our black


may that gospel be black as south side


as the lot next door


rubble from the house fire n all


sitting atop the dirt


like it ain’t no ground holy enough to keep us under


like this soil is only what our ancestors grew us up out of


like we growing right here til we grow wings for flight


like we only flying nearer to our lord


never away from nothing


& each word from our lips is holy


holy                    praise be


to the Southside


to JJ’s


to these wings

LaShawn Smith-Wright

You Can’t Tame This O-Pression

“The most disrespected woman in America, is the black woman. The most un-protected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America, is the black woman.”- Malcolm X


I use the loose thread in my weave

to sew my mouth shut

Feel my dignity crawl

up in my tracks and stay there

my mouth as straight as my bangs

Everyone judges me before I even open

Call me o-presser

For being 1B and woman in one pack


It ain’t real

The innocence in my scalp

be 100% human while the rest of me be nothing

I wonder how they’ll tame me this time

Maybe curl some obedience in my spine

Iron out my sass

Blow my clapback to the wind


They grip the edges when they see me

Know the pressing comb I got to face

to look like them

They ain’t seen bruises like mine

Aint seen my body a picture they use to paint

Dyed me so much I don’t remember my original color

They always want to use my color

Make me blonde and bleached and less human

But I stay the same unbreakable


Combs break in my naps

Yield to my cocoa roots

My hair be blue magic

that white girl stole

assimilated, made her own

Bonneted away with culture

Called for black afro picks

and made gentrification

I am a product of too much product

Be a bad perm from a salon I am not allowed in

I be ‘just for me’ made for them

Every kink they can they detangle

Moisturized ebony they squeeze into

My hair is bantu they knot having

Dreads they lock up

Poetic license for they justice

A version of conformity they stick in a fro


I be authentic

Made from cocoa butter and mama sweat

To lay just right

In a scalp that felt so much disrespect

it can only be black

My hair be decolorized black

Made in America

for white women who can’t even enunciate the naps

pronounce the curls

highlight the struggle

My hair be a movement

the melanin challenged can’t follow

Be a hustle they can’t braid through

It lay like african soil

Grow like poplar tree

Sway with the wind

Catch the shade just right


My hair be stubborn

Be protest

Be uncontrollable

Edge slick with olive oil


“bee mine”

“As I am”

“Au Naturale”

“A gift of dreams”

everyone wants for them but not me

My hair is my culture

It’s getting finessed too


Made white girl’s own

Till nothing is left for me

I am being taken



LaShawn Smith-Wright is  a college freshman originally from Detroit, MI. she loves spending time around other poets ready to develop their craft and share their story which isn’t an available experience at her college. Regardless of this she still loves poetry and writes daily. All in all I am someone who loves telling my story in everything I do.

YaKuZa Moon

Botched Autopsy of the North End 


no head of the family


in this neck of the




grab the liter by the neck

and roll a wood.


no heart of lion


in the seven mile savannah



heart of gold

traded for cash

cuz what if Nana need surgery


no eye of tiger

on the floors of the forest



eye of storm

hope it don’t stop raining.






my hood not so snowflake.

in the sense that we all die the same.


or died the same.


grandad crawled into the hole of our house–


passed out


then away.


‘nough ‘rillo wrappers to circle infinity a hundred thousand times


‘nough local rappers for everybody mixtape to go platinum in heaven.


my hood not so glorious.

in the sense that our revenge is justice.


or just revenge.

Epitaph for the Skinny Nigga in My Gym Class; Who’s Not Really Dead Just in Suspended Animation From an Unfinished Game of Freeze Tag. (they was shooting)




Hey you,

project baby pantomime,

you can stop waving your arms now


ain’t nobody finna pick you,

you too lil.


take this time to pick the mulberries out of your hair.


or pirouette from Alabama red clay to Detroit jungleless concrete




this isn’t exactly the saga of some sage okay?

we burn that round here.

‘round Nana house we burn lots of things


like hair.

and grits.

and roaches.

and blunts.

and bridges.

and bridgecards.


I’m talm’bout

the rainbow-colored,





thick summer


full of

shotgun nostrils


12 raids and

12 gauges at

12 years old




my only care in the world

was catching a stray,

all the mangy cats

in my alley

love to play.

live to play.


like to follow me home and shit


but never wipe their feet at the door

hell, they never even come inside


they insist that the floor is lava’

and I coulda sworn wasn’t no

volcanoes in the village


much less a mound that is not hollow


but nevertheless,

magma is bubbling under us

and there are no rafts,

just floating cadavers

with eyes of obsidian

and they all look like my cousin

we don’t talk about anymore.


colored boys learn we are monsters

‘round the time we stop calling it

hide and seek

and start calling it



‘round the time we notice our girlfriends

been wearing out their wrists

with games of ‘wring around the rosary’

and red light blue light’

and double dutch with bullwhips

and hopscotch with investigation chalk


to win rained on streetlight memorial teddy bears


our corners erode without corporals




so here’s to you,


cryogenic crybaby


ghetto stained glacier statue


you the hardest nigga of all time,


and you betta be grateful,


sure wish I could deepfreeze my empathy


swallow my mangled manhood


untuck my strap


cuz when everybody dies this summer


your neck won’t get any blacker


your torso won’t be red and wet


your tears won’t shed, or slide, or pool or puddle.


they will freeze into forevermore.

Ashley Rae


An Ex Calls    A Dropped Call    And 8 Months Later


You’ve only ever known love in hindsight.

The shrinking of your hometown

from the back window of a two story bus–

The flat line of your grandmother’s EKG

as you exit the hospital parking structure–

Slamming of screen door and

screeching of tires against pavement

while you stand speechless with the ring in your palm.

You always pumped the brakes too soon.

Yet you saw your heart in the rearview mirror and kept driving.


You; a sad reality check.

You only want it once it’s gone.

Once you can’t cage it anymore.

You be tale of caution.

Of whiskey and wind.

And forgotten promises.


You; a story for the attic.

For the stubborn and indecisive.

You wouldn’t know what you wanted if it was on its palms

begging you not to walk away.


You beginning to look like pity.

Like trembling bottom lip and untrustworthy knees.

You titanium in small doses.

Sounds all big and bad but still malleable.

You ain’t never been bigger than your own pride.

You got half a mind, apologized,

then called it a waste of time.



center of your own universe.

You the smallest microorganism on the most make-believe of planets.

You “sorry”.

and for the first time

No one cares.

***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.



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



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



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


Brittany Rogers asks Nymphadora Tonks to Interpret Her Nightmare


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.



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


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


She calls petting,


White washing,


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,


That would remove

Her white hands,

From something

That is not


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/