Kai Johnson

LEVIES

 

when flood-waters rise,

i dream of setting fire

to all my levies.


BRIGHTLY

 

we often forget

the sun is burning alive.

from here, we see light.

Nasra Adem – self love new years resolutions

new years rezzo

flex my goddess/empress/high priestess juju
become the Sun
pop a consistent squat
build the foundation
have mercy
healthy boundaries
honour the Land
“Love be a verb, son”
welcoming the abundance that beeeeen mine.

Nasra Adem is a 22 year old queer, Muslim, multidisciplinary artist, community organizer and activist. She is the current Youth Poet Laureate of Edmonton, AB, the curator of Sister 2 Sister: an artist collective for/by femmes of colour and Black Arts Matter-Alberta’s first all Black arts festival. Nasra is passionate about using art to disrupt, protect, educate, inspire and build forward moving Love within her communities.

Ayana Koduah

Little Black Girl

Twelve years old,

 first day of school,

burn marks on my chest.

I told a story,

that included a science lab

and a chemical spill.

Didn’t include me

religiously appyling bleaching cream

beaming with pride,

from a compliment

on how light I was becoming,

how acceptable i was becoming.

Little girl,

women that look like your mother will tell you

black girls don’t play in the sun.

You will fail their paper bag test,

they will tell you,

you’re the bad version of themselves.

you will spend days

bleaching your skin to perfection.

Little girl smile,

the sun is beating its gold into your skin.

On the day you relax your hair

It will smell like you’re burning.

Beauty is pain

you’ll tuck into your screams

Remembering all the broken combs.

Your body will still

For years, beauty will mean burn marks on your scalp.

Little girl,

your hair is a tree,

Growing to the sun,

Don’t tame it.

Nine years old,

your mother will sit in your classroom

spoon feeding you lunch,

you stopped eating

Because

your thighs rubbed together,

Your butt never fits into anything

fat felt like something disgusting to be.

You will learn,

not everyone is built like the magazine.

Little black girl,

on the day your hips widen and

 your breast protrude,

coming into being a women

your every action will be deemed promiscuous.

Men who look like your father

will now find your sex attractive.

Wrapping themselves into your broken places.

Whispering words that feel like glue

 but They will tell you they find you hard to love.

So treat your body like a temple

and start to call this temple home.

For there will be men who will love your hard parts to cotton candy,

And teach you to love things that make you love yourself.

Little black girl,

on the day they ask you what you want to be,

free is something valid to want to be.

So be.

You can find the mole hill

make it into a mountain

climb it to the clouds

and free yourself.

for all the things you call escape,

little black girl be yourself

with a spirit that’s

stoking a fire

your breathing will sometimes feel like a burning furnice

you will walk this road alone

You will find yourself in the rumble of it all.

You will dust yourself off.

You will love your broken pieces whole.

You will bask in the sun and find your glow.

hold your head high!

its your battle cry,

you’re just a warrior in the making.

 And know,

if I were to die and come again

a little black girl is what I hope i’d be

Cause falling in love with me is the happiest i’ve ever been.

Ayana is an Afro-Guyanese poet. She is a pen hoarder,  tea enthusiast and circle skirt aficionado currently residing in New York. She was an Urban Word Grand Slam Finalist and has performed on many noteworthy stages including The Apollo Theatre and Bowery poetry club. Her forthcoming chapbook “Cassava Bread and Pepperpot” is a response to the current state of human affairs, her running home to self-love and healing, her preparation for a fight. You can find her ogling at your local flora, humming off beat or people watching on the J.

Jen Wang

grl mnstr

 

grl draw pick-up truck in shape of white boy

crayon snap clean from how hard she press

grl’s mom tell her be gentle with her hands

they callous anyway anyway

callous wonder why grl didn’t listen

why she still grip tight those monkey bars

grl always listening

grl still hear her mother

an arsenal of blanks

steady enough to be white noise

 

but grl know to keep jumping

lion through flaming hoop

 

grl is wrong daughter

grl got two forearms to flay inside out

grl got stretch marks

grl got knife nails

 

grl slept with knife under pillow until age thirteen

age fourteen, grl met boy who dug an ocean for her

to drown in

but grl
don’t fill up that quick

 

grl perpetual one drink short of needing you

 

grl has mouth of east wind

grl got hips that cyclone

grl gave birth to winged monkeys

grl ate the afterbirth

grl ate the  ice cream drenched molten strawberry

until grl’s mom tell her, don’t be pig

grl’s mom demand grl vomit her ugly

grl’s mom learn better than daughter

what it mean to be pretty, to not be monster

grl’s mom know where to shoot

cardboard cut-out daughter

right where

blood runs

 

grl’s mom is arsenal

but didn’t invent the firearm

someone else shot neighbor’s dog

and reload the shotglass

 

 

 

grl leave party with boy when home too far away

grl say she’s okay with his fingers curled inside, trying to coax her out

someone cocks a pistol, pulse on trigger

grl pulse shudder

grl choke on cock, keep him occupied

grl’s body not there when he wake

grl’s body not in her own body and she go retrieve herself

call herself bitch when she cannot play fetch

call herself tease when she don’t go back

call herself lease like he wanted her name

 

grl got no money for tattoo so she buy cigarettes
to remember that stark, that
acre-long burn on floor where grl scuffed herself out
maybe grl the drunkard her mother and driver’s ed instructor warned her about
maybe the storefront is waiting to be caved in by someone

who has no face but wears every mask

 

grl still looking for wanted posters

next sign of which dragon to slay

grl believe in monsters

grl believe in herself

 

grl made of monkey bars

grl got no wishbones in this body to snap

open

 

  • grl mnstr was originally published in a zine “burn something”
Jen Wang is a teaching artist and mouth full of more mouths based in the twin cities. 

 

Olatunde Osinaike

What the Itis is Not

It interrupts nothing.

 

The itis is not power or when it all
falls down to earth:
snowballs, jumpshots,
or dreams.

 

It is not a game of thrones,
in crowded dining
rooms, where spades and
seconds are sovereign.

 

Do not renege.

 

It is not a spectacle
or the Olympics tumbling
onto Tumblr or a tweet.

It is neither pure,
nor pumped full of
promises and leniency.

 

 

It is not soda, pop, or hip hop.

It is not popping and locking

the stubbornness stinging

in our throats.

 

It is not uncommon, yet it is
exclusive like a tear.
It will come as it pleases.

It is not fasting
It takes no days off
and all yawns are bribes.

 

It is not patient.
It is not kind.

 

It is unforgiving
during every season.
Alzheimer’s and a rubix cube.
It is my brothers longing in Lagos
or in homeless shelters in our land of the free.

 

As the itis is undisputed,
it is an interrogation from an elder.
It is not harsh, rather it is believing
that God forgives

our stomachs and choices.
It is not taking advantage of that.

 

Do not renege.

 

It is Kente cloth and white cotton shirt
stains, training for our taste buds
without wavering.

It is neither a marathon,
nor a sprint. Instead, the itis is

abiding    in the inhale, as
it is    breathtaking,
isn’t      it

Anisa Gandevivala

I say, my feet

 

have walked so many miles

across the ocean, I wear a slipper of salt wounds,

 

they’ve climbed every hill you call a mountain,

these brown boots are giants that do not crush you,

 

when you ask me, white girl, why I have so many shoes,

and, don’t I remember what scorched earth feels like,

 

my skin burnt like amber from the coals I’ve had

to walk on to prove how pure my being, my vision

 

like the point of these blue suede heels, words so keen

like the point of every needle sewing dreams

 

embroidered into my mojris, all colors of the rainbow

I bring for you to see and you ask why I should make

 

myself beautiful after everything I’ve been through,

I look straight at you, into you, through you to the sun

 

at the horizon my green and yellow pumas have already reached;

I tell you I have arches in a family of red, flat-footed mary-janes,

 

that a Jyotish once told me I have a beauty spot on my sole,

it means I will travel and live in a foreign country —

 

I share that I have been walking a long time, dear friend

and must take care of myself, that my feet are a perfect shape

 

and size I rub from heel to toes each night and soothe the pain

with these hands, I say, my hands

 

Anisa Gandevivala is a poet, writer and artist who grew up in India, grew up some more in the U.S. and now, is a kid again, living in Columbus, Ohio. In another time, place or dimension, Anisa might have been Doctor Who, Yoda or Arya Stark.

 

anisas-feet-selfie

 

 

kiki nicole | On Gender

I.

name a ghost.
call it Girl.
name a body
or,
name a weapon.
say pussy.

say it to her face.

now apologize for misgendering my pussy.

the moon & my pussy use they/them pronouns.

or u can call us bitch.
or u can call us nigga, i guess.
(the moon is black too)
the moon & i smile,
see, we smart.
we know most of u can’t call us that—
we on some trick shit,
wear lipstick
& orbit on beats 2 & 4

name a body.
call it a knife
say Girl,
right?

i call myself a boi & no one understands. i admit
i don’t quite follow my own damn self.
still i Fire
soft & sharp toothed boi.
i take Happy
& wear it around my waist.
i woo myself

i sing my pussy to anyone who will listen
but it sings back Blk

my blk body makes a home of my mouth.
we blk hole sun.
to have a body & not be able to pass
for anything other than blk & woman-
ish

you runnin yet?
don’t worry. It’s fine.
most people do.
it’s nothing we ain’t used to.

i ghost while still inside this body.

II.

In which my blk body goes blue//becomes something other than a body or
becomes Woman//
again//becomes recognizable & Easy to Understand
in which without a body                      I become a person

Jassmine Parks | the black girl never learns to fry

ode to black girls who were never seen as black enough

fry


 

Jassmine Parks is a two time nationally competing slam poet, the 2016 grand slam champion of Detroit’s Freshwater Wordsmiths and is currently the 2016 grand slam champion of Freshwater Wordsmiths Slam and is ranked 20th in the world for slam poetry.
Jassmine is also a skilled urban archaeologist, unearthing the buried. Her poems serve as museums, displaying the scarring and beauty of healing of herself as she navigates through this life as a black woman.

Ebony Stewart | This Poem Is About Joy

This Poem Is About Joy

 it’s not about water

remnants evaporation or sand

 

or thirst or dry

fruit or hinges or

 

being hung       today no

one died on the

 

street on the side

walk in the hands

 

of a police officer

or guard

 

today a little boy

is able to play

 

outside and be a

child with a full

imagination     

 

today the only time

he was asked to

 

put his hands up

was to show us

 

how he looks when

he pretends he’s flying

 

today a black woman

could smoke a cigarette

 

could laugh could do

whatever the fuck she

 

wanted to do with

her hair

 

no one called me

a nigger       today blatantly

 

or indirectly      today they

remembered my name      today

 

it sounded like joy

no matter who said

it

 

today being black was

not a reason to

 

die by its natural

causes

 

what I mean is,

no one tried to

 

kill me today      no

one black or dark

 

skin or the wrong

shade died

today

 

today the only time

we came inside was

 

to gather and tell

stories      remember

 

when everyday was a

funeral a sad song

 

and a eulogy      oh

but today

 

the only time we

cried was when we

 

rejoiced      the only

hashtag we used today

was #joy      today the

handkerchiefs only wanted

 

to feel the faces

of the ones who

 

cried with joy

 

This poem is about joy.

 

it’s not about fear

or anger or sadness

 

them emotions come to

us too easy this

 

poem is not about

glass or porcelain or

 

fragile things or being

weak or tired or

 

broken or how many

times or how long

 

we gotta work for

it

 

This poem is about joy.

 

how long it stayed

how we remember it

in us

always


Ebony Stewart is a touring performance arts spoken word poet and active artist in the Central Texas slam poetry scene and theater arts community for over ten years. She has coached Austin Neo Soul and Austin Poetry Slam, finishing 1st and 5th at the National Poetry Slam and They Speak Youth Slam finishing 8th in the world at Brave New Voices. The only adult female three-time Slam Champion in Austin Texas has shared stages with many brilliant artists including the late Amiri Baraka. Featured in the “Texas Observer”, “For Harriet” and “The Agenda: working for LGBT economic equality”, Ebony has published The Queen’s Glory & The Pussy’s Box and Love Letters To Balled Fists. In 2015, Ebony Stewart debuted her first one woman show, “Hunger” at The VORTEX Theatre, which was nominated for a B. Iden Payne award for Outstanding Original Script and won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama. The former Sexual Health Educator with the resting bitch face sometimes known as The Gully Princess, writes because she has to and eats cupcakes for fun. #storyoftheblackgirlwinning

Emmanuel Oppong-Yeboah | fade.

my          barber              started             cutting             when               everyone

was          copping   my           cut.          top      high

sides        faded       to            ether.      got      to

the           point       you          weren’t             cool         if

you      weren’t    rocking         it .          you          weren’t

no            barber               talking              bout        how         you

really            didn’t                really                 know               how to

cut           it .           cut      it .           I          grew

up      in             the           age          of        caesars .

afros       mowed             to        make       way         for

the      prosperity   gospel     respectability   politics   promised to  

prosper . now        I              massage   coconut

oil      into                                               my      scalp

feels                                                                               heavenly .


Emmanuel Oppong-Yeboah is a Ghanaian-American poet living out the diaspora in Boston, Massachusetts. He is both Black & alive. Emmanuel serves as an associate editor for Pizza Pi Press and as the reviews editor for Winter Tangerine. The former director of curriculum for Boston Pulse, a youth-empowerment organization focused on promoting positive change for young folk and their communities through spoken word, Emmanuel currently teaches High School aged youth as the Walltalk Teaching Artist at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. Emmanuel’s work can be found in places such as the Hartford CourantNarrative Northeast, and Bird’s Thumb. Whenever possible, he enjoys hot carbs, brightly colored chapbooks, and the long sigh at the end of a good book.