***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.

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

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.

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.

 

Akosua Zimba Afiriyie-Hwedie

Ode to This Body That Fills Itself With Flowers

After Gabriel Ramirez

 

at midnight, my body is all wake.

all moon in tight dress, taking

on the night. I stretch &

all the flowers within

me stretch. I dig

out the weeds from inside

my skin. grow  Corepsis-filled eyes.

correct my body: correct my chin

growing above my back, looking

past      to find which day took my lover

& that love, looking past     to find

why I did this or said that. this

body knows to walk through

fires till the flames learn to

bow. I call myself a butterfly.

unbox. give myself a

hug. wrap myself,     around myself,        around myself.

watch my layers,      wrap around my layers.

see brick,     wrap around brick.

see a rainbow surround itself.


The Sacrifice of Praise

 

She wild

fire growing

reaching up

all her reach up

all her do is reach –                         

& pray herself a heaven up there.


Akosua Zimba Afiriyie-Hwedie is a Zambian-Ghanaian poet raised in Botswana. She currently lives in New York. She is a Callaloo and Watering Hole fellow as well as a Cave Canem workshop participant. Her work has appeared in The Felt.

Goddess X

All My Daydreams Keep Coming Out Bitter and You Know Justice is My New (Black/Love Song)

 

i wish the imperial wizard wasn’t found

for two weeks

i wish his body bloated

tangled in the reeds

with the small fish

and the crustaceans

nibbling

away at the good meat

i wish the local news showed the carrion

on the bank

like katrina

i wish he didn’t get national coverage

a face

or a name

i wish his family never found out

what happened to him i wish the pigs

didn’t investigate i wish they’d shrug

i wish they’d say that’s what happens

to crackers who can’t keep their mouths shut

in this town i wish cracker had a history

like nigga that way i could hurt them

some nights when i am evil

and hurting and afraid like they

made me i wish he had a black

death

i wish the bitter on my tongue could turn sweet

when i write it down i wish bloated white bodies

on riverbanks could make my ancestors smile

every now and again i wish a thousand white

bodies would float on the banks of stolen rivers

i wish that did not make me so evil

tonight i know

it makes me an evil person i wish /

i had a tongue

or a body

that wasn’t so bitter

and my black looks so

different now beautiful now

don’t all the love songs sound like

rot?


Goddess Gets Mad, Gives God a Death Sentence and Henrietta Still isn’t Free

 

when does a black body die?

when does its consciousness end?

do cells carry their own

memories

and violence?

my cells carry violence.

does this mean Henrietta Lacks still lives?

does She feel the violence

of 96 years in Her trillions

of pieces left alive?

is She holy spirit?

if we call Her name

will we feel Her

on our tongues

in our blood?

is there a god?

if Henrietta feels all of this

why does he prolong Her suffering?

is he without mercy?

did he forget

about the tortured body

scattered before the world’s eyes?

in the world’s breath?

through the world’s blood?

are there world records in heaven?

is god trying to see

how long She can go

before She breaks?

does god ignore

black pain?

does he mourn it?

does he live

off of it

like offering?

like lamb’s blood?

does he laugh?

does god make a black

body minstrel show in paradise?

is Her resilience an untrained acrobat

on tightrope

with no net below?

how long can a slow

death stay

before it turns to dust?

were black women always

just supposed to turn to dust?

or die slow?

will Henrietta ever know rest?

 

i know their god

like the black of my blood.

he is made

in their image.

i am armed with

sock and d-battery.

i will swing

and swing

and swing until

he falls. he

will fall.

and Henrietta Lacks

still won’t be free.


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