***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



     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



& 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




                                                                                                         Women be the root

                                                                                                        of all evil. Witches who rot

                                                                                                       a man into sin on any given





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

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

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
                                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.


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 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

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


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.


I do not tell my therapist about the recurring vision

of the man in my closet.


Every time I close my eyes,

my room goes up in flames.

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


Zombies do not eat other zombies.

Zombies do not waste calories on the dead.


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.


After Blake and I break up,

I stop dreaming of the ocean.



The zombie dreams are not funny anymore.


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

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


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

*2017 Weed Poem Winner – Goddess X

Other Side of the Cage


one day

i will take a bus

to denver colorado

smell the thin air

coated in the stench of liberal white folks’

spotty memories

dump as much purification oil

from the nearest black-owned witch shop i can find

in the basement of every white-owned

million-dollar business

that sells marijuana

and set the city on fire.

i don’t know how to fiddle

but i’ll sing a song while the city burns

whatchu gonna do when they come for you?

the work ain’t honest but it pays the bills

what we gonna do when they come for you?

but i… but i…*


i’ll forget the words but the melody will be sweet enough

to give me/to give the whole city

a cavity

to cover the stench of smoke

and violent memory in the air

i will be captured and handcuffed

and probably gagged to stop the music

it reminds them of liberation

of promises broken and they are supposed to be

The Good Guys

an fbi agent with a mean mug will shove me

into a poorly lit interrogation room

we will talk

about america

i will tell him that i stood my ground

i will tell him that they were making their own communities

like black wallstreet

that i was threatened

i will tell him about the black woman in alaska

facing decades in a cage for the crime

that made them all of their fortune

i will sing him a sweet song

and his mean mug will melt

into confusion

these are things he can’t remember

then the world will call me terrorist

and i will laugh

because it’s funny

this was patriot’s business last

night burning cities built

The Land of the Free

i will laugh

it’s funny

how quickly they forget

a sweet song

how death row’s echo is loud enough

to give cavities

how the brothers i am caged with

haven’t seen a dentist in years

how white folks with perfect teeth

never seem to listen


don’t worry baby

i know there’s confusion

god’s gonna see us through now

peace after revolution

you do whatchu gotta do*


goddess x

*lyrics in italics from erykah badu’s other side of the game

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

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



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



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


to be loved/ by anything so 



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



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.

October Rising



I became intimate with “Words,” during my infancy… “

Words” became my first playmate, my best friend, my confidante…

Tottering around my childhood home, I learned to utilize “Words” expeditiously, speaking in phrases, bypassing the seemingly nonsensical, monosyllabic utterances rendered by other youth in my age demographic…

I strung together sentences beneath the exuberant tutelage of my professionally educated mother. My fascination with “Words’s” intricate design, graduated quite expediently from oral regurgitation to verbal origination.

I developed my own form of cuneiform, with a toddler’s flourish, patiently perfecting the tenuous link between that which is “said,” and that, which is “written.”

I become the author of my life, ostensibly mastering my fate.

Sculpted letters became sound, to which I attached meaning, that metastasized into paragraphs, which elongated into pages that became rudimentary expressions of my talent.

I watched others struggle to conjugate verbs, while I entertained invitations to join Advanced Placement Literacy classes.

I wrote my first book at five (unpublished), and continued throughout my childhood into early adulthood, regaling eager listeners and readers with unpublished pieces of authentic literary work that gained me notoriety as an innocuous, yet brilliant, burgeoning authorette.  

I preened at their commentary, reveling in the knowledge that my Purpose in life was birthed from my kinship with “Words.” Be they spoken or written, I was never without them…

Until… …My daddy died, and “Words” failed me.

The betrayal was as instantaneous as it was crippling. How to adequately put into “Words” my shock…? My anger…? My disgust…?

How could I aptly convey my desolation…my fear…the sense of abandonment that now blanketed my security?

The absence of “Words” was noticeably offensive because of the devastation left in its wake…

We were no longer in tandem, because I NEVER gave permission for “Words” to bring into the corporal plane that which I would not even entertain through errant thought.

I never sanctioned my father’s death!

“Words” must be spoken into existence so that THAT which was NOT could be brought to fruition!

I didn’t give “Words” my permission…

My life force, intertwined with “Words” since my beginning…stuttered, abandoning me to a confusing emptiness that would not allow my to shape sound beyond the metaphorically silent scream of my transfixed lips.

My somber mien did not reflect my new reality…

Because the day my daddy died I lost more than my father; I lost my connection to the Son…

My identity, my self-expression, the salve for every anguish I’d ever sustained, lay in my ability to express myself thru “Words.”

Through “Words” I connected my soul to the spiritual plane.

Through “Words” I accessed God…

As I gazed at my father’s inert form, lying so achingly prone in his hospital bed, I tried to process that his body was not the only one in the room suddenly absent a soul…

I, too, had become an untenanted shell of what was once whole.

October Rising – I am a former aspiring author who decided to parlay a hobby into a profession.  Teaching is what I do; writing is who I am…

**FEATURED POET ** Simone Person

on learning you love a dude who ain’t shit

if you were honest with yourself you knew he wasn’t shit the first time he said he’d never heard a Prince song when he didn’t know what challah was had never tasted cornbread and his AAVE was cobbled from Stillmatic but here in your sad college town he’s cute a little short and maybe the dick is on that staccato stroke but here you are pineapple upside down here you lost the fat girl bravado you built and every time he looks at you it feels like you have a chance like maybe everyone was wrong you aren’t a professional victim so when he kisses you don’t think of the ocean and the brine and the dying coral and the garbage plastic island floating somewhere learn to crave his teeth straining across your tongue how he grabs your ass so hard there’s crescents denting your hips teach yourself  it’s  just  how  desirable  you  are  not  his  attempts  to  cum quick  so  he  can  leave earlier

Exclusionary Black Girl


i fire bricks place them around my feet when i open my fifth grade locker and find folded paper slipped through the vents, graphite me limp and swinging from the approximation of a tree and i take it to my teachers and they hold a meeting and the white boy who drew it, who’s been whispering porch monkey to me for weeks, says he couldn’t have done it ‘cause shoot i can’t draw like it got stolen from the louvre and that settles it the rest of the school year slips by before i even learn what porch monkey means


i smooth stones stack them up to my knees when my white boyfriend says racism is wrong but nigger’s just a word and talking about it reheats the issue, slavery was so long ago, even though it’d only take a few hours to drive to a plantation and the grass growing over my ancestors’ graves is short and soft, even though my grandmother was born sixty-seven years after it ended, you got a white mom so it’s not like you’re Black for real anyways


i put a straw roof over my head close the gaps with handfuls of mud as the white bartender in the white bar swoops over me and a friend to serve white patrons, his face twists into surprise after we say something, mouth folds into i didn’t see you shrugs when asked what he thinks that looks like, and i know he’d never really see us at all as he turns back to his white patrons when we leave

i dig a moat boil water to pour over my walls when my brown

boyfriend defends the antiblackness of a non-Black Latina classmate, you can’t really get mad ‘cause it’s not like she’s white so what’s the big deal, all you want is community with other Black girls, it’s exclusionary, we need solidarity for the revolution and i want to know why the foundation has to start on my back but i don’t say anything, just build so good that no matter how long the street lights have been on or how far my name carries in the night wind nobody can find me again

Erasure of the Suicide Note I Wrote Before My Unsuccessful Attempt


I don’t want                                                     me,

                                 I’m not “here.”

                                                 I                           want

to leave

                                      to be split                

                      be sad                      in better terms,

                to hurt                                 for long                                        I’m successful

I’m                         dogma                                    weighed


                            spirits, don’t want       here.                           go.



as a child i envied

venus fly traps

their ability to snap

themselves shut

to turn invasion

into strength


my body flowered into disappointment


i was a warm home

for boys who kiss with their teeth,

with hungry hands that have seen too much


i am shrouded under a crown of fury


a wolf of a girl

i prayed to be an orchard

legs closed, eyes to god


i am everything i never wanted



i don’t dream but sleep

like an actual baby—

every two hours and i’m up

i trace growing ceiling shadows

as the moon shifts and turns to sun


over the summer pain

bloomed in my hip fell

down my leg pooled across my shin

now i don’t sleep—

worse than a baby a boy i can’t love

dreams dreams hard wakes complaining

of gauzy hands pulsing

around his skinny ankles asks me voice sleep-thick

to follow him

for a glass of water he’s afraid

to go alone there’s ghosts

in the hall a fog of a man

crouched near the baseboard


asleep he tells me he loves me

whispers names for our future children

begs me to hold him the plump

of his cheeks soft against my throat he won’t

remember this in the morning


when he is gone

even his body’s indent left

on my mattress puffed out again

i’ll call my mother asking if she dreams

no she says not since meeting your father

this is a joke and not this is bitter and not

but i know she does


once she dreamt of finding

me in her kitchen my eyes black holes

my mouth a starless void

another time:

closing her eyes on the freeway

the wheel sliding from her fingertips

car drifting to the next lane metal against guardrail sparks a snap

not that i’d ever do it she says

it’s just a dream

Simone grew up in Michigan and Ohio, and is a second year Fiction MFA candidate at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Five on the Fifth and Beecher’s Magazine, and her chapbook was a finalist selection for Black Lawrence Press’s Spring 2016 Black River Chapbook Competition.

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.