Category: Black Writers Program

We Three

by Danielle Boursiquot

They vibrate between my vocal chords, but I never let them pass my lips.
I don’t write them down, for fear of losing the last thin thread of hope to some soul snatching ether.
My cloak of secrecy weighs on these clandestine visits to memory. I imagine my last steps thundering across a flaming threshold when it finally comes time to call their names. But it does not happen this way.

 

Heart Pierced by A Sword (The Girl)

I thought after everything, I needed a mark
Adornment from the thing earned or the thing survived
The embrace of silk, slipping
The weight of a crown, falling
But ink on skin
a declaration,
a confession,
a prayer
all rolled into one
A wordless thing to say to you:
You were named for the one carrying both the scar and the sword.

 

Iron (The Boy)

At the turning of the tide I paused for a sign.
I stood in the quiet space
away from roaring water, trembling earth,
The hungry blaze growing with every desperate gulp of air
I closed my eyes for the vision, but it remained black, blank, then fluorescent white.
I listened for the heartbeat, craning to decipher a message in the rhythm:
It faded more the harder I listened
And the lines deepened in my empty hands.
You were named for the one forged in flames.

 

Unidentified, Unsober, Fall Spirit (Gender Unknown)

I fell hard while climbing my way to you
I swallowed sound and coughed up the primary colors of what you could become
I took backward steps while reaching to our future, trembling before our fate
The soles of my feet bled from the barefoot miles walked on someone else’s back
I rode in the shadows of my conviction, silent, hoping that I would be seen by someone recognizing me as yours
You were named for the dance between the light and the dark.

 

“We have names
that she dares not breathe.
We live in an orb of silence.
Joining hands, we signal her.
She knows who we are”

A Night Terror for Nick

by Desiree Browne

Now I lay me down to sleep,
And dream of the of the boy I couldn’t keep.
His lips forever gone from mine
But he gon’ hear all about himself this time.

Standing tall and strong, I’ve tears no more.
I’m telling him the reasons it shoulda been me
Showing his pasty ass the door.

Outside our circle of light there’s a flash,
Now I hold a cigarette with a long, long ash.
I press the cig into his skin,
His eyes beg me not to do it again.
I go to make just one more burn
But snap awake, and my stomach does a turn.

Was that inside my heart all along?
I’m scared of me
But I don’t know for sure
That dream girl was wrong.

 

And This Is How You Love Me

I knew he liked me because he shared his music with me, and I knew I really liked him when I
realized he loved music deep and wide the way I do. His mix CDs brought me Black Starr; we
swapped our favorite recordings of the standards we learned in jazz class; I explained how
Rachmaninoff lulled me to sleep some nights and that Prince woke up something inside me that
was ferocious and unafraid. We sat down, opened our CD books and played our hearts for each
other.

A heady adolescent summer mellowed to occasional check-ins as adults, even after he got
married. Still, when I think of what I love most about being in love it’s just that—love. The
frenzied pace of swapping mix CDs and download links for the music that feels so intensely
yours, played with the speakers turned all the way up and the car windows rolled all the way
down. As an adult, I long for the electricity of teenage infatuation tempered by hard-earned
wisdom. I want to watch my baby’s eyes light up when talking about the book that changed
everything. I want to see you hug parents, childhood friends, the dog you grew up with. Have
you gotten so lost in the work that feeds you, you didn’t call when you said you would? I can be
mad for a minute, but then I’ll want to hear what you were working on, how far you got. Does it
feel good? Are you proud of yourself?

And I want you to know that if I open my kitchen to you, I’m letting you sample of a little bit of
what’s closest to my own heart, like the love of my grandma who got up at 7 am on Sundays to
cut open coconuts for their milk because canned wasn’t good enough for her family. The look of
wonder on my mom’s face as she bookmarked new recipes from Bon Appetite and then
presented them to her friends at the wine club meetings she modeled after her mother’s bridge
club. Of my father who can’t cook much but always cut my peanut butter and jelly
sandwiches—always on toast—into quarters for me. The love I have learned to carefully
prepare for myself: a Sunday dinner for one, soundtracked by an album on vinyl I think you’d
really like.

The Light Feels Heavy

by Taja Sparks

They were standing there
Folded arms

Held with two memories
One of which from a night out
Bowling with friends

The other christened
with the blues holding
Lavender in rubber gloves

Night skies have a way of holding things
Only gravity can understand

 

Reconciliation of Mother & Daughter

by Danielle Oaldon

You had this laugh-cry that would shatter my late night dreams. Your laugh sounded like
a cry. Your cry sounded like a laugh. Hard for a child to decipher. Sometimes
your laugh-cry would be a joyful laugh from the pit of your soul. A laugh you
shared with him deep into the night. Oh the joy and the love you shared in
those dark hours tainted with cigarettes and beer. It was as if you and him
were the only two under the roof. As if we didn’t exist. Those were the nights
when your laugh-cry was all laugh no cry. That joy would dance its way out of
your gut and fill our old, dilapidated house with so much promise. It was the
duct tape that held that rickety house on Barr Street together. He became the man of the house
located on the streets of that small town ghetto. His presence was his sole contribution. His
presence gained him admission to our party. Treated like a King because Kings are supposed
to take care of their pride. You treated him like a King because like a true King you dreamed he
would stay. When the snow melts, the flowers bloom, and the ghetto streets open up and come
alive you hoped he would stay. That he would choose you and us over the beat of the streets
whose rhythm constantly pulled him. Our home would be more than a hibernation spot. More
than a place to hide when the concrete got cold. More than a place to eat and store his fat in
order to prepare himself for the jungle. He was your love, your reason for being. The love you
gave was unconditional. The love you gave meant he got his plate served before your kids. The
love you gave excused the bruises and beatings from weeks past. The love you gave meant
you
ignored his drug addiction. The love you gave put him before we and we after
he. The love you gave made you a dreamer. The love you gave had you believing
you were his only that you would be his bride. It was that good, hood type of love that
no man could separate. It was everything. He was everything. Until he wasn’t.

Mommy, what about the times when your laugh-cry was a cry? From the pit of your soul. That
soul of yours carried so much. It carried love, pain, shame, and dreams on
loan. When that laugh-cry turned into cries he was no longer your reason for
being. He was your grand reaper. In one night he could turn from your lover to
your beater. In one night the love turned into black eyes and butterfly
stitches. In one night a laugh turned into a cry and a cry into pain. Love
shattered. Dreams taken back. Your soul once filled with joy now conjuring
pain. That pain was mighty and strong. It held the strength of a woman torn,
scorn, and defeated. Your cry would fight its way through your throat and nose
and ears and release a pain that would seep through the walls and bury itself into
my soul. My young, innocent, unknowing soul was learning to hold darkness
before it knew happiness. My soul learned false love over real love. My soul
learned in order to receive joy you must first be burned. To laugh you must
endure pain first. It learned that being a child of a Black woman is the
opposite of easy. The path of a Black mother is hard with hidden demons and
thorns. It’s a labyrinth that lacks sunlight. The journey of a Black mother is
endless and she carries on her shoulders the pain of our foremothers. All she
wants is to swim in a pool of joy and laughter. Instead she finds herself in
the ebb and flow of cries and laughter while her daughter lurks in the
background absorbing her pain.

An excerpt from The Motions

by CMKtheWriter

On a typical day, I do not look like a stray. My hair is usually flowing in its rightful place. My clothes coveted by the women in my social circles. I drove my car off the lot brand new with the sunroof back and the stereo blasting Beyoncé with no attention to any cares in the world. I have always looked like I belong to somebody. I have always looked like I was on my way to or coming from somewhere important. New York has a way of humbling you though. One off day and you may as well be just another peasant in the crowd. Today, I didn’t mind it. I preferred it actually. New York is the best place for a Black woman to feel invisible, especially with a tear-stained face. People do the culturally polite thing and tend to their own business. Sometimes, you’ll catch a smile given out of pitiful solidarity. I typically try not to venture into the rat-infested underbelly of this city but I have just emptied my account purchasing a last minute plane ticket and Net 30 is an unfamiliar concept to clients. It becomes too hard to hold myself together on the over complicated train ride to the airport so I get off at the next stop and opt to use my credit card to call a Lyft.

On Goddess

by Najah

They say don’t make homes out of human beings
But you were my first home
The heartbeat I hear when I close my eyes is yours
Or is it your mother’s?
Or her mother before yours?
In the quiet
I hear that
The circle remains unbroken
Around
And Around
As my daughter came to me in the same way
was birthed from the egg that was formed in your womb
Birthed into the light
to the sound of the drum beat
And blues guitar
through the salt tears of pain and tenderness
this is how I know
when I hold her hand
The future is a vision
for us to behold
Together
And I will never go looking for god again

Withholding Owning

by Lady Nzima

truths are subjective ___ I’m writing out ___ my version
my ___ perspective ___ my arty mind _ the understandings on my _ timeline

See my _  crusted ova scars _ beauty marks _  needs mysteries desires n crossfires
are all working _ _  my written legacies_  probably _ until my demise
I might even _ crash_  procession lines

thinkin_  to trash_  the dash
and _ throw up_  scannable barcodes_  on everythang sold
including my tombstone

Lawd have mercy on me_  I pray that don’t be _  my only upload

I stand here dancing alone_  bathrobed _ to Nina Simone Black Gold
She’s questioning _ where do time go

tryna wait_  to get old to unload_  the classic stories told _ to grandkids
just another soul_  to stop_  writing my guilt
in poetic _ crypted codes _ not ready for the expose

strealin second chance_  gotta withhold _ the ownin _ live the circumstance
I start _ where I gotta begin_  make it so_  I win_  to grin n live again

not afraid if _ my story includes _ or confuse
him_  or her or _ displeases_  _ so n so
see it was no _ _ we _ _ or _ _ they
only me _ that came out _ my mother’s pussy _ on my birthday

I own my original sins _ the burdens _ I asked for forgiveness
to dismiss _ my sketchy _ business _ to save the leftovers within

I pray my distance _ so not to get bitten again _ and again
I am human _ made with a mix of morals, flesh and skin

 

Stay digging our temples

We’ve been here before
can’t you hear our silent speaking
In synchronicity
didn’t you get our half notes written
in our walk years ago…
We bought the T-shirt.
Well our mirrored posture curves
the same
stance the same
3rd eye roll hadn’t changed.
furrowed brows
unsaid sass  reads
y’all can kiss my ( _ )
red hat madness ain’t gone nowhere
so we stay ready
we wear our blackness on both sides
stay styling
stay  phoenix black magic flying
rebuilding restarts
about  black matters
of the heart
we can’t really
forget the dearly  departed
so we cancel barriers
cuz some of us stay numb knitting
forgetting
sleepy
raising arms
un-fatigued
wit confederate
climbing capital hills
ancestors done
got chills
so we  pause
pay homage
the cost
for the gains n loss
dig down  drum back
Into temples
of familiar
un-framed
yet captured
our negro spirituals
are now free verse
still
the same
forward moving
rewound
reversed

 

New Life

Everything and all things  from the inside now outlines me
my everything becomes
pillows to pacifiers milk and a bed
my edges of fear is now all fight and kill   nurture  and love
My womb and fine hairs
now antennas and guides
my unknowings are sure
my givings uninhibited
my nature curved
my breath holding n pausing listening to yours
my exhalings are hopes winking
and eye-smiles
All things inside now outlines
me outside  the glows and grit…
My everything embraces the  shedding the growing
the ethereal borrowing
of our time
My gratitude smells the crown of your head
as your toes nestles
into my fatty rolls
fresh stretch marks _ your bed.

Interview with Blue Lady

by Ayasha Ayurbe

My reputation was tainted by the pale faces that carried my children aboard ships years later. I loved at the center of every ocean simultaneously. I would greet my daughters and take their offerings and tears as sacrifices for what I offered—-love, protection, children and justice. Out of them, all justice is what the men aboard wooden ships most feared.

And so upon first meeting their leader, I presented myself as a huge octopus and spoke his language plain but his ego, far larger than my powers, could not fear what he couldn’t understand and he threw metal, black balls my and I turned them into pearls that fell back unto their ships and I laughed myself into a night-colored, white haired mermaid at my natural size (of which you cannot imagine) and laughed, then cried with joy at my actions or his audacity and my response.

I met new pale faced leaders who approached my domain and I was very busy, too busy to notice that my daughters had stopped coming with offerings and even blamed me for their misfortunes. I grew angry and started making their men impotent, just to see if they’d return but they didn’t. I slept one day closed my eyes and heard the sounds of my children, calling to me in all my languages and I watched them come to the front door of my home, lifeless. I would try so hard to control the waves but my powers didn’t work. I made the oceans treacherous but it did not stop my children from getting sicker or sinking so I stared as my children, their cargo and the pale peons stop in lands, small and large, where my redder children were sacrificed. How insulting for a creature to murder your children and feed them back to you?

My cry, the voices of women in torment from yesterday, today and tomorrow and the day after that. And for me to see it for 3 weeks for me but 3 millenia for you. So my mission is clear, I must restore justice to my daughters, my people ——— my babies. Their right to live in safety, in power and in unity at the SAME DAMN time.

But the chalky people, not the ones awakened by the blinding truth, they call me Ursula but to you my child, my name is Erzulie or Yemaya.

Untitled

By sheena d.

hands unchained
bodies unstretched
songs unsung
tomorrows UNASSIGNED

four heads bow to the ground
looking for what will not, can not, grow here
looking for what will not, can not, sprout from dry ground and faint sun
one head witnesses what is on the way

distant trees thrive in cherry browns and meadowed southern greens
itchy nostrils full of smoke from what burned here
what caught fire centuries ago
twangy singing, fingers snapping, carried in the wind

distant trees brush and sway against tired grey clouds
as aged rocking church hands reach to touch some spirit

five bright brown black boys stand on dirt that softens under their feet
dirt working around brown black bugs
dirt working around severed roots

five bright brown black boys stand on dirt
their feet pushing against a soil that shifts
but won’t break
soil that won’t steady or undo or compromise

five bright brown black boys stand unarmed
unshirted over ancestors’ footprints
searching for for clues, wisdom, facts
searching for a trail that leads away
from this field to somewhere
they might find room to grow

The Retelling of Power

by Savannah Bowen

They thought they were leaving a dead planet behind. They left and took their pollution out of our air and water, and land. They left and took with them their imperialism, and their prisons, and their exploitation economies. They left, believing that there was no more harvest to gather on this planet, and they spat upon us as they left, flinging dirt into our faces, leaving us to gag on the noxious fumes of their rocket engines. They left and they laughed at us, they left, and they pitied us, they left and shamed us because we were too poor or too black to go with them.

And you know what, baby? They died.

All them shiny Trojan horses galloped right into the stars and burned! The space stations, the convoys, the shuttles and the emergency escape pods, too! Not a single one of them capitalist-ass imperialist-ass, racist-ass, classist-ass, rude-ass mothafuckas is breathing right now!
People telling history over the Signal say those dummies went encroaching too far in an alien territory and got they asses lit up! They were going to spread the gospel; can you believe it? They wanted to bring Jesus Christ to the Milky Way! They left us thinking they were the blessed missionaries of the universe. They were nothing but a plague.

When it all went down your mama was just a lil corn kernel in my belly and all my family was gone. Fires in Canada, where your grandaddy Vesper come from, were pushing oceans of people south. The planet was purging. All the poison of the last world order needed alchemizing. And those of us still living had to contend with the healing of the earth.

Days after the fires erupted, an Earthquake came and destroyed our home in New York, and your grandfather died in the rubble right next to me. I called out to him through the dust, but I barely had enough air to breathe. My legs were crushed, and darkness was all I could see for over a day.

Then Patrice came, lifting sheetrock and letting sun into my sky once more. She was doing that for everybody and didn’t nobody understand how. People say she was possessed for seven days digging niggas out the rubble with her hands and healing them. She dragged me from the dust and fixed my leg with a tincture of Comfrey and rum. And even though she wasn’t really supposed to, she started your granddaddy’s heart back up. It wasn’t ever quite on-beat again, but he was the same sweet, strong man I loved, none of that zombie shit y’all tell. Patrice found his spirit and put it right back in his body almost like new. After that, we knew we had to follow her wherever she was going.

Your mama survived in my belly and that was the third miracle, after Patrice saving me and Vesper coming back to life. Of all the shit, that was the shit that scared me most. I know I’m s’posed to thank the gods that she survived and was healthy and allathat. But one day, the Signal reported the remains of thirty missing children discovered in Tallahassee. At the time we were in a safe house in the Florida Keys, a mansion with a sprawling lawn, waterfront access, and an Olympic sized swimming pool. I had never been to Florida in all my life, but there I was, locked in a bathroom having a breakdown like a Hollywood starlet, my body splayed across white marble floors. I refused to eat or drink. I cradled the taped-up radio in my arms like a newborn and prayed for three days that your mama would die.

On the third day Vesper took an axe to the door. Patrice coaxed a tea down my throat and stripped my body of its soiled clothes. They drew me a bath in the rich people’s abandoned tub and braided my hair into neat rows against my scalp. The three of us laid together in a giant bed, Vesper behind and Patrice in front, me and your mama safe between the two strongest people I know.

What humans called natural disaster was actually the technology of a planet fighting for survival. And we knew our only hope was to shut up, listen, and learn. To understand the pains of the earth and put our hands to the wounds as well. I was always a sensitive girl. You can laugh at that cuz you seen me kill and you seen me walk steady into danger. But to tell it true, I spent most of the revolution crying, baby. I spent most of it with my heart beating fast and my tears watering grounds where rivers could not reach.

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