Tell me I will be alright, my wrecking mind

needs to be fed with some soup of validation now.

 

The bloodbath like raindrops, please persuade me into believing will

cease soon. Tell me protest fields will halt to morph into abattoirs every time

 

we demand for a sunny life, for the right to inhale and exhale, every night we want

to resurrect strangled justice from its grave. Assure me please, that my brother will

 

return unscathed from where he went to air his deprived voice, please and please

sweet-talk me into a new realm where I can perceive the fragrance of freedom

 

even from a thousand miles, paint my questioning mind with the hue of affirmation

that my unmatched mother’s soul will not be catapulted to the shore of afterlife for

 

frowning at inequity. Men and women of this anguish-strewing land, justice-mourning

settlement, unveil to my yearning eyes: the time, day, week, month and year,

 

when we will have bliss as neighbors, when we will wine and dine

without dread knocking on the doors of our hearts, when our minds

 

will truly certify this land, home. Tell me now,

now, now or forever be a graveyard.

 

Death of Another Night


The sunshine cocks have crown again, signalling the death of another night

that will never grace the streets of the sky again in this era, the radios have


risen with a shriek to their daily ritual of feeding your ears with worms, loading

the cart of our frail minds with tons of grief, narrating tales too sore for a boy


my age– stories of dirty uncles brewing nectars out of their unripe nieces’ thighs

when eyes were shut like doors, of blood claiming a northern street, of statesmen


turned python swallowing a nation’s vault of golds in a stretch. The radios in

the neighborhood have christened me– coward and so– their owners.


I tremble at the perch of radios’ baritone at dawn on the twig of my ears

like a bird staring at its death two feet away. Elegies and bloodstained news


are no oceanic views to awake to, neither are they sunshine to grace your dawn.


I Want to Live Where II:


religion doesn’t breed walls

and enormity amidst inhabitants.


skin pigmentation is not a

yardstick of being, of value,


of bliss, of essence, of wit,

of impact, of sanity and sanctity.


compassion— a river of goodwill

flows with rage across the city,


for compassion no matter how little is pivotal

in keeping this moribund world breathing.


natives wake up every morning 

with winsome smile on their faces,


highly inebriated on the wine of motivation

to dream beyond the clouds, not with sigh,


not with hiss, nor a face laden with

remorse, you know every night here,


we pray to God to make dawn

to our souls an unattainable feat.


Abdulmueed Balogun is a Nigerian poet & and undergrad at the University of Ibadan. He is a 2021 HUES Foundation Scholar and a poetry editor at The Global Youth Review. He was longlisted for the 2021 Ebarcce Prize, a finalist for the 2021 Wingless Dreamer Book of Black Poetry Contest, and won the 2021 Annual Kreative Diadem Poetry Contest. His works are forthcoming in Avalon Literary Review, The Night Heron Barks Review, ROOM, Watershed Review, Bowery Gothic, Subnivean Magazine, Jmww Journal, Active Muse and elsewhere. His writiting is anthologized in: Fevers of Mind (Poets of 2020), Words for the Earth, 2021 Cathalbui Poetry Competition Selected Entries and elsewhere. He tweets from https://twitter.com/AbdmueedA and can be found on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/balogun_abdmueed/

I

I never asked you for her name.

II

She tapped red heels under the red hem of a white habesha

kemis[i] while you shrugged cap and gown over T-shirt and

jeans and my mother said on the phone if we’d made it

to America it would have been the same, have you seen

what your brother wears even if I’m dressed to the nines.

Not ten minutes after we sat down to full plates

your mother approached with the dishes from the table,

dealing fresh servings, expression unswerving mirroring

my grandmother at every meal; I asked the friend beside me

for the Amharic phrase I’ve had enough food and he told me

there wasn’t one as your mother leaned in. Your eyes

in her face, amber spiced with kohl, the spoon heaped

with kitfo, added to everything already on my plate,

and I spoke the one word I’d rehearsed well enough to say,

amasegenalehu[ii]

and watched her light up. I cleaned my plate

in the absolute absence of language to tell her

I enjoyed the food; the friend beside me whispered

you passed with flying colors.

III

The gown I chose for graduation wrapped me from knuckles to toes, gold trim

on black polyester expensive enough to mimic silk, upsetting my mother

who still believed me too little to wear black.

Crossing the stage, diploma in hand, sole flapping loose from the plastic heels

my mother shipped to me for thirty dollars more than what they cost,

lipstickless mouth unmasked for the livestream

my parents were watching nine thousand miles away,

I met the eyes of your kinswomen in the crowd,

learning for the first time how to speak my name.

IV

When we left that night you bid each relative goodbye;

I waved to them from across the room.

But your mother took me by the arms and I wanted to believe

she saw then what my mother would have seen,

her eyes warm like the Ceylon cinnamon

my mother sent for you across the oceans

as I said amasegenalehu, desperately, amasegenalehu

because it was all I had to give, because I had no words to say

the man you raised saved my life, but he will never meet my mother.

You passed me a Target bag as your uncle drove us home,

saying inflectionless my mother gave me this to give to you.

Inside, a netela[iii], white patterned with red,

lighter than battlefield gauze, fleeting like Ras Dashen mist,

scented like sunlight and spice markets.

I packed it into my carry-on wrapped in the hoodie

you once gave me with even less explanation.

My mother says if we’d been there

I would have brought gifts for your friends too.

V

The night your mother drove into town

we were sitting on the football field six feet away

from a trampled carton of nachos. The crowd rushed the stage

and you were hyperalert and drowsing by turns and didn’t ask me

to stay or leave, so I stayed; I watched your profile

for as long as I dared

every time you shut your eyes.

Then your mother insisted she was stopping by

and I walked you home for the first and last time,

gritting my teeth to keep from grasping your elbow

as you stumbled into potholes. 

You said you know I live four minutes from you

and I said don’t make me tell a woman whose name I don’t know

you were run over while crossing the road

because I let you walk home alone.

I left you in the fluorescent glow

of your porch and walked home through the park I haunted

when it hadn’t been long enough between visits to call you;

the traffic lights were red at the corner

but I crossed over anyway.


[i] Traditional Ethiopian formal garment.

[ii] Thank you.

[iii] Traditional Ethiopian shawl.


Lalini Shanela Ranaraja is a multi-genre creative from Kandy, Sri Lanka. She holds a BA in Anthropology and Creative Writing from Augustana College in Illinois, USA. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Entropy, Off Assignment, Random Sample, Sky Island Journal, Transition, Uncanny Magazine, and elsewhere. Discover more of her work at https://www.shanelaranaraja.com/

1.

the General Muir

pulls into harbor

New York looks gray

2.

we don’t speak English

the taxi driver takes us

to the wrong town

3.

the teacher

gives me a new name

which I hate

4. 

the big girl upstairs

makes me go to a factory

and walk a plank

5.

my sister sleeps

with my grandmother

who snores

6.

I sleep shifts

with mom

and dad

7.

the electric wires

catch fire

my dad can’t put them out.

8.

a train goes past

we go really close

to feel the breeze

9.

we eat concord grapes

slippery but free

fruit-pickers pension

10.

I can’t go to Frankenstein

at the drive in

too many people faint

11.

My dad says he’s bought

a television

but it’s only a big radio

12.

we see fish in the ditch

but not the kind

you can eat

13.

at the A&P they stare

because we talk so loud

14.

my mother sews nights

at the Jolly Kid clothes factory

15.

I start to translate

the world

into English.


Citizenship Ceremony

We take the ferry to Put-in-Bay,

I’ve worn slacks despite the official form

instructing women to wear skirts.

The babies try to hang on the edges of the boat.

The mothers pull them back at the last moment.

We all watch the spray.


I sit in a row to hear the sound of patriotism,

although the military planes are late taking off,

so we have to imagine them

encouraging us with their potential of bombs.

I will swear now to have nothing more to do with “foreign potentates,”

as will the women from Nigeria,

the couple from Mexico,

the Pakistani man.


Afterwards a woman from Germany runs up

to talk in that language

and I try to tell her I’m not really German.

But she still follows me up the lighthouse steps

to see the lake stretched out before us.


Later we dip our feet in the water,

buy some ice cream,

and I swear to myself

that I am not what they tell me.

And what, really, is a potentate?



Mississippi

I don’t know how

they ended up picking cotton

in Mississippi,

but they did.


My immigrant grandparents,

post WWII refugees,

lived for two years among scorpions

on a failed plantation.


It must have felt like serfdom again.

Their homestead abandoned,

only a cow left behind

and a stepmother.


Stepping into these shoes,

this land of promise,

must have been a shock.


Democracy’s promise

on hold,

my grandfather already seventy,

leaving behind his telephone,

the very first in the neighborhood.


Leaving his language,

never to pass beyond “Hello,”

not even memorizing “I don’t understand,”

he smiled into his tobacco pipe.


And he made us all close our eyes

when he chopped the heads

from the chickens.


Skaidrite Stelzer is a citizen of the world whose poetry has appeared in Glass, Struggle, The Baltimore Review, Storm Cellar, and other journals. Her chapbook, Digging a Moose from the Snow, is recently published by Finishing Line Press. She enjoys watching cloud shapes.

Decolonial Passage is honored to announce the nominations for next year’s Best Small Fictions Anthology.  This list includes writing published from January to November 2021.  Congratulations to the nominees!

Flash Fiction

“The Road” by Ekow Manuar

Prose Poetry

“The Aging Colossus” by T. Francis Curran

“Ode to Newark” by Keishla Rivera-Lopez

Where I am from, we count nights and not days

by day, we become one with the forest to evade bullets

and by night we search for the biggest holes to conceal our bodies.

I have perfected my sense of hearing;

I can detect an enemy by the sound of his heartbeat

It is my sense of smell that has become skewed

Everything now smells rotten to me

Even a clear cup of tea smells like a pig’s urine.


Where I am from, cocks don’t crow at dawn.

Hyenas and Vultures have lost appetite for flesh

Even the fishes in our rivers now know the taste of blood.

Here, the purpose of food is to allow us to see another night.

I have completely forgotten how to mold a smile

The last time I heard somebody laugh was in my dream

Even though I only dream of mad people and dead bodies.

Here, people prefer becoming ghosts to enduring another night


Where I am from, regret is only evident when an enemy evades an attack

Increasing enemy body count means an elevation in rank.

Here, love kills faster than a stray bullet and kindness exposes one’s weaknesses

In camp, we received a new baptism with a new set of commandments

For example, an enemy remains an enemy, even without a reason why,

A true comrade is immune to feelings and reason.

Orders must be obeyed first before thinking.

Only the weak and faint-hearted calculate their actions.


Where I am going, the moon still rises and the sun still shines

Leaves are still green and the skies still blue

Ants still dig and termites still chew

The wind still blows without boundaries.

The treasure I value most are memories of the world before now

When life had meaning and snails crawled faster than Death

My thoughts are where I plant viable seeds of hope

Knowing that the darkest nights expose the brightest stars.


Christian Emecheta is a Nigerian, a 2019 Baobab Literary Awards recipient, a 2015 Nokia Lumia Short Story Contest winner, and a 2015 Mastercard Short Story Contest winner. He has other honorary mentions to his name, even though he is still an emerging writer. With strokes of ink, he tells stories about life experiences. His poems can be read in The Opendoor Magazine May issue 2021, Nigerian Students Poetry Prize Anthology Series 2019 and 2020, and via the British Council International Writing Competition 2014, to name a few. He can be found at https://mbasic.facebook.com/emechetac.

Decolonial Passage is honored to announce the nominations for next year’s Pushcart Prize Anthology.  This list includes writing published from January to November 2021.  Congratulations to the nominees!

Fiction

“In the Land of Queen Elizabeth’s Head” by Foday Mannah

“The Road” by Ekow Manuar

Poetry

“This is the Drum” by Andrew Geoffrey Kwabena Moss

“Billie Holiday’s Deathbed” by Sean Murphy

“Dealing with the unnatural heat” by Osahon Oka

“How Do I Abandon the City” by Kunle Okesipe

In case of fire

this poem is flame-resistant.

Place the cloth it is printed on

over your smoking kitchen pan.

For best results, turn off the burner.

If larger sizes are needed, see

elsewhere in our catalog, items FL-51 to 62.


In case of spills

this poem is absorbent.

Tear one or more squares from the roll,

using additional towels as required

to disinfect countertops, after you have dried them.

If censored texts are needed, see

elsewhere in our catalog, items PC-44 to 93.


In case of capture

this poem is reversible.

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o wrote a novel

on sheets of prison toilet paper.

The blank side of this page

is suitable for ink, or similar markers.

Improvise as needed,

and good luck to you.


K Roberts is a professional non-fiction writer and artist who explores themes of memory and identity in mixed media images. Recent work has been featured in Pensive: A Global Journal of Poetry and the Arts, and in Gyroscope Review.

There,

At the anteroom of heaven,

The land of the Free,

The wealthy kingdom beyond those mountains afar

May the eyes that see you want you

May they smile in adoration –

By how handsome a soul you are.


And when you dine with the royals

In your new home

Forget not your bond,

Your roots

The seasons we looked –

To the stars for bread.


At heaven’s anteroom

The home of the Free

Never forget –

Whose you are

Our little Princess.


The Sojourner

In search of happiness

I leap for the great heavens

A home for the haves and have-nots

Where, the mind rests from all troubles.


In search of hope

I must conquer the frigidness of my own kind

Do battle with the desert demons

Though my feet buckle

And my vision wobbles

Though a great length to endure

Onwards, I pursue.


In search of liberty

Wild as the earth’s expanse

To walk the glowing streets

Where opportunities appease like a freewill offering

Forsake all my present evil, I must

For ten thousand miles I cannot tell.


In search of my treasures therefore

Let me conquer these borders, I pray

Though fenced by sturdy tongues

Nothing must impair the call

“Yes! Sweet Paradise”

Onwards I go, the place of rest.


Akinmayowa Adedoyin Shobo is a graduate in the field of life sciences. He is inspired by various genres of literature, music, history and science. He divides his time between being a public health researcher and volunteering for community development projects. He writes on several platforms, including book
projects, blogs, and magazines. He lives in Lagos, Nigeria. He can be found at https://www.facebook.com/shobo.mayowa, https://www.linkedin.com/in/mayowa-shobo-42601aa7/, and https://www.instagram.com/frankly_dedoyin/

I.

His smile affirms what sixteen is all about

after a journey of one thousand miles

he sits in the raft and looks

into the smuggler’s camera

as he floats the Rio Grande 

the smile on his face believes

opportunity lies on the northern shore

money to ease his parents’ burdens

in San Jose El Rodeo where his father

labors when there is work for $4.50 an hour

yet somehow his parents pay the coyote

to guide Carlos and his sister

across the border to grow a new life

they leave Guatemala in April Carlos knows

in his strong young bones life cannot fail

one so easy in strength and buoyant in spirit

sixteen sees only life’s

outstretched hand


II.

Shining with hope turned burning

with fever in the holding pen at McCallen

103 degrees became a ticket for transfer

to Westlaco Border Patrol Station

a concrete block bench for a bed

thin mylar sheet for a blanket

a camera’s indifferent eye to witness

Carlos walking to the locked cell door

falling face down on the floor crawling

searching for comfort he lay one arm

flung over his head as a child might sleep

but this is posture pinned by pain and policy

the uncaring lens positioned by law

recording Carlos rising to stumble toward the toilet

falling beside it torso hidden behind a wall

recording his legs convulsing then stilling

recording Carlos Gregorio Vasquez Hernandez

lying dead undiscovered for four hours

nine days after reaching the U.S. shore

welfare check left undone

recording Carlos surrendering

his dreams


III.

Carlos’ mother mourns

They detained him there

and they didn’t worry about him

Why didn’t they follow the law

Carlos’ father asks for truth

What happened to him

An older brother speaks simply

We never thought this would happen

where he’s supposed to be

in a better place


Dia de los Muertos en Michoacan Mexico

Imagine a border crossing

no wall or armed guards

and 500,000 floating south

not one turned away and


Imagine a welcome

for these long-travelled immigrants

the laughter of children their faces

lifted to the sky and the abuelas

marigolds and sunflowers cradled

in their arms and


Imagine the women

embroidered flowers blooming on blouses 

walking gardens themselves inviting

the travelers to rest where they might

on shoulders, on hair, in bouquets

on sweet lips and


Imagine the newcomers

lighting on fingertips to play and

parade on the Day of the Dead

orange fans unfolding

prayers fluttering to heaven


just Imagine the oyamel firs

clustered in forests high up the mountains

heads in the clouds waiting to shelter

all that have flown so far 

so worthy of rest


now Imagine a country

welcoming children like monarchs

seeing beauty in strong wings

that carried them north,.

so far to fly

so worthy of rest


Imagine


Susan Martell Huebner lives in Mukwonago, Wisconsin. Her novel, She Thought The Door Was Locked, was published by Cawing Crow Press and is available through Amazon. Finishing Line Press published her chapbook, Reality Changes With the Willy Nilly Wind. Her work history includes public school teaching, employment and volunteer experience at The Milwaukee Women’s Refuge, The Foster Care Review Board of Milwaukee County, Lutheran Social Services, as well as the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) program. Links to her writing can be found at http://www.susanmhuebner.com/

U, come from

That flesh? Of which?

The one that mirrors your hue?

Or, the one whose darkness seeps through?

Those wires that make up your being

are gradient sand particles aligned to the composure of one.

One code of imperfectability perfectly pasteurized

for the exposure of you to the eyes of the undeserved.

Do you believe? Do you fault?

Why subject yourself to a beauty of no scale

instead of raising your particles to the infinity power

to say

I Come From That Flesh. Yes.


Alligatoridae

There are black stretches of danger 

living on an island, surrounded

by a nothingness of darkened water

impaled by the pollution of man

yet still existing in harmony.


There are black stretches of danger

hunted for their skin

killed for a natural behavior

left piled as a message

if you kill one; we kill all.


There are black stretches of danger,

only because of perception,

living as they are, bothering none

hunted for personal pleasures

killed for being them 

in this world you decided to claim as your own. 


There are black stretches of danger,

Endangered, trying to live

but are hunted by _______________.


Jami’L Carter is a poet, fiction writer, and filmmaker. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from Southeastern Louisiana University and is pursuing an MFA in Film at the University of New Orleans. Since her youth, Jami’L has utilized writing to express her storytelling and truths. A young creative, she thrives to impact the world the best way she knows how, with her writing. She can be contacted at directorjca7@gmail.com. Her poetry can be found in Passengers Journal and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/jthapoet/.

Every now and then.

I hear voices in my ears from the waves.

The voice is the messenger of the sea.


Still a dynasty unknown to men.

It still carries vessels, ships and people.


Every now and then I see a young  woman.

Travelling on boat with others.

In a sea which fulfills her hopes.

Sealed in a world of fantasy,

of Atlantean memories.


Every now and then I see her looking  down at the waves

their dance invoking memories.

Warm days under African Sun,

when life was free,   

when meadows were green and she walked with other women.

Before the war, before the blood.


Every now and then

I hear waves become harder and harder.

The dream drowns, the new land disappears.

No help, only cries.

I no longer see the woman who escaped war but did not find her dream.

I cry for her.

Every now and then I see boats coming into shore.


But there is nothing more to say.

Absolutely.


Mary Anne Zammit is a graduate of the University of Malta in Applied Social Studies. She holds a Diploma in Diplomatic Studies and a Masters in Probation Services. She also has a Diploma in Freelance and Feature Writing. She is the author of four novels in Maltese and two in English. Her poetry has been featured in international magazines and anthologies. She is a regular contributor in the International Poet Magazine. Mary Anne is also an artist with multiple international exhibitions and awards. She can be found at https://www.instagram.com/mary.a.zammit/ and https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.zammit                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

She is no Lady who turns her back to her family to solicit strangers in the harbor. Who leaves her children like motherless exiles in time of need and promises strangers what her own charges lack.

Descend your pedestal and wade to shores your soles have never touched, wander among the people your eyes have never seen. Listen to the cries for mercy that your ears have never heard. We have here too the tired and poor in huddled masses yearning to breathe free. To breathe. Who cannot breathe.

Cast your lantern in the darkened corners where injustice lives and where blindness-feigning Justice lies. Where children are stopped, searched, cuffed, assaulted, detained. But only some. Where a ruler sprays with noxious fumes and rubber shells upon those who gather in peaceful assembly and where mysterious goons in darkened vans steal away dissenters who seem to cry with masked lips, “We’ll put down our signs when you put down your guns.”


T. Francis Curran lives in Westchester, NY.

Decolonial Passage is honored to announce the 2021 nominations for the Best of the Net Anthology.  This list includes writing published between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021.  Congratulations to the nominees!

 

Fiction

“Unmarried Men” by Linda Wanja Thotho

“Folding Time: Dear Descendant(s)” by Ibrahim Babatunde Ibrahim

Nonfiction

“When Hakuna Matata Became a Phrase in English” by Lorna Likiza

“Crossing Borders for an Elusive Betterment: Filipina and Chinese Women in Japan” by Tommy Gough

Poetry

“How Do I Abandon the City” by Kunle Okesipe

“Four Flights” by A’Ja Lyons

“A Song for Grandmother: Daughters of Hoodoo” by Rava Chapman

“Dealing with the unnatural heat” by Osahon Oka

“I Didn’t Know” by Sharon Hurley Hall

“commonwealth primer for the children of empire” by Lynnda Wardle

Pretty

Comes

In

All shades.


Vanilla ice cream,

Creamed coffee,

Creamy peanut butter,

Caramel,

Honey,

Cinnamon,

Pecan,

Milk chocolate,

Dark chocolate,

Molasses.


Delicious hues,

Sweet hues,

Tempting and

Watering mouths.


I could never

Understand why racism

Continues to exist

With multi-culturalism in the midst.

Careful, conscious societal maneuvers

From prejudice to justice.

But I understand

Far less colourism,

That sickening division

Among members of the same race

Along the lines of complexion.


Who has melanin?

How much melanin?

And who looks beautiful?


The division is large

And super-charged

Among females


Still performing

Plastic comb tests

Checking for kinks in hair,

Still performing

Brown paper bag tests

In their minds.


“Light girls are stuck up.”

“Dark girls are envious and mean.”


Divisive notions

Grown out of polluted soil,

Near-European grade:


“In absence of whiteness,

Go for brightness.

You’ll get the goods with lightness,

For lightness is right-ness.”


Who decides


Who is pretty enough?

Who is Black enough?

What verdict does the bedroom mirror

Give the longer one stares into it?


Sisters lashing out

At each other,

Not once knowing

They’re all royalty.


Brothers ignore

Some sisters,

Not once knowing

The queens they’re missing out on—


Nature has a way

Of passing out

In equal shares

Beauty, brought to the surface

As distinct physical traits, female to female


Hair, eyes, noses, lips, skin—


Apparently, nature likes variety

As I do.


What catches my eye,

Appeals to my eye.


Pretty comes in all shades of black.


(Inspired by the autobiographical essay A Colorist In Recovery by

Stephanie J. Gates and the documentary Light Girls.)


Iola


Pages of the Living Way

Newspaper, which reached readers

Every week, was how the public

Saw eloquent words and meet


Her, Iola


Told many of her harrowing tale

Of injustice turned resistance:

Boarded a steam train for work, Nashville bound,

First class seat taken, comfy ride for


Her, Iola


The White conductor disapproved,

Did his damndest to remove

Consign to a smoky, crowded

“Coloured Only” car, disregard for


Her, Iola


Promptly answered him with her teeth,

Fastened onto pale hand, bitten deep,

White passengers cheered as she was dragged out—

This episode wasn’t over for

Her, Iola


Contested the egregious matter in court

Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, her opponents

The judge awarded $500 in damages

Soon to be lost, company appeal against

Her, Iola


It was the sudden shooting of three

Successful Black grocers, all good friends, because

Southern White businessmen despised competition,

That brought this schoolteacher to her typewriter, motivation for

Her, Iola


Shone truth’s light on ghastly wrongs

Between the Evening Star & Free Speech

Until hatred’s fire was set to her printing press

Added stress on the journalistic princess, Memphis off-limits to

Her, Iola


New York City, Northern refuge

Safe enough to continue the deluge:

Reports on Southern horrors acquired

From talks with victims’ relations, fleshed out by

Her, Iola


The record of the South continued to go red

From any hick town producing Nubian dead

From shotgun shells, bullets, fire and rope

Enclosed around the necks of humanity, counted by

Her, Iola


That never failed to chill the soul

Commonly used method of control

When Blacks came up, supremacy cut them down—

Allegations of rape of White women found false by

Her, Iola


Chicago, England, Wales, Scotland—wherever she did a speech

On the crime of lynching—Preach, lady, preach—

America isn’t the land of the free

If you’re not free to be Black, the gist from

Her, Iola


“Separate but equal”—official falsehood

Separate and substandard facilities—never good

Signs at public places turned away dark faces—

The basis for a fight for equality, which began with

Her, Iola.


(For Michelle Duster, great-granddaughter of Ida B. Wells-Barnett.)


Dee Allen is an African-Italian performance poet based in Oakland, California. He has been active in creative writing and spoken word since the early 1990’s. He is the author of 7 books — Boneyard, Unwritten Law, Stormwater, Skeletal Black (all from POOR Press ), Elohi Unitsi (Conviction 2 Change Publishing), and, coming in February 2022, Rusty Gallows: Passages Against Hate (Vagabond Books) and Plans (Nomadic Press). He has 41 anthology appearances under his figurative belt so far.

Black girl with a book, she dismisses your superiority beliefs with just one look

You should fear her, this creature; she’s not reading for fun

Her education continues, past your delusions; yet you believe it hasn’t even begun

A double Ph.D.D in life, despite all her strife, or perhaps it’s the very reason, for her well-

seasoned, awakedness. Her nakedness has honed her into this, Oshun like, Godessness


The mediocre white man lied, mimeographed generations beguiled with his belief that she

belongs in a squeeze chute, or somewhere in the wild

Otherwise, she exists only to serve, to fill the cotton pile … to wet nurse their child

13th can’t amend her nor defend her, the white gaze and ways have never been mild


To this day she struggles to be seen

As more than 3/5th of a human being


Black girl with a book, a bibliophile, a sapiophile, a poet, someday a chosen Laureate

All the while her destiny has been written

Her knowledge and power will not be hidden

You’re smitten, with her sage-like words and intellectual prose

Yet you pretend, to be unimpressed, and upend, her, turning up your nose

But you cannot offend her, you’re threatened by her, and … she … knows


Black girl with a book, oh what a dangerous sight


 

You call her names, you pick a fight?

She’s an intellectual heavyweight, your stereotype won’t make you see that you’re about to step

into the ring with Muhammad Ali

You’re blind sided by her mind … it’s one mean left hook

And after she defeats you she’ll write about you in her little black book


Her ancestors would be proud

They dreamed her up while being lynched in front of a coward crowd


Black girl with a book, her fingers have never picked cotton

She thumbs the pages of her history, a history too powerful to be ever forgotten

So many have died so that she could be free,

Still they police her Black-joy and refuse her basic liberty with their modern day slavery

She ponders life quietly, atop ole banyan tree

Wondering … when will life stop lynching me


Black girl with a fiery look, someday she’ll abolish your misguided superiority with just one book


Kerry Jo Bell has contributed to various literary journals and magazines. Her debut manuscript, “Next Time I Go,” has been accepted into The Writers Union of Canada’s 2020 mentorship program.
She has a book of poetry planned and describes her writing as unapologetic. Her poems are unafraid and unashamed of exploring the intersections of racism, sexual identity, and the abnormality of societal norms. Her poetry is a mirror that exposes society through the reflections of a Black woman.