Indentured labour brought my ancestors to the Caribbean

I often think about if they even wanted to be on those ships

Never to see or be seen by their families who remained 

Their crowded bodies stuffed together 

For One Hundred and Twelve excruciating days 

The heartbreak of having to toss the dead overboard

All for the British and their new form of slavery


Generations pass; language is lost

Wavered autonomy and misplaced paperwork take effect

A disconnect from the ‘motherland’ is formed

New traditions and a cultural melting pot give way for a new way of life


Like many 

I do not know where in South Asia my ancestors were taken from generations ago

While much was lost in the pages of history

— a steady thread that connects me remains

When I eat a bowl of hot dhal and rice

Or smell the fresh pholourie my mom makes

I feel the thread grow brighter

And I feel a connection to a land and I’ve never known


 

Angie Budhwa is an Indo-Caribbean Canadian poet who is fond of words and stories of all kinds. She believes that stories, both big and small, reflect the hearts of cultures and connects the past to the present. She enjoys writing about folklore, historical figures, and existentialism. Her most recent work can be found in Amble Mag and the Nzuri Journal of Coastline College. She can be found at https://twitter.com/AngieDarshanie?s=09.

Harriet Powers (1837-1910)


It may be imagined that Harriet stayed close

to her roots – remaining in the state of Georgia

after gaining freedom. Yet her quilting patterns

illustrate past family in Benin, West Africa –

her ancestors present in the cloth strips design

and in the asymmetry of scene borders.


Some did imagine and said, that she, ex-slave,

must of course be illiterate – she, who later in life

read the Bible more than ever in her church group,

and wrote about her well-known Bible Quilt,

viewed in the colored section of the Athens Exposition,

each of fifteen squares a story from the Bible.


We can surely envision that she loved quilt-making,

creating at least five, between sewing clothes

to earn money to raise her children.

Perhaps then she wore her special apron

we can see in a photograph, embellished

with celestial bodies: a moon, sun, shooting star.


Windrush Generations

I. 1948 U.K. Need

So many men and women

lost

in World War II

So much labor

lost.


So many Jamaicans

sold

on a cheap ticket

on the Windrush

to Britain.


So many Parliamentaries

scared

dark-skinned people

might

keep coming.



II. Britain Scandal 80 Years Later

Home Secretary

threats, orders –

Windrush immigrants

barred from work

some detained

some deported

some denied healthcare –


some came as children

no passport

declared “illegal”

lost housing

lost benefits,

became destitute.


And it was

Paulette Wilson’s

newspaper interview

slowed

mistreatment.

Brought

eventual compensation.


III. Jamaica

Windrush people

deported

some retired

to warmth

built

a dream house, garden –

fresh mangos, bananas,

in lush greenery,


but problem mountains:

air heavy

with envy, jealousy.

Windrush people

not British enough


not Jamaican enough,

and Delroy Walker

was one

of more than two hundred

murdered,

the wide blood splatter

left all over

his new house.


Lavinia Kumar’s latest books are Hear Ye, Hear Ye: Women, Women: Soldiers,
Spies of Revolutionary and Civil Wars, No Longer Silent: the Silk and
Iron of Women Scientists
, and Beauty. Salon. Art. She wil have new poems soon in SurVision Magazine. Her poetry has appeared in US, Irish, & UK
publications. She can be found at https://laviniakumar.org/

Six million ravens bent

and blackened the sky’s borders

reshaping the landscape as they went

bending their wings to a new world order,

the weight of which no one could measure.


They were choking on a poisonous air

disguised as the law of the land.

Whenever they’d rise up from there,

Jim Crow would beat them down again.

Lesson learned; the law is not your friend.


They packed their dreams and fled

carrying the battered and bruised

while arrows cleaved open hearts that bled.

But this time they would choose

the mode of transportation they would use.


They fled the back-breaking cotton fields

to find a new indentured servitude await

up north in the stockyards and steel mills.

If you died, on a concrete floor you’d lay

until a pine box carried you away. 


When the sun arced in the summer sky,

to return to the old South they sought

smoking Lucky Strikes and riding high

in the shiny new chariots they’d bought

to show the South what the new world hath wrought.


Wanda Williams Jackson is a Chicago native who began writing poetry, short stories, and essays as a youth. Currently, she lives with her husband in San Diego. Her poetry has been featured in two volumes of the San Diego Poetry Annual. She is a freelance content writer, and she is working on a novel. After reading Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, she became interested in the Great Migration and its impact on her parents who migrated to Chicago from the deep south in the 1940s. In 2020, she wrote Migration, her first full-length book of poetry.

I didn’t know

when I saw the pale-skinned stranger

it was the end

of Everything


I didn’t know

I had already seen my mother’s belly

jelly with laughter

for the last time


I didn’t know

I’d never again feel the comforting thrum

of my father’s musical bass

as I lay next to his heart


I didn’t know

my friends and I would no longer chase and

play at the hunters

we thought we would become (We wouldn’t)


I didn’t know

I’d never again walk tall, strong and free

Instead, I shuffled, iron-yoked

on the long trek to the door of no return


I didn’t know

the terrible vastness of the endless sea

dwarfing the mighty river

where once I’d played


I didn’t know

a boat could be so huge and yet so narrow

a deadly prison

for my quivering form


I didn’t know

how much smaller I could squeeze my body

while failing to avoid the waste

of all those wasted lives


I didn’t know

I was now less – and more – than cattle

to be prodded, sold and branded

in the strangest of markets


I didn’t know

I’d lose the name I got from kings

to become someone

I barely recognized


I didn’t know

the legends that soothed my youth

would become whispered myths

reminding of what was lost


I didn’t know

I’d be used to create a fractured dynasty

with no connection

to the land I left


I didn’t know

I’d never see my home again

nor would my children

my children’s children

my children’s grandchildren’s grandchildren


If I had known

I would have stayed unseen

and fled that pale-skinned stranger

But I didn’t know


Sharon Hurley Hall (she/her) is an anti-racism activist, writer and educator. She is a British/Barbadian national committed to doing her part to eliminate racism one article at a time, and is the creator and publisher of an anti-racism newsletter. She is the author of Exploring Shadeism, an analysis of the colorism phenomenon in Barbados and the wider Caribbean, and co-produces and co-hosts The Introvert Sisters podcast. She won three Bronze awards for poetry in the 2019 NIFCA Literary Arts competition. She can be found at https://www.antiracismnewsletter.com/, https://sharonhh.com/, https://www.linkedin.com/in/sharonhh/, https://twitter.com/shurleyhall, and https://www.instagram.com/shurleyhall/.

We are the first ones

Who went to Kemet

From the Kingdom of Kush

Without offending our ancestors

For we were not alone

We met the Baka people

The first ones

Dark-skinned as we are

The Baka call us Kaka

For we have the same

Ancestors


Then we got in trouble

We fought wars

And called the Creator

Who said words

And became alligator

My bridge is my savior

For I will make

My genealogy after

I am safe


Then the white man

Came

They took me

And put me

In prison

My name

They threw away

My tongue

They forbade

But, for God’s sake

Mbock will bring me

Back home

For our journey

Will not stop here

We shall go back

To where we started


Kol ɛ loŋ

Mina bɛ ɛ bot ɛ mɛkɛn

Ná tɔ pɛ Kɛmɛt

Dus pɛ mɛkoozi ɛ Kus

Aa kal bɛtat

Aa tɔ mina met

Mina bela Ibayaka

Bot ɛ mɛkɛn

Bɛ na bhibhil bot

Daa mina bɛl


Baka djoo mina ɛ Kaka

Itɛɛ náá

Mina bɛ ɛ nɛ ikaka

Ngɔt


Wɔ bee mina bela mitɛp

Djoo Zɛɛb-Mɛkaake

Wɔ gwa nyɛ zɛ ke

Nyɛ zɛ liiza kol

Dhaar yam yɛ ɛ salaam

Mɛ ni ka baal

Dhaar bhis cikam


Wɔ bee mitaga

Zɛ ghɛɛ mɛ

Wa mɛ i mbok

Nɔɔ din ɛ lam

Mɔs

Nɔɔ ɛyɔŋ ɛ lam

Pɛɛ

Di náá

I gu ka náá, Mbock

Waa zyɛ zɛ bulal mɛ

Pɛ daa lam

Itɛɛ náá

Cyer yina

Aani sik wak

Mina aabula

Pɛ mɛkɛn


Peresch Aubham Edouhou was born in Makokou (Gabon) in 1993. He is a Bekwel, Kota and French speaker, who graduated in Letters (Portuguese-English) from Pelotas Federal University (UFPel) in 2019. He is currently enrolled in Rio Grande Federal University’s Master of Letters Program (Language Studies) in Brazil where he has been studying African languages and literatures.  He has been writing poems and traditional short stories in the vernacular — African languages. Among his poems in Bekwel language are “Dhaar” (“Genealogy”) and “Din yɛ ɛ Dis” (“Name is Eye”) in Jornal RelevO, and a short anthology of seven poems in Revista Njinga. He can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009123511450.

   From Susan Harbage Page’s  photograph “Laredo Riverbank With Cross.”

A cross in the act of falling apart,

one broken twig stuck upright in the dirt,

another across, its bark peeling off

like wounds on open arms,

one scrap of paper still attached,

words once written there

now bleached away.


A lonely riverbank,

and nothing but those two sticks

tied with a scavenged strip of plastic,

its soiled blue echoing

a glimpse of river water.

Other than that, the colors are muted

duns, yellows, no other sign of human life

except perhaps vanishing footsteps.


Perhaps other scraps were carried off

by wind, then water,

who knows how many they were,

what shreds of a family, what lone child

passed here and left this brief

devotional candle.


The cross is del otro lado, on the northern

side of the forbidden river,

Gracias a Dios –it could be saying–

thank you, sweet Virgin, Virgencita

de Guadalupe, here we set our feet

on firm land again.


But so often people plant a cross

by a road where someone was shot,

by a railroad where someone has fallen,

by a river where someone has drowned.


Enriqueta Carrington is a Mexican poet, literary translator, and mathematician. She received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts as a translator. Her translations into English include five poetry collections by authors from Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Israel. Her own poems in English and Spanish, as well as her translations, have appeared in Rattapallax, Blue Unicorn, 14 by 14, The New Formalist, The Society of Classical Poets Journal, Descant (Canada) and several other journals and anthologies. She is a member of the editorial committee of the poetry journal US1 Worksheets.

I

How do I leave the city of my umbilical cord,

at the sound of morning prayers, when the muezzin says the salat,

before the sun revisits my eyes under the eastern hangar of life?

An ending coming; I can feel its throb,

but my aorta does not tell me when the last trumpet will sound,

nor the path before me where the sinkhole lays its ambush.

How do I shut the last door and open a trade link with alien

            bays?

Or cross the year in the dinghies of future months

and step across the frontiers like seasonal egrets?

How do I abandon the skeletons buried in my hipbone?

Pick my cells of wilful chromosomes,

or chase the rascally child of my wandering to

the den of a famished road?

How do I leave the city to its graffiti of slime,

flee its bugle of infant cry

and disappear in the fading line of distant guitar riff?

Freebies of beauties are waiting by the distant station

like a necklace of motley colours,

their heels like minted hoofs, their lipstick like the nude

            testimonies

of orange flowers that fall like leisurely hailstones.

How do I rein in the lust in my eyes?

How do I, like a miserly coffer, close my eyelids to let evil pass,

but miss the angel of love that is dreamed of?

How do I leave the housewife that has hennaed a rosebud on her lap,

the very one who awaits the daylight of my lover’s look-in,

although her voice chafes the field of my peace?

How do I pack my old feelings in a hencoop

and follow the wind to the mountain head?

II

There are so many people the city has hurt,

many leaving the darkness of the city on horseback for a foreign night,

in the absence of known skies, forging a galaxy with

            constellations of fireflies,

and trafficking a homeland in rucksacks and amnesiac songs.

A multitude camp under the brown awning of a season that

            never changes,

inventing a shift of weather with theatrics of wonders and

narratives of mimic clouds,

their aspiring vines wounded in the skirmishes of trellis.

There are many more emigrating into themselves,

like rains of anguish falling backwards to the sky,

or trees growing inwards, their leaves forgotten in the

alcove of their cells.

Many are disappearing from sight like roads that lose their way,

so many leaving their houses and entering the bitter metaphor

of a stranger’s poem,

to martyr a story already weak with tragic dénouement.

Why should I descend with them the stairs of exile without

            the luggage of my soul?

Why should I abandon the beauty under the winter of wrinkled years,

and leave a linear sadness for a joyous crossroads?


Kunle Okesipe currently teaches postcolonial literature at Igbinedion University, Nigeria. His adaptation of Wole Soyinka’s The Interpreters won an Association of Nigerian Authors Adaptation contest. He also won an ANA prize for his adaptation of Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God. His poetry has appeared in adda (Journal of Commonwealth Writers), Mediterranean Poetry, The Tiger Moth Review, Moonchild Magazine, The Lake, The Rush and others. He can be found at https://twitter.com/ogunnian, https://www.instagram.com/ogunnian/, and https://www.facebook.com/kunle.okesipe.

The night is dark, as dark can be.

Our huts are filled with noises of snoring,

spiders knitting, rats hunting for scraps of food,

and ants building mansions underground.

Suddenly, flames of fire appear on one hut;

loud wails are heard, “The house is on fire!”

“What is happening?” we ask each other. No one answers.

Another hut is ablaze, and another, the whole village is!

We run to and fro in frenzy

like violent waters in a broad river.

We bump into each other

like sand particles in a whirlwind.

There are hunters running round with guns

catching young women and men specifically.

One, two, thirty… we are shackled together;

hundreds of us are paraded on a long journey

to the coast of Zanzibar.

I do not think we will set eyes on our village again.


Post Master

When the sun bids goodbye to the moon and stars

death sets out on an errand to pluck a life; here, and there

and hauls it off from the world of the breathing.

His frozen hands snap breath

He plucks off the old and the young, rich and poor

known and unknown – like a leaf from a tree branch

and carries their souls away

to retire them to the world of the silent.

A cry of agony goes up to fill the air

when the horrible deed is fully realized

and when the lament is uplifted, people gather together in homes

like wintertime wafts, and sigh sad anthems

as we post our beloved to that other world

we know not much about.


One winter night

The wind was angrier than ever.

She wrapped the earth in an icy blanket

and froze the night with her breath.

Like a vessel sailing the seas

she marched up and down

usurping the whole Kulamula village.

The rough winds entered our bones and we trembled.

With her mighty breath, like dashing waves that spread their current,

She forced us to go under-cover.

We coiled; millipedes in not-so-warm blankets.

No soul went out of the hut to gaze at the moonlight that night.

Our bodies quaked under the covers. Like lawn-mowers we trembled

and night birds’ music echoed our hissing sounds

as angry moans the fierce wind incessantly made;

while stretching her hands wide, stroking our ears

and sinking her teeth into our flesh.

We vibrated to the freezing edges of the her teeth,

Tears coursed down our cheeks,

rushing to wet our frozen-dead lips.


Martin Chrispine Juwa is a history teacher and poet from Malawi. He has one poetry anthology to his name, titled Drifting Smoke. His poems are published, or are forthcoming, in about 43 print and online magazines, journals and anthologies, including Project Muse, JAYL (Issue 2), 3 BNAP Anthologies, LOCKDOWN 2020, Pangolin Review, HELD Magazine, Strange Births, Childhood Anthology, Pensive Journal, Afreecan Read, Scibble Magazine, and The Poet Magazine. Two of his poems are translated into Spanish and appear in the Libero America Journal.

Sister, bring me one of those pink shells
Washed up on a far away beach
Here’s 40 dollars, fix my hair into 1000 braids
Show me some of that black magic that’s been
Melanined out of my immediate family
Dance, my sister
Dance my spirit round your bones
Break the illiterate silence and contorted sterility of
My 21st century over-Americanized ethnicity, Sister.


Allison Whittenberg is a Philly native who has a global perspective. If she wasn’t an author she’d be a private detective or a jazz singer.  Her novels include Sweet Thang, Hollywood and Maine, Life is Fine, Tutored, The Carnival of Reality and The Sane Asylum.   Her plays have been performed at Interact Theatre, The Spruce Hill Theatre, The Festival of Wrights, and The Playwright’s Center.

It is a grand street, but I don’t live here.

Not one doorstep stands to shield

me from the harsh rain,

its drab grey tone is a solemn tune.

This is no song worth remembering.

 

Well-kept bikes clatter and topple

under ornate eaves and lush drenched boughs,

stacks of shiny metal frames; jewels

to the children who live in my borough.

I came here to walk and dream.

 

These streets, paved with peppered-stone,

glisten in a loose wild strip of light.

Old street lamps from a bygone time,

stand the tests of gusts and sky spills.

While walking the bare street before me,

never have I felt more alone than now.

 

Doors are rotten mouths,

they shout in wooden frames, “Get out,

you don’t fit here, what’s a sunny

old girl like you doing in these parts?”

 

I look at my sixty-year-old reflection,

windows darken by the ill-shaped

shadows of deformed tree limbs

that heave fists with hard stone knuckles.

Leaves snap and plummet,

leaving some to droop on green threads.

 

This summer’s rain spell is bitter,

time slows. But I will not run or rush

my step, even if there’s no sun that bears

no mind to furnish a glow above my head.  
              

 

Joining the Army

I want to be a stormtrooper, combat ready,

filled with purpose: reason, unfolding.

Pride of place my photo will stand at my parents’ home

where the smell of cornbread and okra drifts.

 

Filled with purpose: reason, unfolding.

I’m apt to fit into the realm of things

where the smell of cornbread and okra drifts.

Into the fray, I will go with my brothers behind me.

 

I’m apt to fit into the realm of things.

At the front, fear will beg me to retreat and hide.

Into the fray, I will go with my brothers behind me.

It wasn’t always so; white troops didn’t crave a black man with a gun.

 

At the front, fear will beg me to retreat and hide,

the honour of duty and service will nudge me through.

It wasn’t always so; white troops didn’t crave a black man with a gun.

With an upright gait, I’ll march and sing “Onward Christian Soldiers”.

 

The honour of duty and service will nudge me through,

commands must spur my stride, no time to tire.

With an upright gait, I’ll march and sing “Onward Christian Soldiers”.

No cosh, no baton, no bullet will touch my temple.

 

Commands must spur my stride, no time to tire.

Pride of place my photo will stand at my parents’ home.

No cosh, no baton, no bullet will touch my temple.

I want to be a stormtrooper, combat ready.

 

*This poem is written in the form of a pantoum. The stormtrooper term refers to the fictional soldier; a super soldier, not the Stormtroopers who were specialist soldiers of the German Army in World War I.

“Onward, Christian Soldiers” is a 19th-century English hymn. The words were written by Sabine Baring-Gould in 1865. The song has been associated with protest against the established order, particularly in the case of the Civil Rights Movement.

 

Breaking Free

A roof sinks while floors rise.

The trencherman’s power is

the confines of narrowness.

“Others” stand threadbare,

 slinging ophidians,

elbows nudge slipstreams of air.

 

They kneel on a jagged platform’s edge

where toes have freedom of movement.

A splenetic tone ignites to warn,

a reply of deep breaths

reshapes the realm spent of longing.

 

Arms move towards solemn hearts,

drenched by solemnity,

and then outwards, curved to embrace.

Harsh light blinds and binds,

no darkness for dreams,

time has etched it from the sphere,

but in the distance evergreens grow.

 

White clothed torsos hide shame,

guilt and a greedy

emptiness impossible to sate.

Asthenia bodies stir with wide-awake eyes,

renewed, they heave and fold lissome metal.

 

A callous-cold ceiling cracks; flakes like plaster.

Bruised skins smash the prison-cube.

Fate is no longer sealed within walls.

Existence lives in shared senses.

 

A new day begins on a rope-clad precipice.

Raw-red suffering is denied a lonesome death.

Doors burst open to a penetralia

to greet those who have struggled free.

 

Maroula Blades (photo by Graham Hains) is an Afro-British multifaceted artist living in Berlin. She was nominated for the Amadeu Antonio Prize 2019 for her educational multimedia project “Fringe”. The Swiss Jan Michalski Foundation for Literature supported the project. She was the first runner-up in the 2018 Tony Quagliano International Poetry Award. Works were published in The Caribbean Writer, Thrice Fiction, The Freshwater Review, Midnight & Indigo, Abridged, The London Reader, So It Goes, Newfound Journal, Harpy Hybrid Review among others. Chapeltown Books (UK) released her story collection The World in an Eye, 2020. The book is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She can be found at https://www.facebook.com/Poetrykitchen/, https://twitter.com/m_blades, and http://www.poetrykitchen.com/.

I

When cries

Sprinkled on the feet of tyrants

They were swept away

When bones sailed the Atlantic

Dreams drowned

Into the womb of the sea

II

Ears are thirsting;

There are neither proverbs

Nor wisdom to sip from

Eyes now mother the ocean

Souls temples

Species of depression

Hope hung between two teeth;

Life and death

III

May our aborted dreams

Decay into dust

So fingers of tomorrow

Sculpt them into art.

Arise


Arise o spirits of the Niger rivers

Set free your waves

Let our scarce flee away

Arise o palate of the gods

Dye your tears into inks

And rewrite our story

Arise

It is time to water your seeds for a new sprout.


Mohammed Salihu is a young Nigerian writer. He holds a Certificate in Creative Writing from Wesleyan University and is presently pursuing his bachelor’s degree at the University of the West of Scotland.  One of Mohammed’s poem was selected by UNICEF to mark World Children’s Day 2020. His writing has appeared in: Fahmidan Journal, Poetic Duel, Praxis Magazine, and elsewhere. He can be found on twitter at https://twitter.com/Ameer_salihu and on instagram at https://www.instagram.com/mohammed_salihu_/

what is a necktie if not a symbol
of white male domination
and decades of cultural oppression?
 
amid diminishing colonial powers
the archaic rules remain
codified in the house of parliament
 
in the land of the young and the free
where the day of invasion
is still a celebrated national holiday
 
when the indigenous leader stands
to speak he is silenced
but refuses to submit to their yoke
 
the issue is bigger than dress codes
it’s about conformity
a whitewashing of past and present
 
what is business attire for one man
is the noose of another
 
‘take the noose
from around my neck
so that I can sing
my song’ – MP Rawiri Waititi
 
 
 

J. Archer Avary (he/him) is a chameleon, a product of his environment, a restless wanderer. In past lives he was a TV weatherman, punk rock drummer, champion lionfish hunter, ocean conservationist. At age 44, he still doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up. Maybe a poet? He is the editor of Sledgehammer Lit. His recent work can be found in Journal of Erato, The Daily Drunk, Skyway Journal, and HASH Journal. He lives on a tiny island in the English Channel. He can be found on twitter at https://twitter.com/j_archer_avary

Standing in front of the gold feline pendant,

I recalled one of my previous incarnations.

The jewelry had belonged to me

and now it was on display in the Museum of Fine Arts,

where I and others stared at it.

I remembered the prescient feeling I had

as a Nubian queen and the accompanying vision

of seeing my pendant in a glass box

and noticing strange-looking humans

wearing funny clothes, eyeing my jewelry with admiration.

I recalled even seeing myself as I currently am

with my tortoise shell glasses, pink-dyed hair,

nose-stud, and black leather jacket,

though of course I didn’t know it would be me.

I cried out and when my royal sister heard

what I was worried about,

she reassured me it was just a hallucination.

She said that my pendant would be buried with me,

along with other cherished possessions.

Suddenly, my present self sighed for my lost kingdom,

the smooth ebony skin I was once had,

and the pendant I now wouldn’t be able to touch

without the alarm piercing the silence.

I clicked a picture to carry with me for this lifetime,

but one of my stray hairs swam in front of the lens.

I fished it out and as I clicked a second time,

I remembered unfastening the cat pendant for the last time,

not knowing it wouldn’t accessorize my clothes again.



Cherishing Their Freedom


Her ancestors come to her in dreams,

in the ships that forced the waves apart to these shores,

in the chains that bound them before they their spirits were broken.

They speak in their African languages,

but strangely she understands them.

They cherish the same thing as she does,

something they slowly stopped taking for granted

and longed for their descendants and themselves to have.

She hears their prayers whispered and chanted through the centuries,

in their quarters, in the fields, in the forests and mountains,

where they escaped with packs of dogs on their bleeding heels.

Her nose smells the drops of sweat from toil

that soaked their clothes or dripped from their backs.

She sees their dances of matrimony,

the brooms they jumped over,

and their children born free

until the young ones learned they really weren’t.

Her ancestors visit her again without the clanking chains

and the scars that mapped their miseries.

Their bodies glisten with perfection,

the downward droop of their necks and spines

replaced with a posture that speaks of blissful afterlife living.

They gaze at her house, the books lining the shelves,

the silk that swishes against her calves,

the ruby against her dark throat, the beads on her braids,

the chilled glass clinking with ice

and they tell her to sometimes sing their songs of slavery

and celebrate their deeds and then they laugh with her,

happy they’re all free now, the dead and the living,

though she knows liberation doesn’t yet mean equal justice.



Tara Menon is an Indian-American writer based in Lexington, Massachusetts.  Her most recent poems have appeared in: Emrys Journal Online, Indolent Books, Wards Literary Magazine, Art in the Time of Covid-19 (ebook published by San Fedele Press), Rigorous, Infection House, The Inquisitive Eater, and The Tiger Moth Review. Menon’s latest fiction has been published in Evening Street Review, The Bookends Review, and Rio Grande Review.  She is also a book reviewer and essayist whose pieces have appeared in many journals, including Adanna Literary Journal, The Courtship of Winds, The Petigru Review, Boston Globe, Green Mountains Review, and The Kenyon Review.

The trees threw away their clothes waiting for harmattan.
He never came.  Who locked the gates of wind?  The sun
 
boiled the oranges into rust & the birds grew gills to swim
the heat.  How many twirling fans died that year when we
 
gathered swollen leaves from sun baked drains?  Even the
air conditioning breathed like a bloated river.  The price
 
of water went up; even kisses were hard to come by.  The
houses grew lean with thirst no matter how greedily they
 
sucked on our skins.  The rivers all looked askance; they
were wet with the sun’s tears yet they could not run.
 
Sometimes the clouds peeped through the keyhole & threw
their laundry water through the window.  Sometimes they
 
gathered as if ready to conquer a city then they fled.  Who
pursued them from the battlefield, does anyone know?
 
Some old wives said if you open your door at noon, the
devil was there cooking.  Who dragged hell closer to
 
here?  Who knew what wounded the wings of dust; they
never did rise with the sun.  Nobody heard the siren of the
 
Sahara.  It was said someone tied her lips with the footprints
of immigrants & terrorists.  Some said she choked on the
 
bones of old sand dunes tired of waiting for the sea.  It was
green into January & he had no teeth to eat December’s
 
children.  Now they are raising the portcullis in the kingdom
of rain.  There must be a war in the heavens because
 
harmattan never came.
 
 
 

Osahon Oka is a Nigerian poet who sees writing as an opportunity to experiment with language, a way to show the world what he thinks, and a means to offer a reflection of his lived reality. His writing has appeared in several literary spaces including, but not limited to, Jalada Africa, Lit Quarterly, Lucky Jefferson, Down River Road Review, Dust Poetry Magazine, Lit Break Magazine, Afreecan Read, and elsewhere. He serves as Lead Correspondent at Praxis Magazine. He can be reached on twitter at https://twitter.com/OsahonOka

I remember in high school, explaining to friends

the racism of the cartoon, Speedy Gonzales. His

“arriba arriba” grito just a Chicano shuck and jive.

His campesino hat too big for even the sombrero dance.

And don’t even get me spit balling about Slowpoke

Rodriguez, Speedy’s boozed out cousin from el campo.


It can be hard telling your friends, in the warmup

layup line before basketball practice, that

imagining being different than the people who came

before them is scary, but may signal a reckoning

a Clyde Frazier crossover of potential.


Then the coach, plastic whistle in the corner

of his mouth like a chewed stub three day old

cigar, asking, “What are you guys talking about?”


And George, the fearless one with a strong baseline move

to the rim, says, “the perpetuation of stereotypes

in our culture.” Which made me smile all the way down

to my Pumas. This was like watching the firemen

arriving at the fire with their gear ready for business.


There are surprises and amazements left in life.


But the coach licked his thin train rail lips,

The whistle dangling covered in spit, “let’s

focus on our practice, our game.” The world is such

an imperfect place consider the ant-eater, the mole.


I am sure the coach was who he told us he was. And

when he spoke sometimes all the team heard

were the bubbles coming out of his head. His

smile looked like it pained his face.


Mota


My favorite word to say in Español

es mota. It is the final word of a wild song

on a long road through

Aztlán tequila lime kisses.

It’s the pan dulce and café

on a cold morning.

 

In college I’d sing the word

with emphasis and my gringo friends

asked, “what’s that?”

I could not suppress my giggles

and belted out the word

blues style slower, louder, dragging

the two syllables over sleeping

dogs, “you sabe, moh….tah.”

 

I often helped others with their

Español tarea. Them thanking me, asking,

“where did you learn to speak Spanish

so good? Really? You don’t look

Mexican…..aren’t you Jewish?”

 

My Spanish was not perfect, but it must

have sounded like a Chavela Vargas ballad

ripped full of damage and desire

to their gringo and gringa ears.

 

Once in high school a teacher yelled

that I spoke Spanish on purpose. His words

confusing and silencing me. And each day

in class I reckoned the smoldering power

of his border raged words.

 

My mother asked why I did not recognize

the historical patterns of oppression. She smiled

when she asked. But it was a counterfeit grin.

 

Español was the idioma

in my grandparents’ casa in Douglas.

 

Espanol was the gritos of my grandfather

and tíos as they watched the 8 millimeter

boxing films my grandfather kept in alpha

order in an old shoe box (Canto, Cuevas, Duran).

Español was the weekly phone conversations

between my mother and grandmother on Sunday

afternoons when church ended.

 

Mota is a one word narrative

of mystery and rebellion. The word

that begins the discovery that no

one is who they want to be.

 

Christopher Rubio-Goldsmith was born in Mérida, Yucatán, and raised in Tucson, Arizona. Growing up in a biracial, bilingual home near the frontera, and then teaching high school English for 28 years in a large urban school with a diverse student body created many experiences rich in voice and imagination. His poetry has appeared in Fissured Tongue, Amuse-Bouche (Lunch Ticket), the anthology America We Call Your Name, and in other publications as well. Kelly, his wife of almost 30 years, carefully edits his work. He can be found at https://www.facebook.com/chris.goldsmith.16