(On May 31, 1959—as she lay dying at the Metropolitan Hospital in New York, aged 44—Billie Holiday was arrested, handcuffed, and put under police guard for possession of narcotics.)

This busy bee, at the end of a life like clockwork,

a symphony of service to everything but herself—

wings snatched in a world blinded by the way it is—

slowly expiring in the sweet nectar of stillness, stung

with bittersweet poison, an alchemy of blinded faith.

And even this they could not abide.

Their white-hot burden, unappeasable,

like anti-gravity drawing light inside

its sense of self: righteous, obdurate,

enfeebled from all their inherited fears.

Who are these men that know nothing

about the blues? Inspiring jinxed history

with officious ink—corrections bled red

outside the margins, ignored or overcome—

their shared voice, warning: Be more like me.

Or worse still, stay separate, apart, unheard;

entitled or at least allowed to live: strange fruit

that rots inside dark spaces, or gets torn down

from trees, weeping their weary psalms of silence,

caustic smoke signals blown from burning crosses.

What do they know about beauty, their hatred the only thing

honest about them? What do they know about the helpless

ones: helpless for song, helpless for love, helpless for a fix,

helpless for joy, helpless for hope? God bless the child that

backward men would scorn, ignore, or erase—if they could.

Sean Murphy has appeared on NPR‘s “All Things Considered” and has been quoted in USA Today, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and AdAge. A long-time columnist for Pop Matters his work has also appeared in Salon, The Village Voice, Washington City Paper, The Good Men Project, Memoir Magazine, and others. His chapbook, The Blackened Blues, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. He has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and served as writer-in-residence of the Noepe Center at Martha’s Vineyard. He’s Founding Director of 1455 (www.1455litarts.org). To learn more, and read his published short fiction, poetry, and criticism, please visit seanmurphy.net/ and https://twitter.com/bullmurph

Wearing a black dress she

bobs in and out of rolling waves

and swells. Daily sea bath.

Sea foam sprays and hugs

her frock. Still fully dressed,

she rinses off at the outdoor

shower. Fresh water cascades,

rivulets spiral down to bare


Now dry and on her way down

Avenida Tacna she stops at the

plaza. Her black shoes, laced up

neatly, show signs of wear and

tear. A street canillita deftly

buffs her shoes, almost new

using rags and bits of


Most women in town wear

mantillas, go to misa often.

Her veil is solid black. No lace

frames her ivory face. She

is well known, but never

seen at church. Doña Maria is

the despenadora, the one who

takes care of the suffering.

La que quita penas.

We all run to the window,

peering above the cornice

and spot her porcelain profile

as she stops in front of the

ornate iron gate of our casona.

Our doorman lets her in. The

entire family is waiting in the

sala de estar. My uncle, dressed

impeccably in a black suit, stands

stiffly. His starched white collar

frames his long stern face.

He hands her a tiny wrapped

bundle, she quickly hides it

within her bosom, discreetly

looking away. He gestures towards

the bedroom.

Doña Maria’s heels click softly

over the ornate azulejo tiles.

She slowly backs her way into

the bedroom using both hands,

carefully drawing the french

doors closed.

We wait and wait.

The adults go in, I catch a

glimpse of my grandfather

laying there. No more moans

and heavy gusts of breath.

Bedding is neatly tucked, ivory

sheets tightly folded under his arms.

A giant gift wrap. Long bony

fingers splay out like branches

of the algarrobo tree. His face

is drawn, eyes now closed.

Bundles of palo santo burn

in a bowl next to his bedside

table. The aroma floats out,

thick white plumes of smoke slowly

make their way up, towards the

tall colonial ceilings.

Veronica Scharf Garcia was born in Concepcion, Chile and lived in several countries of South America, as well as Africa and the Middle East. She continues her itinerant life now in Europe. Her last home base was California, three years ago. Scharf Garcia has read her poetry at the Miami Book Fair, the Rosemary Duffy Larson Gallery in Florida, the OHI Center in San Diego, and at The Table in Hollywood. Her poems and artwork are published in various books and literary journals. She can be found at https://www.facebook.com/veronica.s.garcia.79 and https://www.instagram.com/verogoart/

“Control, prosecute, sanction” –  

These are the words of the French President on October 2, 2020.

Peculiar echo,

unintended I presume,

to Discipline and Punish by Foucault.

It seems that the image of war is the favorite of our Republic en marche,

at the heart of all speeches.

The first time,

in celebration of those who were closest to the hospital reality during the health crisis.

These were gone

at the “front”,

we were told.

I did not know that the choice of the white blouse meant that of the military dress.

If the nurses,

agents of hospital services are in a fight,

for years now,

it’s that of a cry,

yet neglected

and violently repressed,



in the French streets,

worn voices,


denounce the lack of resources,

call for the need for humane and decent treatment.

But no,

we don’t want this struggle,

a tackle,

a face to the ground under police violence,

and a ticket for

“the front”.

Congratulations and applause by way of gifts and then of coats of arms,

for service to the nation.

The war resumes today,

“It’s time!”

they said.

In schools,

public spaces,


Aux armes citoyens

sounds like we are sinking.

Strange smell,

like that of a detergent,

a sort of purification,

but warning,

“republican” only.

So in the name of right and freedom,

they’ll go,



and sanction”.

War against Islamist separatism,

neologism in a French style,

for a Franco-French delirium.

An Islamist separatism,

which we must fight against,

Who is we here anyway?

This is how the stage play,

of a republic called “en actes”,


More controls,


and education,

against the evils of religion.

A new government,

and a vocabulary now in use in cottages:




literally ‘the getting wild’

of a fragment of the French population.

Sounds like Hidden Forces.

France is contaminated

and apparently it’s not a pretty sight,

it is swarming on all sides.

So school at home is over,

unless for exceptions.

Pay attention to associations,

which are a nest,

we are told,

of Islamist separatism.

But the law will become an alchemist,

they opt for a right of dissolution.

Based on what criteria?

I will be asked.

“Republican principles,

come on!”

Political strategy in the run-up to elections?

Xenophobia is naturalized,


no need for Le Pen,

Macron is in charge,

Darmanin is on the clock.

The media saturate the public space,

new wording and wordling appear,

stronger than ever,


the Republic struts around,

takes up arms.

Occupied territory,

a people to preserve,

new barbarians to educate,



to the soft and sweet light of our know-how.

More costs,


more discrimination,


In the face of the law,

in the face of these in charge of its enforcement,

in the face of police forces,

in the face of its fellow citizens,

in his own country,

a french muslim,

cannot but feel the untold role,

that will come for him or her,

in the Republic theatre piece.


Sarra Riahi is a third year student at Maastricht University (Netherlands). She is a French citizen of North African descent who is highly interested in postcolonial departures and critical studies. She plans to become a reporter, correspondent abroad, or opinion journalist. She views writing as a means to provide a critical analysis of current events that relate to colonial legacies. She can be found on https://www.linkedin.com/home


common    wealth

common    weal                                                          


common    steal


imperial empress

impress lands where

sun never sets 

flagrant em   pyre

colonial protectorates


smoke    sugar    cloth

bodies broken



de    parting

outward    bound

de    ported

de    parted



dis    possession

over    seers



Latinate (no accident that)

dominant language


cast    out

outer    caste

out    lying


em    pyre

far    flung

flung     far


fare    well


cast    away

outer    cast



common    wealth


common    steal


common    heal         


Lynnda Wardle was born in Johannesburg and has lived in Glasgow since 1998. Her own experiences of family, adoption, and immigration are the material she draws on when telling stories about identity and belonging. Her work has appeared in various publications including Glasgow Review of Books, Gutter, New Writing Scotland, thi wurd, New Orleans Review, PENning Magazine, and the Tales From a Cancelled Country Anthology. She is currently completing an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow and working on a novel about Scottish emigration to Africa in the 1800’s. She can be found at https://twitter.com/lynndawardle5https://www.lynndawardle.com/

Nothing could be,

more off key,

than the lack of sympathy

we receive in this symphony.

But, you mustn’t miss a beat

because, although you may be

on the horns of a dilemma,

you have been instrumental

in this rhapsody.

I don’t mean to string you along,

but please note: Compose yourself.

Conduct yourself with vigilance;

play your own instrument;

and toot your own horn,

before the coda’s come

and gone.

Jack Conway’s poems have appeared in Poetry, The Antioch Review, The Hiram Poetry Review, The Columbia Review, “The Norton Book of Light Verse,” and other poetry journals and anthologies. His book, “Outside Providence: Selected Poems,” was published in 2016. He is also the author of seventeen nonfiction books and teaches English at a community college in Massachusetts.

Jazz was discovered by Black musicians,

but it was invented by light passing through outer space.

Look up at the sky, notice the moon during daytime,

like a scoop of vanilla lopped onto an invisible cone;

know that you are seeing not the moon of now,

but of 1.3 seconds ago. See through the night sky

and see the past, different pasts,

all shooting through the Universe’s cold blackness

like racing hands reaching to the human iris.

A billion light years here and there, a solo from Sirius.

Most people don’t know that when John Coltrane

wrote “A Love Supreme,” all he had to do was stargaze.

Matt Moment (he/they) is a writer and performer based in New York. He will be graduating from SUNY New Paltz this spring. Find him at https://www.instagram.com/matt_moment/

A Biko manifesto for the ages:

Black man you are on your own

In your own unmarked unknown grave

In your own land you do not own

With your own hands you own but lend to owners

With a job only to own bread

With the yield of your hand being owned

Forbid them to own your Black mind too

Black Token

Black man you died on your own

Only the Black skeleton is left

Your skin:




Dog bite-dug,



By slavery, coloniality, Apartheid, and continued oppression

Your skin skinned by old and new cacophonies of violence

Your skeleton — a witness to timeless tragedies befalling your skin

Sunny Africa

Rising in the Eastern Cape,

to awaken Biko’s consciousness

Setting in West Africa’s Ghana,

where Nkrumah settles for African unity

It heats the ripe red soil,

That warmly blankets sleeping souls,

Of Lumumba, Mandela and Nyerere

The Sun is African

Diliza L. Madikiza lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has published his work in various literary journals in South Africa and the UK. He has worked in the media and communications professions and, more recently, has been a lecturer at the University of South Africa in Communication Studies.

Black was a color of a nation

It was unity against separation

It was us when we understood struggle.

Black was deemed evil and unfit to associate with.

It was duct-tape on the mouths of those with an opinion.

It wasn’t freedom to roam and wander about.

It was a trap in the smallest of places like animals.

Now, black is a color not a nation

Black has lost what made them Black.

Black shuns not in the respect of one another

It forgot the struggles of the previous generations.

It isn’t unity anymore, everyone for yourself.

Safe to say, once we were Black.

My March for Africa

People here are scared and they should be

Presidents hold high to their titles

Africans leading Africa back to its roots

The roots that were weeded out before

From the soil, ripped out from around

They wish to remind them of exploitation

Once again, the people with loans and phones

Emerged since they with-held their earnings

Drew taxes and chewed them thin with whim

Thought they were smart and corrupt like no other

Doing nothing for a 30-year developing country

How much more time do they need

Move from suffering and jobless futures

Evictions for urban, hunger for rural

Where do they face and on whose shoulders

The people here are scared and they should be

Government holds peace in their hands

gripped tight without light in a fist

Spoon feed a little to those who threaten

Their secrets that hurt mother nature herself

The people who march and shout in anger

Do little to scratch the itch forever

The same leaders impeached re-emerge

in a new face who brings water to the thirsty

Who makes believe he understands their pain

Gets up on the title and does it all over again

All Africans who lead are greedy and misleading,

not for good-will, like all others he leads

My hope for them with mine is forsaken

I march in anger with words on a poster

‘Cause the hopeless are driven to damage themselves

And we are hopeless, imagine the pain we will herd.

Selma Haitembu is a high school teacher in Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia. Her writing was published earlier this year in the online journal Fleas on the Dog. She describes her love for any written genre as hypnotic.

We are women of the wild

Skin like the soil and mountains at night

We drank from the rivers

And feed on the moon

We hold hands with our grandmothers

We talk in traces of holy footsteps

Can you see them

Those wide women

Wide like the earth

Dressed always in white

Ready soldiers of love

They breathe blessed texts

And sing in tones of the soul

You can feel them in your bones

Have you seen them?

They collect in the kitchen

Laughing recipes for survival

While keeping warm the fire

Holding the universe

They cultivate love

In swamps and deserts

She whispers: The forests and friends can both kill or heal you.

                     Walking in the curative realm

Returning to Freedom: Land Back

And Then there are those who are magical and hunted

She who lives on the intersecting edge of oppression

Carving out a reality

Wings unaccustomed to wind

Learning the sky

With ropes pulling at her throat

What’s it like to breathe in a loose noose 

Careful not to lose her footing 

Standing on the borderline of death and liberation

Holding a shot gun with a baby in her belly

Surrounded with bitter poison 

Yet, guided by her grandmother’s song for the moon 

Finding the forest

Deciphers its fragrances

And then back in the city they’ll say. . .

                          This the tea…

                          She resigned to live the old way

                          Living with her family’s land down in Texas


The mission of Rava Chapman is to create and maintain healing spaces. She is invested in the traditions and legacies of Africana Indigenous people.  Her work centers around developing healthy relations with the self, one’s kin and community, natural ecology, and with the Great Spirit. She is a copper-colored, Africana Indigenous woman and both a descendant of the Maroon people and those who were enslaved. She is an Afro Chicana and Pan Africanist.  She was raised in Black Folk culture and the Black Church.