Using my yellow tail

I yellow-swam

From the Yellow River

As a yeast of the yellow peril

Against the yellow alert

In yellow journalism


With a yellow hammer

And a yellow sheet

I yielded to the yellow metal

At a yellow spot

¼ million yards away from Yellowknife


People call me yellow jack

Some hailed me as a yellow dog

When I yelped on my yellow legs

To flee from the yellow flu


Speaking Yerkish[1] like a yellow warbler

I have composed many yellow pages

For a yeasty yellow book

To be published by the yellow press


Don’t panic, I yell low.


[1] An artificial language developed for experimental communication between humans and chimpanzees.


Immigration


To escape from the tyrannical logic
Of your mother tongue
You wandered, wandering
Through earth’s length and breadth
Subjecting your old self to another syntax
A whole set of grammatical rules
Strangely new to your lips and tips
To expand the map of your mind
Far beyond your home and haven
Yet in the meantime it becomes colonized
By all the puzzling paradoxes
Of this chosen language, for example: 
Quicksand can be very slow
Boxing rings are in fact square
And a guinea pig is neither a pig
Nor is it from Guinea


Migrating


The cold night is like the tide
Surging from beyond the horizon
You are tired of flying
While the twigs at the bank are full of thorns

O Bird, where are you going to perch?
Can you keep flying until day breaks?


Yuan Changming grew up in an isolated village, started to learn the English alphabet at age nineteen and published monographs on translation before moving to Canada. Working part time as a produce clerk, Yuan currently edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Yuan in Vancouver. Credits include eleven Pushcart nominations, ten chapbooks and appearances in Best of the Best Canadian Poetry (2008-17), and Best New Poems Online, among 1,839 others across 46 countries. In early 2021, Yuan served on the judging panel for Canada’s 44th National Magazine Awards in the poetry category.

This is the drum that talks to its own beat

               that started in a royal compound,

               then moved underneath to the hold

               of a ship used to exercise captives

               as if they were horses and cars.


This is the drum that belonged to the son

             of an African trader who travelled

             with slaves to get an education on

             the backs of his brothers and sisters,

             sold out at all costs.


This is the drum, hear the fontomfrom

             at the palm wine chop bar accompany-

             ing gossip and stories, holding them

             together in a social glue as thick and

             consistent as kenkey and stew.


This is the drum that was overcome by grief,

                     whose leaders colluded and left

                     our interior intruded.


This is the drum that tells its own story in bi-

                    tonal, tri-tonal scales and beats

                    that will reincarnate and never

                    surrender, never defeated.


This is the drum on the plantation that spoke

                   to Old Country and united the hands

                   from many tribally scarred lands.


This is the drum that recovered myriad times,

                made of Cordia africana, stretched

                over space, time and land, repaired

                in Amerindian antelope and

                deer skin, to begin again, uniting

                the Akan, Virginian, Taino and Carib.


This is the drum of three orchestral movements,

                    three continents shifting, telling

                    its story, all chained, enslaved in

                    different ways.


This is the drum made of wood, skin and fibre

                    that survived inhuman disaster.


This is the drum housed in Room 26, between

                    and betwixt a triangle of transatlantic

                    slavery, its watery graves and no gates

                    of return, blood trickled lands, snapping

                    fingers, picking cotton, sugar and tobacco

                    adjusting New World rhythms.


This is the drum, in glass coffin in exhibition that

                    started the very first British Museum

                    collection.


This is the drum Reverend Clarke passed on to Hans

                    Sloane with his penchant for manacles

                    and shackles, grim black iron artifacts

                    forming the chains of human enslavement.


This is the drum, part of a royal fontomfrom full

                   ensemble, where every kyɛne has a name,

                   role to speak and play in its own tempo

                   mood, rhythm and signature of space and

                   time: atumpan, odondo, kwadum, adowa,

                   abofoe, kpanlogo, djembe, gomo; ntorwa,

                   apentemma and pɛtia part of the kete.


This is the drum, housed in the royal palace,

                           where the okyerema tongue talks

                           directly to the chief of every village,

                           played with open palms or sticks.


This is the drum they thought was Native

                                American Indian until Sloane

                                travelled to Jamaica in search

                                of more bounty, then he saw

                                it played by African slaves.


This is the drum, its true identity submerged

                   under transatlantic seaboard

                   floors like Atlantis, an amphibian

                   landing, surviving and circulating,

                   even as traders sought to reduce

                  their makers and users to chattel.


This is the drum that Kew Garden experts

                    sampled and found its wood

                    was grown in Africa, originally

                    made for a musician in the Chief

                     orchestrating, dances of slaves


This is the drum of middle passages, locked in

                    the holds and grasps of the sarcophagi

                    of slave ships, greased and palmed off

                    in embalmer’s oil and put on the plinths of

                    Machiavellian Merchants of Venice.


This is the drum regarded as dangerous, inspiring

                   identity; genetic memory connected

                   by the umbilical chords of fibre attached

                   to its stretched skin across continents;

                   a communal rebellion among New World


This is the drum of hybrid tribal nations, healing

                   their scars, strumming guitars with fife,

                   drum and banjo, allowed to make work

                   music, later confiscated for fear of

                   incitement to revolt.

.

This is the drum of pre-colonial history of the Akan

                    nation, butchered, scrambled and carved

                    down, across and up by Europeans: Dutch,

                    Portuguese, Dane and British, establishing

                    their profitable trade of grain, gold and slaves,

                    traded between Ewe, Ashanti and Fanti

                    for guns under the golden coast sun and

                    salty Atlantic Ocean tears.


This is the drum that sailed on a ship that was a gift

                   from a nautical captain or crew with a cipher

                   of scruples, accompanied by sons of Asante

                   chiefs, part of their education of exploration.


This is the drum, indigenous ingenious heir to the throne,

                    home of the Golden Stool of Ghanaian music

                    our ancestors played and made at the palm

                    wine joint, drumming ɛnsaagyaesenwom,

                    palm wine music, where we reflect and pause

                    for thought on work life balancing acts.


This is the drum, we put our palms on to drum ancient

                    beats of fontomfrom comfort, singing and

                    lamenting, a tradition expanding then on to

                    the Chief’s palace to entertain royals, also

                    in sadness, announcing in funeral procession.


This is the drum that travelled the Middle Passage in six

                   months, in horrendous conditioning, next to

                   men below deck, chained in pairs, occasionally

                   let up to breathe, exercised, danced as captives,


This is the drum used to keep fit their investment from

                   sickness and suicide, as our brothers and sisters

                   tried to jump ships, kept running like horses

                   and cars, erased of identity, shackled together,

                   densely packed sardines in a black lacquered can.


This is the drum, the oldest surviving African object status

                    made by the Akan, played in religious ceremonies

                    and social occasions, travelling on a ship with call

                    and response musical legacy.


This is the drum that witnessed a twelve million Maangamizi,

                   labour for mines and plantations of sugar, tobacco,

                   and cotton among others, resisted in the chorus of

                   shouts, hollars and work songs, fife, drum and spirituals

                   evolved into jazz, rock and roll, hip hop and soul.


This is the drum that witnessed European first arrival, internal

                   warfare and displacement, settled empires of enormity

                   that had broken down, viewing war captives, internal

                   systems of slavery, the hands of domestic slaves toiling

                   on farmland.


This is the drum stolen for the massa’s entertainment, cruelly

                   twisting the legacy of African dance drum culture.


This is the drum that watched female slaves vulnerable, kept

                   on the main deck of the ship, raped and whipped,

                    preyed on by parasites of sexual predation, forced

                    to dance in twisted foreplay.


This is the drum that can’t sleep at night with the memory

                   of those that refused to participate punished

                   severely, tortured and killed, for refusing to

                   dance.


This is the drum that saw brave refusals to dance, girls

             declining slavers power and pleasure by rebelling,

             tearing up a racial script of subordination that the

             ‘bosses’ could never destroy or control.


This is the drum, the hollow goblet, full of life and stories,

             a wooden barrelled body, pegs attached, skinhead

             stretched by cord made of two vegetable fibres,

             coated by glue and ochre, decorated in vertical

             lines below its circumference equator.


             Hear the many beats of survival

             This is the drum of rebellion

             This is the drum of fontomfrom

             This is the drum of tradition

             This is the drum of lineage

             This is the drum of genetic memory

             This is the drum of endless reinvention

             This is the drum of Diaspora in chorus

             This is the drum of the palm joint and royal palace

             This is the drum of a triangular hybrid nation

             This is the drum of varied tempo and time signatures

             This is the drum of history, mine and yours

             This is the drum of the Maroons and Nyabinghi possession

             This is the drum of past, present and future

             This is the drum that caused trouble and confusion

             This is the drum of Old and New Worlds

             This is the drum that weaves like Anansi

             across the Atlantic in its tensile strength

             This is the drum of survival

             This is the Akan Drum.


Andrew Geoffrey Kwabena Moss is a writer and teacher who has lived in the UK, Japan, and currently, Australia. Of Anglo-Ghanaian heritage, his work seeks to explore liminal landscapes, complex identities, and social constructs of race. Andrew has previously been published by Afropean, People in Harmony, Fly on the Wall Press, Fair Acre Press, Poor Yorick Literary Journal, The Good Life Review, Scissortail Press, dyst Literary Journal, Sound the Abeng, and Rigorous amongst others. His work will appear in ­The Best New British and Irish Poets Anthology 2019-2021 and his debut collection Childish Recollections with The Black Spring Press Group. He can be found at https://www.agkmoss.com/ and https://twitter.com/agkmoss.

What you left behind follows you like

Shell Afrika migrants; it whispers

In your ear secret of your longings,

Its wishes in your skin warmth of the sun.


It’s in the mirror, your fathers face

Big nosed like elephants of the forest.

You know it like your mothers breast

In fainting memories, you believe it

Like your fathers voice faraway.


It cut across your vein that ‘Black Life

Matters’ you didn’t say it because you know

The future, that you are African

That you are the future.


Across the Mediterranean

I saw mass of apparitions paddling

With their breath on the Mediterranean,

Their oar of hope broken into mystery.

Faceless like shark feed dangling on aquarium.


Their boat like train moves upon rail

Of bones left behind in the benthic.

Mystery coil around them like python

Around its egg in nest like boat.


I hear them above the rising waves

Cursing the land that vomited them,

But my tongue if it be plenty like

Women’s hair cannot tell tales of

Afrika migrants on the Mediterranean.


Willow Warblers

We fly across seas to winter forest

But we shall never forget our nest

Under the Africa sun

Across the pathway many are shot

And their feathers scatter across

Lands of foreigners like songs of

Unknown language. Many are caught in cages

Like volcanoes in paintings.


 We must fly for better life says young birds;

But we remember our nest,

Where we hatched and gaze at green fields

Squawking tales of ancestral plumage

To all migrants the world is home but home

Is where we first grew our feather fore flight.


Owolusi Lucky is a Nigerian poet. His poems have been published by University of North Carolina press, Noctivagant Press, and America Diversity Report. He uses poetry to appreciate the beauty, history, culture and struggle of Africa. When he is not writing, he delights in  philosophy. He can be found at https://africanmighty.art.blog/, https://twitter.com/Mighty_scribe, and https://www.facebook.com/owolusi.

I was born in a city that is badmouthed by outsiders. To an onlooker peering in, I’d say “you are too far removed to see this city’s greatness.” For years I proudly mentioned my ‘roots’ and wore it like a sweater I never want to take off. Because in this city I saw my family’s history, of migrants from a small island that settled here. They brought with them recipes, remedies and a resilient attitude. In the buildings and parks, I see the places where my family lived and survived for decades. Through the other migrant enclaves, I was blessed to never feel too different… until I left. Returning years later offered me prescriptive distant lenses. I saw a different place. Where white people ran in yoga pants and walked their dogs in neighborhoods previously demarcated dangerous. I saw erected concrete and steel adorn a modicum of the city, which welcomed tourists and closed local businesses. Never would I imagine Newark to be a tourist destination or a dwelling for New Yorkers to squat at for cheaper rents. Until they found their next trendy city. This process displaced so many communities. In their gentrified beauty, I peek through and scratch beneath the polished façade. It’s all a perfectly painted picture for few to watch in amusement while we’re the ones who maintain its polish… we are the No-rkers.


Keishla Rivera-Lopez is a poet, writer and scholar. She received a PhD in American Studies from the Graduate School-Newark at Rutgers University where she was a 2019-2020 Dean’s Dissertation Fellow. She was born and raised in Newark, NJ to Puerto Rican migrants and reflects on what it means to be a child of diaspora in her scholarship and writing. Currently, Dr. Rivera-Lopez is an Assistant Professor of English and Latinx Literatures and Cultures at Millersville University. Keishla enjoys writing poetry, short-stories, and essays from her travel and everyday experiences as a Puerto Rican woman. She also enjoys experimenting with different sazones and sofritos, hiking, dancing and traveling. She can be found at https://twitter.com/Ohh_Kei

I would return almost three decades later

to a corner supermarket – my mother’s room.

A Telkom telephone booth

hangs outside the walls that contained her childhood.

The glass that connected my mother’s eyes to the world

was broken.

The last place she slept in before she was married

stored rats and rice.

The roof of my grandfather’s home was sewn in rust and

red paint.


And still the corners of my eyes clasped these parched walls

with the memory of my mother’s eyes.


Dear Kliptown

A lament to the multiracial South African township that disintegrated with democracy.


I was told of a time in the 1980’s

before the shades of difference

had tinted my mother’s lens.  

There are a few accounts of living

that decorate her eyes.

This colour seemed to be

the happiest of her life.

The shiny, brass taps. 

Morning greetings flowed around communal grooming.

No fence guarded the contents of your neighbour’s heart.

Because you didn’t need to guess what they held; you

were in their homes at least three times a day.

Once, your uncle found me eating chicken feet

in our neighbour’s house.


Hopscotch patterns directed adult footprints.

Freedom focused adult feet.


My mother understood how seamless joy felt

before the call to privilege was announced.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Masoodah Mohamed is a South African woman, lover of literature, and survivor of tragedy who weaves her emotions into metaphors and euphemisms. She is a speech therapist and audiologist who graduated from the University of Witwatersrand. She is currently pursuing an honours in psychology. She believes poetry can be used as a therapeutic tool and  uses her work to advocate for social justice and against gender-based violence. Her work has been published in Kalahari Review, Odd Magazine, and Second Skin Magazine. It has been featured in Yesterdays and Imagining Realities: An Anthology of South African Poetry. She can be found at https://www.facebook.com/masoodah.mohamed, and https://www.instagram.com/masoodahmohamed/.

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/.