Rudy Francisco

I take my compliments
the same way I take
my coffee.

I don’t drink coffee.

The last time I did,
it seared my entire mouth
and I couldn’t taste
anything for three days.

I’m still learning how to
let endearment sit until
it’s ready to be consumed,

hold it to my lips
and sip slowly.



Audre Lorde

The stars dwindle
and will not reward me
even in triumph.

It is possible
to shoot a man
in self defense
and still notice
how his red blood
decorates the snow.

said simple


Who Said It Was Simple
Audre Lorde

There are so many roots to the tree of anger
that sometimes the branches shatter
before they bear.

Sitting in Nedicks
the women rally before they march
discussing the problematic girls
they hire to make them free.
An almost white counterman passes
a waiting brother to serve them first
and the ladies neither notice nor reject
the slighter pleasures of their slavery.
But I who am bound by my mirror
as well as my bed
see causes in colour
as well as sex

and sit here wondering
which me will survive
all these liberations.

Photo by Y Heng on Unsplash

be mad


Why Some People Be Mad at Me Sometimes
Lucille Clifton

they ask me to remember
but they want me to remember
their memories
and i keep on remembering
Photo by Fredy Jacob on Unsplash

ugly mouth


Invisible Dreams
Toi Derricotte

La poesie vit d’insomnie perpetuelle
—René Char

There’s a sickness in me. During
the night I wake up & it’s brought
a stain into my mouth, as if
an ocean has risen & left back
a stink on the rocks of my teeth.
I stink. My mouth is ugly, human
stink. A color like rust
is in me. I can’t get rid of it.
It rises after I
brush my teeth, a taste
like iron. In the
night, left like a dream,
a caustic light
washing over the insides of me.
What to do with my arms? They
coil out of my body
like snakes.
They branch & spit.
I want to shake myself
until they fall like withered
roots; until
they bend the right way—
until I fit in them,
or they in me.
I have to lay them down as
carefully as an old wedding dress,
I have to fold them
like the arms of someone dead.
The house is quiet; all
night I struggle. All
because of my arms,
which have no peace!
I’m a martyr, a girl who’s been dead
two thousand years. I turn
on my left side, like one comfortable
after a long, hard death.
The angels look down
tenderly. “She’s sleeping,” they say
& pass me by. But
all night, I am passing
in & out of my body
on my naked feet.
I’m awake when I’m sleeping & I’m
sleeping when I’m awake, & no one
knows, not even me, for my eyes
are closed to myself.
I think I am thinking I see
a man beside me, & he thinks
in his sleep that I’m awake
writing. I hear a pen scratch
a paper. There is some idea
I think is clever: I want to
capture myself in a book.
I have to make a
place for my body in
my body. I’m like a
dog pawing a blanket
on the floor. I have to
turn & twist myself
like a rag until I
can smell myself in myself.
I’m sweating; the water is
pouring out of me
like silver. I put my head
in the crook of my arm
like a brilliant moon.
The bones of my left foot
are too heavy on the bones
of my right. They
lie still for a little while,
sleeping, but soon they
bruise each other like
angry twins. Then
the bones of my right foot
command the bones of my left
to climb down.
Photo by K8 on Unsplash

the black body


Magical Negro #84: The Black Body
Morgan Parker

Give it a new verb.
Stop writing poetry.
Go outside. Make blood.
The body is a person.
The body is a person.
The body is a person.
The body is a person.
The body is a person.

Photo by David Jorre on Unsplash


second language


Second Language
Jericho Brown

You come with a little
Black string tied
Around your tongue,
Knotted to remind
Where you came from
And why you left
Behind photographs
Of people whose
Names need no
Pronouncing.  How
Do you say God
Now that the night
Rises sooner?  How
Dare you wake to work
Before any alarm?
I am the man asking,
The great grandson
Made so by the dead
Tenant farmers promised
A plot of land to hew.
They thought they could
Own the dirt they were
Bound to.  In that part
Of the country, a knot
Is something you
Get after getting knocked
Down, and story means
Lie.  In your part
Of the country, class
Means school, this room
Where we practice
Words like rope in our
Hope to undo your
Tongue, so you can tell
A lie or break a promise
Or grow like a story.

Photo by Tim Boote on Unsplash


the mother


The Mother
Gwendolyn Brooks

Abortions will not let you forget.
You remember the children you got that you did not get,
The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,
The singers and workers that never handled the air.
You will never neglect or beat
Them, or silence or buy with a sweet.
You will never wind up the sucking-thumb
Or scuttle off ghosts that come.
You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,
Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye.
I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed children.
I have contracted. I have eased
My dim dears at the breasts they could never suck.
I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized
Your luck
And your lives from your unfinished reach,
If I stole your births and your names,
Your straight baby tears and your games,
Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages, aches, and your deaths,
If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,
Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.
Though why should I whine,
Whine that the crime was other than mine?—
Since anyhow you are dead.
Or rather, or instead,
You were never made.
But that too, I am afraid,
Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?
You were born, you had body, you died.
It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried.
Believe me, I loved you all.
Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you

foxtrot or a waltz


American Smooth
Rita Dove
We were dancing—it must have
been a foxtrot or a waltz,
something romantic but
requiring restraint,
rise and fall, precise
execution as we moved
into the next song without
stopping, two chests heaving
above a seven-league
stride—such perfect agony,
one learns to smile through,
ecstatic mimicry
being the sine qua non
of American Smooth.
And because I was distracted
by the effort of
keeping my frame
(the leftward lean, head turned
just enough to gaze out
past your ear and always
smiling, smiling),
I didn’t notice
how still you’d become until
we had done it
(for two measures?
four?)—achieved flight,
that swift and serene
before the earth
remembered who we were
and brought us down.

Photo by Kai Dahms on Unsplash

chagall’s village


In Chagall’s Village
Rose Ausländer

Screen Shot 2019-12-20 at 22.19.01


Im Chagall-Dorf

Schiefe Giebel
hängen am

Der Brunnen schlummert
beleuchtet von

Die Bäuerin
melkt die Ziege
im Traumstall.

der Kirschbaum am Dach
wo der bärtige Greis

Die Braut
schaut ins Blumenaug
schwebt auf dem Schleier
über der Nachtsteppe.

Im Chagall-Dorf
weidet die Kuh
auf der Mondwiese
goldne Wölfe
beschützen die Lämmer.