Cracker broke silence with somber insensitivity
as segregation sat on the table of his tongue,
serving slurs that bred bigotry by the slice
Cracker cut Nigga like knife,
spoon fed him spite and spilled
division into Nigga’s nooks and crannies,
cramming prejudice into pigment until
poverty blossomed from Blackie’s belly
Cracker belted, “How you Coons move so fluid if your flesh is full of big bones?”
Negro grew offended and found offense at its height,
covered by dingy white hoods and hand-me-down hatred
kept sacred – kept secret – kept killin’
Nigga with cross examination and burnin’ inquisition
Nigga got’ta squintin’ . . .
started pinchin’ penny-sized tears from wishin’ wells
made of murky, Mississippi water, which
washed shame against the banks of colored cheeks
Cracker capsized Nigga’s confidence with tides of backhanded compliments,
cementing resentment into Tar Baby’s black heart and hung
turquoise tears from the wide bridge of Nigga’s nose
Jigaboo grew bitter from Cracker’s insults and sulked
in sorrow for centuries at a time
awaiting for the revolution to be televised, but
there’s no one channel for change or a cable to escape
the fear found in the self-righteous wiring of Whitey’s remote control
Cracker exclaimed, “How come your kind just can’t get right?”
as if efforts to emerge from the dirt of blood-soaked soil weren’t sapped
by systematic rags of racism
Nigga said, “You must be kidding; what about the 13th amendment?”
as dialect dribbled from his cotton like lips oiled with oppression
as Nigga pressed to prove his point, but
Cracker couldn’t quite comprehend how Niggas came from kings
crowned with kinks to protect their peace of mind
Cracker couldn’t quite see how his blue eyes
resembled the waves that washed black genes in the Atlantic
on ships full of hot flesh shackled and mismanaged
for monetary gain and residual damage,
which damn our DNA with unforeseen phobias,
wherefore floods of Niggas are afraid to sink
or swim in the deep end being that our skin has been withered
by the white waters that rafted the coast of our continent
with wicked tides of timeless distress.
Ode To Obesity
We conducted colorful conversation
over countless cups of coffee with cream
and stirred our speech with the sweetest affirmation ever
As our obsession leavened,
leaving me to crave the crumbs
wedged in the crevice of your maple brown mouth
We baked until our bodies were encrusted with a custom glaze
made of cold sweat and cups of kisses
kept in cupboards crafted to preserve our attraction
since romance is seldom served fresh
We prompted “good morning” greetings grounded in
corned beef hash and handed fat from fork to face,
sporadically spooning good gossip by the gallon
just to wash our raisin waffles down
She poured a rich porridge from a pink pot she’s possessed since her youth,
providing me the privilege to sup until my tongue spewed
alphabet soup and consonants concocted with confidence to erect
her self-esteem, which stemmed from neglect
Nevertheless – I toiled until tilling made my tongue to tap,
but peach pastures have a knack for bringing farmers back
to share crops where feminine crevices crease
Impressionism’s faceless women
How long did the women stand there
to be painted rubbing each
knuckle like a worry bead
I would never have painted your breasts
as none are.
To trace the creases of paper with ink is to ruin them in honor
let me ruin you in honor
tracing tongue over each line living has created.
The End of an Old Boat
At 30, my father drove a Cadillac in all weather.
Seeds spat down onto the wax job of its black hood,
black being his preferred color in cars. And he owned
two Cadillacs, which he forfeited divorcing my mother
and selling Roy’s Shell, his gas station, though she saw
not one Lincoln-headed cent. For a man then, in 1962,
the good thing about going broke, if there was one,
was that you had time to take your son for a walk.
And he took me on that walk. By a river in Dayton.
He said, Five rivers converge here. And named one
by a botanical gardens of flowers gemmy with rain—
said, the Great Miami River. And then looked off.
Someone said every boat, new or old, is looking for
a place to sink. He said something similar, my father,
no fan of boats. Maybe he thought the boat we saw
that day was as useless as the oars to row the rot.
My parents were poor kids from eastern Kentucky.
Like any refugee, they had problems. Divorced.
Later, she went to work. In a factory. It was all
she could do. Working like that. But she did it
and survived. Meaning her face shown brighter
than anyone else standing over the shiny hood
of the next car he kept so spotless you could
see yourself in every black inch of it.
My Father Sick, resting with a Rag Covering his Face
when I opened his bed-
room door, staring,
for a second.
He never noticed,
or woke, if sleeping
he was. With a quick
glance I caught his
chest rise, little breaths
muffled under a damp
cloth. Creeping back-
ward, sure not to wake
or bother him, toward
the car where Kate
waited for me.
He’s been dead four
in the room this other
moment took place,
on another July day.
I closed his eyes,
unplugged the oxygen
machine. Helped carry
Back then I thought
I knew what work
was. Four years
in the sawmill.
Loading trucks. Moving
furniture with Darryl
in Toledo. I still have
no idea. Can’t really
fathom what it’s like
to live 40-50 years,
returning to the same job
at General Motors,
standing there, waiting.
Driving back to Warren
on that day four years
ago in July, watching
for what seemed like
forever, my father,
life. The room
was a furnace.
I closed my eyes
during the ride back
to Warren, stuck my
arm out of the window
to feel all of the breeze
and heat envelope my
still vibrating fingers.
I don’t want to watch
this movie anymore
because the ending
always shadows over
a body laying in the
street with scuff marks
and crushed gravel in
the inner lining, mixing
unclogged blood into
the unfiltered camera
phones being coerced
by willingly unwilling
participants. In this film,
I cannot pick my own
ending and the viewing
is always free. There is
no summary of the future
where metal bars press
against the now captive
killer’s cheek. There is no
peace. No amen at the end
of crackles against the air.
There is no ending because
the movie loops over itself
with a cast of new characters
singing the same song, the
same whistle, the same pop
goes the black man, pop goes
the black woman, pop goes
the children, no future invested
in being black. I want a new
movie, but this one has been
stitched to me, and the only
way to finish it is to play
let me cradle you between the
fine hairs of the moonlight and
grant you a diluted rememory
of momma eager to titty baby
take off the bed you have made
pressed against your skin, metal
against flesh as a soldier in a war
you haven’t yet learned to spell
you are winning, baby, a losing
war. and the breath pressed on
your neck that should have been
papa, is instead the lead poisoning
deep inside you
let me laugh with you on imagination
tv where you are boy and I am
smiling teeth ready to teach you
war in child’s play and show
you the innocence of life
Fanm Nwa Weeps No More
There was a time when children
where sent to do woman’s work.
Tiny fingers pulling metal triggers.
At war with the poison berry
dripping from black and white wounds.
They leave the tears for us women.
Pack us into square boxes and tell
us to titty baby and lie in worry.
Life is tipped off balance and we
are its precious cargo reminded
that we are worth more because we
are worth less when it comes to fixing.
Cradle do we in bits of darkness
reveling at the chance to swallow
us like floods filling spaces cracked
earth left behind.
I have diamonds at the meeting
of my throat, and when I cough,
they will disseminate at the wake
of my footsteps.
Up Past Recommended Bedtime Because Sleeping Feels Like Giving Death My Passport
i used to be real fucked up in the head staring at the dancing wall all night wondering if today
would be rest day or if yesterday was really a figment of my past they said you fell and if
understand falling correctly you should have gotten up would have gotten up if you weren’t
lamenting your rest day yesterday you fell and statistically speaking you had the possibility of
getting up but were too busy resting on yesterday when walls found me staring at its dancing and
i took another taste of the purple juice keeping me from falling asleep you fell love and they said
that you were thirsty said that you were not moving fast enough would not have fallen if you too
had to release and because you stood for everything you fell for nothing and if i read the report
right you should have never been alone would have never been alone if the people you were with
honored the buddy system made sure you were always accounted for so i count the amount of
times ive seen that same commercial the same woman talking the same woman inviting me to
call a hotline i dont care for but i cared for you and didnt call to say goodbye should have called
to say goodbye would have told you to stick to the buddy system people die abroad all the time
and you the sweetest things ive ever known cannot should not would not have ended life alone
and thirsty if i had just paid attention enough to say goodbye
You never put no stake in astrology-
never gave no mind to Mercury
in retrograde, or Mars in remission,
or what have you-
but when you come out the door
to the sight of your buttonbushes
swaddled in spiderwebs,
you take that as an omen.
When the August heat sets in
the spiders will waterfall
through every crack and cranny,
set up shop in the eaves,
litter the linoleum
from the cat having caught them,
eaten half the legs, and lost interest.
At night you will listen
to the spider-sentries
patrolling this new territory
and think of that old Tlingit story,
the boy who cried so long
the family fed him crowberries
just to shut him up.
But when morning came
all that was left was a hollowed out husk,
and those hadn’t been crowberries
the wailing mother falling to her knees
as spiders pour
from her child’s every orifice,
the planets aligning to eclipse her world.
My Mother on the Back of a Whale
“Baby, do your thing.”
My mother has always wanted to see the backs
of whales break the ocean, to watch their
flukes the size of a few humans submerge
like nothing happened.
This is how I think of her most. Not all those years
we spent landlocked in low-income housing.
Not all those boxes I unpacked when she
wasn’t looking—old track medals; she was
very good with her feet on the ground
she quieted her feet only to say
“Baby, do your thing.”
And I left her behind when we both
couldn’t go and see things
she’s only read about.
I drank silt-bottom coffee at alley tables
somewhere near a fountain in Rome,
I dug up corroded drachmas from sand
on an island not far from my father’s birth,
In sleep between days of restaurant work, I
imagine she runs barefoot on the back of a whale,
the slippery landmass breaking water.
“Baby, do your thing.”
I saw a man once, drunk, on the island
who kicked what he thought
was a dead “sting-a-ray” he called it,
kicked it as it lay on the beach
already beginning to rot.
Barefooted, he found its stinger,
took the barb between his toes.
We carried him to land
where a doctor reamed out the wound.
Three days later
off came the blackened great toe
and the tip of another. A week later
half his rotting foot was cut away.
Finally, the spreading
blackness stopped mid-shin.
I’ve seen the man since, still drunk,
still fishing, proud now
of his wooden foot. “Still kicking,”
he says, “only not so high as before.”
Cleveland, Ohio native, Orlando Watson is a graduate of Youngstown State University with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. While attending YSU he was an active member of “Student African-American Brotherhood”, which later led him to found and facilitate “Premier Poets Guild”, which was also on the campus of YSU. Orlando has been fortunate enough to share the stage with world renown acts such as: Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, Jessica Caremoore, Rafael Casal, Geoffrey Golden as well as the multiple Grammy award winning Tye Tribbett. Most recently, Ohio State University’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion awarded Orlando with their highest honor, the Kente cloth, for his uniquely creative contributions to the student body as a reoccurring guest speaker. Amongst the few awarded with the Kente cloth are: Reverend Al Sharpton, Danny Glover, Michael Eric Dyson, Jerry Revish, and Dr. Marc Lamont Hill. In March of 2014 he released a music single entitled “The Weigh” under his former moniker of “7Hykoo” (pronounced: seven haiku). The debut single quickly moved to the top of the independent sales charts appearing as #1 on Jazz, #2 on Urban R&B, #1 on Smooth Soul, and #8 overall on the CD-Baby sales charts within its first 2 weeks. Orlando has taught critical thinking and creative writing workshops to the inner city youth across Ohio and is now diligently preparing to debut his first collection of poems.
Catherine Fisher is entering her last year at Whitman College in rural Walla Walla, WA. Her work has previously been published by the Pacifica Literary Review.
Roy Bentley is the author of Starlight Taxi (Lynx House: 2013), which won the Blue Lynx Poetry Prize. Books include The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine: 2006), winner of the White Pine Press Poetry Prize, Any One Man (Bottom Dog: 1992), and Boy in a Boat (University of Alabama: 1986), which won the University of Alabama Press Poetry Series. Recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the NEA, six Ohio Arts Council fellowships, and a Florida Division of Cultural Affairs fellowship, a manuscript called The Hour Things Start to Move is in search of a publisher.
Charles Kell is a PhD student at The University of Rhode Island and editor of The Ocean State Review. His poetry and fiction have appeared in The New Orleans Review, The Saint Ann’s Review, IthacaLit, and elsewhere. He teaches in Rhode Island and Connecticut.
Daschielle Louis is a poet, writer, & creator & host of The Spill podcast, your weekly fill of the mental, physical, & spiritual happenings of the black queen & whatever else she wants to talk about! Stay connected with Daschielle on her website, daschielle.ink, and subscribe to The Breakthrough Letters, her weekly newsletter filled with new blog posts, the latest episode of The Spill, and your poetic dose of inspiration & motivation.
Frances Klein is a high school English teacher. She was born and raised in Southeast Alaska, and taught in Bolivia and California before settling in Indianapolis with her husband Kris. She has been published in GFT Press, Molotov Cocktail, and the Tipton Poetry Journal among others.
Cat Batsios is from Flint, MI, now lives in Harlem. Her marketable skills include teaching poetry to minors (Inside Out Literary Arts Project, Detroit), deconstruction, and shit-talking. She writes city poems/poems of personal mythology with the hope that someone will see faces rather than statistics when looking at city life.
Richard Weaver lives in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor where he is an unofficial snowflake counter. He also volunteers with the Maryland Book Bank. These poems are part of a larger group of poems centered on the life and art of Walter Anderson, a Mississippi Gulf Coast artist who died in 1965. 20 of the MS poems were produced as a limited edition hand-made book, The Stars Undone, with previously unpublished pen and ink illustrations from the Anderson Estate. 4 other poems later became the libretto for a symphony, Of Sea and Stars, composed by Eric Ewazen of the Juilliard School of Music. Poems from this MS have recently appeared in the Southern Quarterly, Stonecoast Review, Gloom Cupboard, Steel Toe, and The Little Patuxent Review. Others are scheduled for Allegro. Other publications include conjunctions, Loch Raven Review, North American Review, crazyhorse, 2River View, Pembroke, New England Review, and the ubiquitous Elsewhere.