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Literary Arts Journal
of Northeastern Illinois University
Let’s talk legacy. When Zora Neale Hurston penned her literary works, she couldn’t have fathomed the impact that her presence would have on literary and visual artists today. Surely, like many artists, she just wanted to create. I was a 20-year-old mother before I discovered Zora Neale Hurston for myself. One night, a friend of mine called me, announced that she’d discovered a gem of a book, and that every time she read it, my name kept coming to the forefront of her mind. So, that same night, I bought wine, and my friend, while reading aloud Their Eyes Were Watching God, made the story of Janie Crawford come to life. It was then that I fell in love with writing and everything Zora. I immediately ran out to find her, not understanding that she had already found me. Over the years, and through the spirit of Zora’s words, I was able to reclaim my own voice and morph into the writer that I am today. Throughout my life’s journey, amidst moves from one apartment to the next, I always made sure that Zora’s books were packed separately and given an exalted place among my library collection. Whenever I would feel my resolve to become a writer begin to wane, I would return to Zora and her south and hold steadfast to my voice. To turn south, to me, means to reclaim, redefine, and reassert our inheritance as artists and thinkers. This is the legacy that Zora leaves behind: that it is indeed okay to turn your eye to what is most obscure to you. To see what is not so easily seen or to strive for what is least easy to gain. Zora wrote through an era of depression and in spite of her critics. Zora refused to be silenced. She was unapologetically black, southern, and woman. Zora was brazen in her assertion of self, in her art as well as in her life. Therefore, I want to dedicate this journal to Zora Neale Hurston, to a life well-lived and a legacy not soon forgotten. I am the daughter of Zora, though not through blood ancestry, and I know that somewhere beyond the clouds she has always watched me jump at the sun.
Lakeesha J. Harris President/Editor-In-Chief
Executive Board: Lakeesha J. Harris – President / Editor In Chief Rachel Deahl – Vice President / Fiction Editor Patricia Dalinis – Secretary / Editor Linda Monacelli – Treasurer / Editor Editors: Alison Greer – Visual Art Jacob Grossman – Poetry Urszula Wudarczyk – Plays Production and Layout Team: Janean L. Watkins – Layout/Design/Production Manager Tracey Washington – Production Editor Damita Cravens – Production Editor
Front Cover Art: My Mother’s Garden By Michelle Renee Perkins Back Cover Logo Design: Rachel Dennis
Faculty Advisors: Dr. Ryan Poll Dr. Emily Garcia
Table of Contents
(Poem) Janean L. Watkins `````````````````````````````````````````````````````
6 Where Am I Now?
(Poem) Life Lessons From Aunt Jo 19 Joanna Zuno ````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Visual Art) I Am Art, But My Life is Music 20 Cordarice Thomas ````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Short Story) Sore Thumb 21-24 Daniel Woody ````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Visual Art) Singing Praises Michelle Renee Perkins
6 7 8 9 9
Distressed (Visual Art) Rebby Montalvo ````````````````````````````````````````````````````` I Am A Writer (Poem) Natasha A. Sloan ````````````````````````````````````````````````````` Purple Reflections... (Poem) Elbert Tavon Briggs ````````````````````````````````````````````````````` Survivor (Poem) Linda Monacelli ````````````````````````````````````````````````````` Animalistic Embrace (Visual Art) Caitlin Driscoll `````````````````````````````````````````````````````
````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Poem) Semi-Charmed Kind of Life 26-27 Sheree Greer ````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Visual Art) Vida en Azule 26-27 Janean L. Watkins ````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Visual Art) Mullen-James Mine Derrick 28 Joe Davis ````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Poem) Whisper From Trees 29 Elbert Tavon Briggs ````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Poem) Northern Queen 30 Emily N. Haddad ````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Visual Art) Untitled 31 Cordarice Thomas ````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Essay) Down There and Where Here Might Be 32-33 Sophia Jane Mihic ````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Poem) Crow’s Wings 34-35 Kelly Norman-Ellis `````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Poem) Untitled 34 Cordarice Thomas `````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Poem) Encaged 36 Sumaiya Maniya `````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Visual Art) Heat 37 Kasia B. Garzel `````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Creative Non-Fiction) Oppressed? Who, Me? 38-39 Huda F. Biabani ``````````````````````````````````````````````````
Hunting On The Bayou (Poem) Rachel L. Deahl ````````````````````````````````````````````````````` My Beautifully Ripe (Poem) Kenton Field `````````````````````````````````````````````````````
10-11 12 12 13 13
My World (Visual Art) Janean L. Watkins ````````````````````````````````````````````````````` The Tell (Poem) Zachary Clinkman ````````````````````````````````````````````````````` 20 Feet Tall (Visual Art) Cordarice Thomas ````````````````````````````````````````````````````` Generation On Fire (Poem) Sadaf Z. Syed ````````````````````````````````````````````````````` Voices In Green (Visual Art) Michelle Renee Perkins `````````````````````````````````````````````````````
14-15 16-17 18
16 Quatrains for Bayard Rustin (Poem) Ra Perre Shelton ````````````````````````````````````````````````````` Ode to Yemaya (Poem) Felicia Beckett ````````````````````````````````````````````````````` New Ida Benda Mine (Visual Art) Joe Davis `````````````````````````````````````````````````````
Table of Contents
Henna Hand Design (Visual Art) Huda F. Biabani `````````````````````````````````````````````````````
(Poem) I Still Believe 59 Andi Michaels ````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Poem) Our Lycidas 60 Urszula Wudarczyk ````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Poem) From South To South... 61 Elbert Tavon Briggs ````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Poem) Mesmerizing Nostalgia Syed Ahad Hussain
South Bound (Poem) Sameera Mirza ````````````````````````````````````````````````````` My Song (Poem) Urszula Wudarczyk `````````````````````````````````````````````````````
41 Phoenix (Visual Art) 42 43
Patricia Dalinis ````````````````````````````````````````````````````` In Her Memory (Poem) Malcom Murray ````````````````````````````````````````````````````` Baba (Visual Art) Crystal Nelson `````````````````````````````````````````````````````
````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Short Story) When Life Hands You Lemons 64-65 Juan Manuel Gonzalez ````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Visual Art) When War Pursues You 66 Tutus Mobio ````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Poem) Tabloid Shame Walk 67 Shantez M. Tolbut ````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Poem) Mercy Triolet 68 Michael Slas ````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Poem) For Who I Am 69 Candace Boykin ````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Visual Art) The Giving Tree 69 Linda Monacelli ````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Short Story) My Neighbor’s Keeper 70-71 Vladimir Skala ````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Short Story) Reminiscence... 72-73 Mary Clemmensen `````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Poem) The Current 74 Sumaiya Maniya `````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Visual Art) Going Home 75 Janean L. Watkins `````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Poem) So Did We Then Turn South... 76 Winston Rysdahl `````````````````````````````````````````````````` (Poem) South Side of the North Side 77-78 Laura Nieves ``````````````````````````````````````````````````
44 Do You Believe In Soul Mates? 45-48 49 50
(Poem) Julia Davis ````````````````````````````````````````````````````` My Friends In Italian (Short Story) Camille J. Severino ````````````````````````````````````````````````````` Mother Nature (Visual Art) Rebby Montalvo ````````````````````````````````````````````````````` So Low (Visual Art) Crystal Nelson `````````````````````````````````````````````````````
51-54 54 55 55 56
The Bad News... (Creative Non-Fiction) Sarah Paulis ````````````````````````````````````````````````````` Calligraphy (Visual Art) Christopher K. Till ````````````````````````````````````````````````````` Stank (Poem) Regina M. Torres ````````````````````````````````````````````````````` Paranoia (Visual Art) Janean L. Watkins ````````````````````````````````````````````````````` Prime (Visual Art) Christopher K. Till `````````````````````````````````````````````````````
Beneath Our Feet... (Short Story) Jon-Paul Kreatsoulas `````````````````````````````````````````````````````
Where Am I Now?
I'm turning South. I'm wading in my freedom. Growing through exploration, learning and remembering. I'm turning in my knowledge of self. My mind - releasing, healing and filling once more. Life lessons taught and learned, interwoven over time into chambers of light, kalaidescope, like. I'm turning in my promise To love myself, no matter what they might say, I'm free... I remembered? Sankofa, fetching backwards moving forward, recalling memories of ancestors. I'm turning... Turning - in my self-assurance. Turning - in my self-reliance. Turning - in my pride. I'm swirling Bayou deep, submerging myself in thousands of years of what's been going on here. Turning - in phoenix ash, Rising from flames. Turning in women spirits who remain. Turning back to when we were Queens. Rolling in my waves of enlightenment, becoming fulfilled. I am turning, back to my roots; Back to a time that I remember. A time when I surrendered. A time when I got free. Turning, turning, turned.
By Janean L. Watkins
By Rebby Montalvo
I Am a Writer
By Natasha A. Sloan
I am a writer
I am a writer
I am a writer, My ideas, inspiration and motivation all stem from positive things, I am a writer. Alice Walker told me “womanist is to feminist, as purple is to lavender”. I say I am to poetry as the stars are to space, I am a writer. Audre Lorde said “it is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” In my poetry I recognize the way I say things, I accept the way people take what I say, and I celebrate being heard, I am a writer. Gwendolyn Brooks pointed out to me “When you use the term minority or minorities in reference to people you’re telling them that they’re less than somebody else,” I say, even if I am a minority, I have my pride and self-respect, I am a writer. Ida B. Wells added, “The south is brutalized to a degree not realized by its own inhabitants, and the very foundation of government, law and order are in peril.” If things are – at times – indescribable, only you can explain what you see… and that’s okay with me, I am a writer. Maya Angelou shared her knowledge with me; she told me, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” When you listen to my poetry you’re supposed to feel what I’m saying, I am a writer. Toni Morrison helped to explain the idea of writing to me when she said, “Everything I’ve ever done in the writing world has been to expand articulation rather than close it.” That’s exactly what she did, and so do I, I am a writer. Zora Neale Hurston made it clear to me that, “It’s no use of talking unless people understand what you say,” so I try to make sense all the while being a motivated, talented, and inspirational writer. I am a writer, and I hope that I’ve inspired you.
I am a writer
I am a writer
Purple Reflections From Chicago to Mississippi
By Elbert Tavon Briggs
Like Alice’s color, the hues of a battered sunflower are like minded. The petals torn, bruised, and life giving seeds displaced everywhere, but still it stretches out for warmth from the first rays of the morning sun. The southern bound Sister needed to rise above surrogate concrete-caine intoxicated street corner misters. But she kept looking inside for something lost or misplaced. She wore her mahogany skin like shimmering reflections from the morning sun. Her chocolate dimples were treasured like rare Nubian gold. The French perm was losing it’s hold, but frizzled nappy ends still blossomed. She just looked much bolder than the Ebony weaved crown. One could get mesmerized by the sparkle in those brown eyes. And it just seemed that the sun kissed her lips and coated them with the sweetness of North Carolina-style candied yams. On the Southern bound Greyhound we talked for a moment. A faint smile through words as she spoke of negotiating through an uncivil war. She gazed at me as the words danced from sun kissed lips. Talk of fists of fury and inner-despair. I thought, he had no love for him so how could he begin to love her? But she kept calling him listening to an angry voice on the cell phone. Guess she hadn’t heard the new and young wise comedian from pimped out chronicles. “Do you feel me Sisters? Can you feel what I’m saying?” “Don’t give it to mister, because it belongs to you!” But she was a Holiday refugee on a sojourn, riding that gray-diesel-fueled-hound and Lower Delta Bound.
By Linda Monacelli
Pale rose petal face electric lizard eyes plush pomegranate lips smothered with warm Southern blood Gaia was not kind here, Wind and Water Danced Destruction Unsettled Mankind She took his family, he lay down on the debris and the rats gnawed out his heart. Now he clings to quiet alleyways tiny reverberations on cobblestones his own dark footsteps evening inside evening dusk He hears the politicians' laughter comfortable near their fireplaces, corpses are melting everywhere the air is saturated with their stench, glass is shattering children are screaming and crying over their dead mothers, cacophony drowns out the sweet jazz of this Paris of the South. Now he looks on it all with glittering eyes: the foibles of Man, the villainy in the moment, the decay of this Queen City the fat fruit of misery gleams off his moonlit teeth.
By Caitlin Driscoll
Hunting on the Bayou
By Rachel L. Deahl
The bayou is not like the sweet honey found, On the graham cracker snack from my childhood. Hunting on the bayou is not like the Midwest, You can’t stake out a tree, With the metal stand 20 feet in the air. The game here aren’t there to eat the grass, These are alligator’s, which are not like the nest of wild turkeys, Alligator Hunting is not like waiting for the white-tailed deer. These are Marshes, which is not unlike my mind, Stuck in the sludge of contempt where the hunter, Can become the food of the Alligator’s discontent. The gator hunter watches for the yellow eyes, They watch out for their fingers, They watch their back, their legs, their gun, Hoping he doesn’t come across the cow mother, For when a pod of hatchlings are around, The mama will come for you, When you’re hunting on the Bayou.
By Janean L. Watkins
By Kenton Field
A swamp looks like death, But harbors abundant life. Beautifully ripe…
Telling is the tale without itself, but you, unknown, unsung and becoming with the tell. Telling is the speech without speaking and the memory that taste in your chest. They are you and it is sex, and trying to make it. Tell the grass to part, it may, with just breath and words
By Zachary Clinkman
that are only sound. Words Only Just Like As In I think You Know Are static. And the death of us is the end of stories that are only sound. Tell me with sight, with something taste and smell, because it lasts longer and I not talk good.
and they are perfectly honest, though they not talk good. The tell is football and fishing and boxing,
By Cordarice Thomas
20 Feet Tall
Generation on Fire
By Sadaf Z. Syed
I think the fed should be dead But we are still here waiting For this nominal crisis to end. Why is it these old money, new Armani, white whatever-naires Get to control OUR Money as if it is “Rightfully” Theirs? We should pluck them like a butcher does chickens, Cruel and Unusual, forget the Eighth Amendment. Police are too scared to be WITH and FOR us. They end up being brutally onerous. It’s Ironic that those with the guns Are most caught in the line of fire of words and young ones Whose only fire is the burning rage and animosity Towards a government that WAS and IS supposed to be FOR, BY, AND OF The People! Deeply disconcerted and feeling neglected, Our young nation Will lose This and the NEXT Generation.
Voices In Green
By Michelle Renee Perkins
16 Quatrains Bayard Rustin
By Ra Perre Shelton
for Langston—whose canyons were deep enough to swallow the rivers of other Black men, for Zora—who has found the voodoo of her womanhood floating in the feminine spaces between Africa and Alabama—this is 16 Quatrains for Bayard Rustin,
for Baldwin, who found solace in solidarity with Frenchmen—making love to men whose fathers raped his grandmamma. for Sakia Gunn, whose body was too Black and too women to make American headlines—16 Quatrains for Bayard ,
for the boy who jumped off that bridge when he was 16 because he was afraid of Jesus, for Staceyann—when she finally learned to look at the cocoa bread she hid between her thighs—16 Quatrains for Bayard ,
for Hansberry—who kept dreams soaked in the flavor of sisterhood, for CC—who holds a revolution inside her hips when they move and move folks to action—16 Quatrains for Bayard for avery r young—who has taught the West side how to sing the blues, the kind where little Black boys are allowed to kiss, for the boys who play dress-up: careful not to let Saturday night’s mascara spill onto Sunday morning’s choir robe—16 Quatrains for Bayard ,
for Cassandra—when she gave away her lover in exchange for Jehovah’s promise of paradise, for her lover— who grew lonely and sad and decided to see if heaven was a real promise—16 Quatrains for Bayard , for the folks stranded between home and the Belmont Redline: knowing love nowhere, for me: isolated between the feet and fists of Bronzeville screaming faggot go back north, where they call you a nigga—16 Quatrains for Bayard , for the ones who have died Black with secrets, silent, for Bayard Rustin: whose story is too Black, and too gay for American history lessons. I can only imagine the rage you must have felt, to be removed from your own liberation movement because you have loved a man.
from poplar trees, then I am the queer fruit never allowed to swing with you because you don’t swing that way
I have learned since a child to play this game well, the one where I hide and you forget to find me
yet here I am fighting marching beside our King for a people who deny me my place in history.
I thought this was our movement But this was only a one night stand Fucked by my own people Without even a kiss goodbye
so I am lost hiding amongst a million men marching for rights, too civil, too silent to say “where is Bayard Rustin?”
But I have seen myself There in the West-African Past, dressed as a Shoman The interpreter of gods
I thought we wanted freedom I thought we wanted the right to choose. I thought we wanted something different. Well I am as different as it gets.
Who is this man? Black and gay and American, only two-thirds of which will be allowed To say “Amen”
16 Quatrains for Bayard
I have seen myself ready for battle bronze medal and bayonet fighting a war not-so-revolutionary so as to include the way I love my lover.
You have pushed me away to integrate with white men like some slave boy, having wet dreams about lying in his master’s bed.
I am the man you must deny so that you feel included with the man you are attempting to escape.
16 Quatrains for Bayard
Not even Zora’s voodoo could conjure a colored man who loves me.
16 Quatrains for Bayard
Black bodies swingin’, in the southern breeze. I am the strangest of the fruit on the trees sometimes Black boys, love other Black boys, but that didn’t keep our Black blood off the leaves.
16 Quatrains for Bayard
Being Black and gay in America is like screaming without a voice into ears unable to listen.
If white folks found Black men, limp-wristed and faggot-like, they would’ve left us in Africa signed ~some Chicago preacher
If you are the strange fruit swingin’
I am not hiding anymore behind civil rights and god. Peek-a-boo America, here I am. Tag, you’re it.
Ode to Yemaya
By Felicia Beckett
In the still of the night, standing on this vessel I can’t see you but I feel your force Mighty and strong, guiding us, steering us forcing us to acknowledge you and know your strength You are a necessity to our living yet, we underestimate your ability to both sustain and kill us You are Yemaya, Goddess of the Ocean, Mother I sit still I am so caught up in your power to move… I am mesmerized, hypnotized by your presence How can I feel sick being with you when I love you so much? When I understand and reverence your power; it overwhelms me And takes me…I can’t move My head is dizzy, I am off balance Earth is persevering and wills itself to outlast man with its mountainous terrains, hot deserts, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes But you, Goddess of the water, lay a pathway for men to get home guided by moon and stars then swallow them whole You are fierce You are not willing yourself to outlast man You are aware of your ability to be both harbor and terror There is no competition between you and man You win; fore in a blink of an eye You can turn calm into storm Storm into hurricanes Hurricanes into nightmares Then nightmares into peace Who and what can with stand your storm? Only God can calm you… You are both the bitter and the sweet both love and hate …joy and pain
We do not understand your beauty, nor your madness And express our ignorance by our unwillingness to yield to your power Oh, how I love and hate you! Oh, how I desire and disdain you You are wonderful and terrible simultaneously I can’t live without you and yet I am afraid to live with you You encroach borders when you please You invade territory at your will Only the voice of God can calm you…. You feed me and starve me You quench my thirst and leave me longing Men want to own you, setting maritime rules about you Yet these rules can not contain your force Nor do they manipulate how you behave The clouds in the sky, whisper your name The stars wait for your command The moon measures your tides The sun warms your life A concert of galaxies are orchestrated by your rhythms Yet, nothing calms you but the Voice of God…Ase’ Ase’ Ase’ O
New Ida Benda Mine By Joe Davis
Thousands of miles away I am deeply connected to a woman Who raised me on over- the- phone conversations When hearing her voice I don’t hear the accent But a part of my identity From the Appalachian Mountains In North Carolina Where the accents runs deep From English, Welsh, and Scottish ancestry So does the folk dancing So does the folk music That later influenced our history She taught me, my aunt Jo, That we are a native people We are not hicks or yokels But naturalists, And survivalists Of forests that run deep Of fields of wildflowers In high mountain altitudes Covered in the smoky fog I see it now that mountain range Though I never been there But I see its high cliffs and tall peaks When I look at high-rise buildings And our range of skyscrapers That faces the lakefront And from this influence do I realize That I have bonded with a place I do not know Or haven’t really seen But was told the story and history of my American identity From phone conversations with an aunt Who lives thousands of miles away
Life Lessons From Aunt Jo
By Joanna Zuno
I Am Art, But My Life Is Music
By Cordarice Thomas
Nothing is more unbearable, once one has it, than freedom.
By Daniel Woody
After finishing Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret for the third time, my father started to worry I might be a little different from other boys. Hell, even I started to think I was a little off. I mean I didn’t completely understand it, but it was easy enough to skip over the hard parts. So when my father gave me the Klutz’ Book of Magic for my seventh birthday, I had to feign enthusiasm; we both had a lot riding on that little book. I came to cherish the book, though, after reading the section on the ethics of magic. It was filled with fantastic advice–don’t perform the same trick twice; fill your act with creativity; and never, ever reveal your secrets. Magic was suddenly transformed from the idle play of children into the sacred discipline of adults. As if the fascinating words weren’t enough, the book even came packaged with a few extra treats: a deck of cards, a silk handkerchief, and curiously, a rubber thumb. The thumb, the book explained, was an advanced prop that would take months of preparation before use. I knew I had a lot of work to do. To ensure my dad saw me practicing, I cleared a space in the center of the floor and spread my tools out around me. Actually, though, there weren’t many other options for practice space. His small condo had just one bedroom, one bathroom, and a central room that encompassed the kitchen, dining room and den. I liked Dad’s condo because the ceiling was so high, I could throw things in the air and they wouldn’t even touch the ceiling. On his way from the refrigerator to his room, my dad would often hover around to catch the end of a trick and praise my effort. I lived for those moments. After weeks of practicing, I felt it was time to transcend the basics–I was ready to make something disappear. I skipped ahead to the section that utilized the prized false thumb, and moved my practice area into the bathroom for more privacy. The section warned me to master all the basics before attempting the vanishing handkerchief. Can you figure out a hidden card? Can you perform without looking at your hands? Have you discovered your catchphrase? I knew I wasn’t quite ready but I couldn’t wait any longer. I just had to do something spectacular, and the book explained that you could use the thumb to make a handkerchief disappear. It seemed pretty straightforward: the false thumb was large enough that you could stuff a small cloth into it and still fit it back onto your thumb. The trick was that if you moved fast enough, no one would be able to see the rubber thumb sneak its way back onto your own thumb. I practiced this at every opportunity; I even started writing down witty anecdotes to further entertain my future audience. Alone in front of the bathroom mirror, I would invoke my idol, Houdini, and dazzle my reflection with my masterful use of the thumb. “What’s going on in the bathroom?” my father once questioned through the door, interrupting one of my particularly enchanting routines. I froze. If he heard any part of my trick, I could never perform it for him. “Just brushing my teeth!” I wanted to tell him all about the thumb, but the magician’s oath was far too sacred. Soon I was ready to show my father just how great I was. I waited till Sunday to set up my magic show. We usually spent all day on Sundays together–you know–just us guys. During the week I was at home, and Saturdays if I wasn’t at the library then I was playing handball in the park. So Sunday was really the only day for fun. But this Sunday he invited a friend named Brett over.
Brett was nice and he even came with a present for me: Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Dad must have told him about my obsession with literature. I had already read that one the year before, but it was still a nice gesture. And really, I was just thrilled to have an extra audience member–it was rare that I encountered someone I hadn’t yet wowed. They relaxed on the couch with a bottle of wine, and I stood directly in front of them on top of the coffee table. Dad objected, as the table was made of antique mahogany, but I convinced him that a stage was an essential element to my professionalism. I warmed them up with my psychic powers–Abracadabra! Your card was the queen of spades! They clapped and cheered when I guessed Brett’s card. As I prepared for another trick I saw them quickly glance at each other, and I knew that it was one of those looks I often read about in my books. That was my favorite–how a writer would just mention a look and write on and on about what it meant. I knew what their look meant: they realized their lives would never be the same after witnessing such an amazing feat. I was the real deal. I was a magician. I was a magician and I was ready for my big finale. I reached in my pocket and slipped on the false thumb. As I reached for the handkerchief hanging from my belt, Brett stopped me, “Wait, what is that on your thumb?” Now a typical kid would have been caught off guard, but I had already read the section on preventing skeptics. All I needed was a distraction–a fantastic story or witty anecdote. As I perused my internal vault of humor, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was too late. I knew I needed to to do something, anything; I knew I needed to act. Then it struck me–you can’t see something if it’s blurry! I waved my hands around rapidly. “What do you mean? There’s nothing on my thumb!” “No, I see it. It’s white.” Dad winces, “Brett, I don’t see anything. Go on, son.” But Brett didn’t take my father’s cue, perhaps the Shiraz was starting to affect him. He turns to my father, “But it’s a white thumb. Why didn’t you get him a brown thumb?” No one was looking at my hands anymore, but I kept waving them. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine what the great Houdini would do in my predicament. I kept my eyes closed and I kept waving my hands and I thought and I thought and I thought. When I opened them, Brett and Dad weren’t looking at my thumb anymore, they were just looking at me. I started again, waving the handkerchief around wildly. My dad played along, maybe a little too enthusiastically, “Oh wow! Look at that! I wonder what he’ll do now!” I could tell my dad was just trying to make me feel better and I scowled at Brett for ruining the magical mood. When I opened my mouth to protest, all that came out was a whimper. “Brett, um, actually, um, the book says that the thumb works with any type of skin.” “Don’t you think it means any shade of white skin?” I looked down at my thumb, and suddenly, its whiteness jumped out at me. There I was, standing with my hands in front of me, staring at my nine black fingers and scrutinizing the one white. Why would they do that? Why wouldn’t they make a thumb for me? The skin under the thumb was starting to sweat, but I didn’t want to take it off yet. Brett continued, “He doesn’t even know he’s black. That’s not right. It’s just not right!” I retreated to the cot my father set up in his room for me and to my books–I had too much on my mind to bother with entertaining Brett any further. Judy Blume would sort it all out, though, I just knew it. Of course I knew I was black. What did Brett even mean? I grabbed my copy of Iggie’s House and attempted to read, but the sound of my father’s deep voice from the living room made the words dance on the page. I couldn’t quite hear Brett, though.
There just aren’t any black kids around, that’s all. It’s not that abnormal. No, where is that? Okay. But I don’t really want him over there all by himself. He’s still so tiny. You’re right. It’s just hard. You’re so right. I’ll take him. Okay.
~*~*~ There were lots of kids at the Center and every one of them was black. We all sat in a cluster on the wood floor, and I wished that I hadn’t worn shorts because I swore I saw little insects crawling around. The counselor noticed me squirming and saw it a fit time for me to stand and introduce myself, as it was my first day playing with everyone. “Hi, everyone, my name is Peter, but you can call me Pete! My favorite book is Blubber because it’s so funny.” I searched the other children’s expressions for any hint of recognition, but only one girl returned my glance. “Why you finna talk like a white boy?” she asked. “Tell him your name, Kira, and ask him nicely,” the counselor warned. “KEER-RUH! Now why is he finna talk like that?” she persisted. “I don’t talk like a white boy! And what does finna even mean?” I fired back. A few kids giggled, and I realized it was something I should have known. “You know...finna. Like I’m finna go to the store. Jarvis, you hear what he say? He say, ‘What does finna mean?” She turned to a chubby boy and together they shared a hearty laugh. After the counselor explained the rules for the day and allowed us to play freely, I was determined to prove my merits. I knew about things, I just didn’t know about that word. I walked up to Kira, and casually asked, “Hey, so, have you menstruated yet?” “What’s menstrated?” she asked. It was my turn to be the smart one. “You know, had your period. I haven’t had mine yet.” “Boy, you crazy. Boys don’t get periods. You so funny.” Then she walked away to join the others. She turned around, “Ain’t you funna dance? You ain’t got no rhythm, white boy?” “Yeah. I got rhythm! A white boy can’t do this–” I closed my eyes, swang my hips, and tried to scat like the black singers my dad listened to. “You crazy. Let’s go, Pete.” The others weren’t so easy. Most of the kids found my naivete to be a bit unsettling–Kira was the only one that liked me. Kira kept suggesting that if I just danced with the group they’d like me too, but my father told me I wasn’t allowed to go outside of the Center. I begged him–I explained that everyone was dancing. And that people gathered just steps away from the Center and that the counselor would be able to see from the window. But he insisted–he claimed it was too dangerous. I settled for studying their moves from the window, and I’d go home to the bathroom and try to recreate them. I couldn’t ever quite get the moves though. I knew it would be different when I actually danced with them. I just knew it. I would be able to hear the beat. I would be wild and free and a part of it. After a few more weeks, I didn’t stick out as much. I had shortened my name to P, and I discarded any remnants of my attachment to Judy Blume. I hadn’t picked up a book in weeks–I found it much more thrilling to listen to Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation.
And sure enough, I soon felt kindred to the kids who looked like me. Soon, I broke my father’s rule. Soon, I ventured outside. Soon, I danced. The dance game went like this: you clapped to the beat, you sung the words, and if you were lucky, it would be your turn to hop in the middle and dance and dance and dance. If you were good, you kept on dancing until someone took your spot. I had never danced in the middle–I just didn’t understand when it would be my turn. It seemed so arbitrary. I would dance on the outside and try to slowly creep my way in, but before I knew it, someone else was already in the middle. I was thrilled to even dance on the outside, though, just as long as I was dancing. The last time I danced with the group, I was determined to be bold. I knew I just needed to feel the music. I needed to stop thinking about the beat, and just feel the beat. Kira was always talking about that. “P, don’t it feel good!” she would shout to me from the middle of the group. She was always in the middle. “P, just feel it!” I tried, I really did. I closed my eyes and I clapped and I danced and I when I really tried I began to feel something. It was slow at first. It crept along the sidewalk to my feet and traveled past my ankles to my knees. I saw how I could bend and turn with the music. It shot up to my hips and waist and it sometimes felt so good I had to yell out, too. I was feeling it. I understood. The beat grabbed onto my heart and pumped life through my veins. My eyes were closed and I didn’t dare open them. I had to hold on to the feeling. I heard the PAP PAP loud noises PAP PAP but I didn’t want PAP. PAP PAP to lose the beat. PAP PAP. PAP. It didn’t sound like a car backfiring or glass breaking or a door slamming, but I wasn’t going to open my eyes to check what it was. I wouldn’t be tricked into losing the beat. I kept my eyes closed and I kept on clapping. People were shouting and I felt the music rising in me. It was my turn. I could just feel it. It was my turn to dance. I knew exactly the move I was going to do. I reviewed my choreography and prepared to dash to the center. My moves were going to be perfect, I just knew it. I was going to be perfect. Not only would everyone laugh, but they would realize that I was one of them. That I was black, too. I opened my eyes and everyone was on the floor, looking out into the street. I looked over at the car, too, just as the passenger pulled his gun back inside the window and rolled it up. I looked behind me at the bullet holes in the wall, and suddenly I understood what had happened and where I was. I had danced and I had felt it and I was black and it didn’t matter. Kira grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me to the ground shouting, “Is you crazy...get down...they shootin at us!” I laid there squeezing my eyes shut and whispering to myself:
I am here I am here. I was here. I was black. I am black, and I am white. I am there. I was white. I was black. ~*~*~
I didn’t have to go back to the Center–I guess Dad figured I’d learned enough. Sometimes I wanted to. Sometimes I wanted to look around and see people who looked like me. I wanted to feel the beat and to dance. I still think about that drive-by shooting. Only when I remember it, for some reason, I remember the bullets actually striking me, and not just the wall behind. The bullets hit all of us in my memory. In my imagination, it’s an awful scene. But even though the bullets hit me, they don’t actually pierce my skin. The bullets strike me and fall to the ground around me. The other kids fall to the ground around me and I remain standing alone. I look out at the bullets and the children strewn about around me and I lie down, too. I lie down and I close my eyes and I pretend to be dead too.
By Michelle Renee Perkins
This ain’t the Florida of postcards. This is gritty. This is dirty and hot and funky. There’s salt in the air. Even my breath sweats. Funk rolling off waters that split boulevards and gurgle through avenues, a lake you can’t find on no map. The smell as mean as the gators, as mysterious as the shadows between the mangroves. This ain’t beach vendors. This ain’t trolleys and cabanas, surf shops, and beach access. This is barbeque pits situated on rusted Chevy flatbeds. This is flips and two dolla hollas. This is drive-thru liquor stores because you already know what I want and I ain’t got time to come in. This ain’t vacation. This is I just got off work and got to go back tomorrow. This is got to be there early even though I stayed late. This is working a double while your kids are home alone. This is being hungry while swollen grapefruit, oranges, and limes sag on the trees or fall with a neglected thump, bruised and bursting in the crab grass, the sweetness swallowed by swarms of fire ants. This ain’t laid-back and easy – no shoes, no shirt, no problem. This is hustle and hustle hard – no rest, no whining, no losing. This ain’t sea breezes blowing through sun-bleached tresses, lifting the edges of a fringed sarong. This is heat that tightens the curls on the nape of your neck, moistens the creases behind your knees. This ain’t collecting sea shells. This is bill collectors. This ain’t driving with the top down. This is waiting on the bus. And Jesus Christ Almighty is that muthafucka slow. This is both at once – saint and sinner, the ain’t and the is. The ugly. The beautiful. Yes. Beautiful.
Photograph Vida en Azul
By Janean L. Watkins
Kind of Life
By Sheree Greer
This is Sun, rising and rising, looking into your eyes then kissing your shoulders, holding you all day then going down slow like a lover, a sigh of colors that have no name. This is sky wide and open, uninterrupted and hopeful, so clear you can see the curve of the earth, and it reminds you of your woman’s hips sashaying because she knows you’re watching, or maybe it’s reminiscent of your mother’s cheeks when she smiles, or conjures up the round of your granny’s shoulders that always shook when she laughed. This is the bend of rainbows after thunderhead rumbles and lightning cracks; nothing breaks here though so much needs repair. This is sweet acacia and night-blooming jessamine, arching fiddlewood and blossoming gardenia. This is citrus sweet and deep greens, whispering fronds and dancing bushes. This is parking on the grass and dancing in the street. This is hotter inside than outside. This is summertime cooking heat. Flickering flames licking the blackened bottom of a stew pot. This is water boiling, steam rising, blue crabs dancing the waltz with potatoes, onions, garlic, and corn cobs. This is sun-brewed iced tea – glowing amber, refreshing cold, and honey sweet. This is kitchen chair on the porch, sit down and rest awhile. This is I ain’t got no friends, but I got plenty cousins. This is winter with no coat. This is spring with no sleeves. These are summer arms that work and embrace, welcoming you home.
Mullen-James Mine Derrick
By Joe Davis
Whispers from trees…
A Love Song For My Family
By Elbert Tavon Briggs
The genealogy of branches… leaves… flowers… Sometimes blossom into forbidden fruit and the branches stretched and the leaves grew and the flowers blossomed into fruit ready for the harvest. The harvest of our ancestors into this world. Their Roots became strong and sunk into the earth… the soil was nourished by Kin Folks’ blood sweat and tears For so many…. many… many years past… decades past… from the soil grew the cotton and the cane… and any thing that grew from rain. Human tools moved… human tools tilled…human tools… moved an entire economic system This journey began at a Mississippi HBCU… when my daughter called me up and said Dad… “who are you?” Upon reflection I didn’t have a clue But lessons from Momma, Ms. Collins, Mr. Daley and Ms. Wilson all pointed South to the mouth of the mighty Mississippi. Just like SPEECH from Arrested Development… my daughter and son said just one thing to me Over and over In their spirits they cried out and in time, I finally opened my mind and could really hear those whispers from trees.
Whispers from trees… whispers from trees… whispers from trees Whispers from trees… whispers from trees… whispers from trees Whispers from trees… whispers from trees… whispers from trees… Legends of Briggs brothers and so many others, From South Carolina snd Virginia plantations to Louisiana and Mississippi maroon sanctuaries to midnight cries and screams from Native American Matriarchs, Seminole, and Choctaw nations…. Trails of blood… sweat and tears Grace and inner-strength brought us through these years I can see in my daughter’s eyes and feel it in her tears Blarney stones… pig feet… auction blocks… chattel… grown up folks playing Democratic Kiss & Tell… and four leaf clovers… collards… mustards Crawfish… gumbo and blackened catfish… chitterlings and hog entrails thrown out by master rescued Kin from hunger and disaster… civil war… civil rights… one thing I know for sure Grandpa James farm in Hope, Arkansas was self-sufficient… that’s right… These stories are not meant to disturb yaw But great-great-great-grandfathers and grandmothers journeyed to find hope and acres… South Carolina, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma To M…I…S…S…I…P…P…I Got to tell our children the stories before we’re excused and kiss the sky Whispers from trees… The winds spoke in breezes Historic memories Our chattel legacy
Northern By Emily N. Haddad Queen
The day I realized I could climb great doorways and crawl along the crusted crown molding, was the day I swore to defect from the southern half of my world. Tiny bare toes spread wide, dusty legs braced tight, I crept across the ceiling and defeated the floor. My mother tried to talk me down, my father tried to tease me into toppling, but I stayed ensconced, enthroned at age five upon my novel northern nook, corner-stuck, anything below five-foot-four forsaken. The below-land, the overly southern landscape of floors and pitfalls, overalls and kindergarten, snack and nap crimes, it just wasn’t for me. School time came and went by, I held no court, and took no note of the growing consternation roiling below me. After all, what is the complaint of a southern family to the ears of a northern queen? Besides, to teach me, first they would have to reach me.
By Cordarice Thomas
Down There and Wherever Here Might Be
on studying the south
By Sophia Jane Mihic
Southern studies and commentary on the American south by southerners often proceeds as mythbusting. John Howard’s Men Like That: A Southern Queer History, for instance, is an effective exercise in contradicting the commonly held presumption that dissident sexuality is rare in small towns and rural areas. His documentation of southern churches in the nineteen-fifties as same-sex male pick-up zones is a reminder that the facts of southern history and culture do not always match the fictions projected onto “down there” by those of us up or over somewhere else. Calling such presumptions into question is not a new move. Consider this exchange at a New York City cocktail party reported in 1943 by Zora Neale Hurston in “The ‘Pet’ Negro System.” “They stroll up to you, cocktail glass in hand, and say, ‘I am a friend of the Negro, you know, and feel awful about the terrible conditions down there.’ That’s your cue to launch into atrocities amidst murmurs of sympathy. If, on the other hand, just to find out if they really have done some research down there, you ask, ‘What conditions do you refer to?’ you get an injured, and sometimes a malicious, look.” Insistence on the diverse realities of the south can sound of defensiveness as well as cause confusion. Hurston continues by noting that comfortable and educated blacks were a reality in the south. But insistence on the south as fact, rather than fiction, is not only a defense: it can also chide that with regard to racism those projecting may have not yet gotten in touch with how bad bad can be. We really do need to study what goes on down there. To be more precise, those with a cliché understanding of the functions of prejudice may misunderstand the functions of prejudice and the production of order in the south and in the American republic as a whole. The reality of the south remains diverse—it is not any one thing—and within this diversity racism is always on hand and demanding attention. With Hurricane Katrina, we saw all of these dimensions on display—people pulled together and forged new communities, and at the same time others drew lines of racial division and projected pernicious fantasy. Reports of mayhem in the Superdome were quite simply lies. But realities always compete with projections onto the south, and the fictions are developing a history of their own. Fleeting are the days when the south was a ghetto of racism that the rest of the country could act against as it acted during the Civil Rights Era. Beginning in 1968, the south was gently stripped, not of its racism, but of its ghetto status. In The Politics of Rage, the first moments of what Dan Carter calls the southernization of American politics are captured by John Erhlichman’s explanation that Nixon “‘always couched his view in such a way that a citizen could avoid admitting to himself that he was attracted by a racist appeal.’” After Nixon’s carefully phrased law and order campaign, Reagan’s “welfare queens” and the first Bush’s Willie Horton more crudely continued the racially divisive strategy of the new right coalition in concert with more palpable attacks on
affirmative action and special interests. With the consolidation of right-wing politics marked by the presidency of the younger Bush, a new perspective entered into the history of projections onto the south. Not simply the conservatism of the south’s racism, but the projected conservatism of the south per se is being mobilized as southern politics is nationalized. The south has become the standard bearer of a cultural conservatism that is pro-life, anti-gay, and pro-family: and with these stances the right has begun to gesture toward inclusion of blacks. This gesture is a most tiresome fiction: the percentage of black support for George W. Bush as Republican Party presidential candidate was actually lower than black support for Robert Dole in the 1996 election, but much was made of Bush’s black support. With the Herman Cain candidacy for president, the conservativism of the south as trope seemed to step over racial lines. If you can be a black man and be a Tea Party member, does the south as category still matter? For many of us, who are southerners, that question is much like asking “does your mama matter?” (And if one truth remains, no southerner answers no to that question. ) But putting aside longings for home, memories which always include the wafting scent of pine trees, what does the south give us? In its beauty and its vileness, the south is a lens through which we can focus and think American politics and the pervasiveness of the new conservatism. Where does down there end and the rest of the United States begin? We need a new abolitionism to deal with incarceration and a new civil rights movement for the 99%. What strategies of resistance, in and not simply against southern politics and culture, can we draw on in the national struggle? These are the current questions for students of the American south.
There’s a crow flying/black and ragged/tree to tree/He’s black as the highway that’s leading me. - Joni Mitchell
By Kelly Norman-Ellis
In Mobile, I grow a new skin where death hides and rises like a crow. Patient bird pecks my face, spreads her pox her fever, like a shiny, black wing.
His hands are purple wings. A doctoring man with learning papers. He hides me from white men’s quarantine. I dream of Mama’s healing roots: tea from leaves of a fever bush, oil bush and swamp root brewed, pine tar boiled with holly bush. Then, Jesus folds back his wings, and God’s sweat falls in my eyes. I wake covered with pine and ash. I swallow slow, black strap, a healing sweet for colored boys and doctors black as God’s eye.
By Cordarice Thomas
I am the healing man blue black with medicine. Daddy cut my cord with a butcher’s knife, wiped the caul from my face with a cool black hand. My Choctaw granny dug up High John root, taught me conjure with golden seal. I was born for blue black magic. To school in the Virginia hills, medicine taught in Tennessee. I read leather bound healing books, and memorized the body’s hidden life. Chambers and walls, aortas and ventricles, vocabulary of the heart. I am blue black medicine, decorated papers to work my ways. I smell bad blood in white men’s veins. I spread red brick dust around sick beds. I guide jaundiced babies into light. Close the empty eyes of the dead. I watch for crows circling the Mobile sky, their gentle swooping signs of a reckoning.
Encaged By Sumaiya Maniya
By Kasia B. Garzel
Oppressed? Who, Me?
“EXCUSE ME?!” I said, fixing my scarf. I could feel all the blood in my body rushing to my head. I was furious. Who does this kid think he is trying to pull my hijab (Arabic for a headscarf ) off? “Can I help you?!” I asked sternly. “What? I just wanted to see the color of your hair,” said the sophomore boy in my chef’s course class freshmen year, with a mischievous smile. He thought it was funny to try to pull my hijab off, but not to me. The second bell hadn’t rung yet, but the class was full. It was first period, and everyone was still quiet even though the teacher hadn’t come in yet. No one had ever tried to do such as thing to me before; it could’ve been because I went to a private school up until that year where the classrooms were divided in half with the girls on one side and the boys on the other. Either way, I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I didn’t know what to say to him, but somehow words were just flowing out of my mouth. I didn’t even know what I was saying. My whole body was shaking out of anger and nervousness. I’ve never spoken so loudly before, especially to a guy. “What do you mean see my hair? There is a reason why I cover my hair and it’s so you don’t know what it looks like! Now go back to your seat and don’t even think about coming close to me again! Let alone, touch me or my hijab!” The class went more silent than it already was. Everyone was staring at me. All I remember was seeing my friends looking at me with their jaws dropped. The rest of the period I couldn’t concentrate. I was still nervous and upset. After I calmed down, I was able to think about what happened. This incident taught me something very important. I went to a school with almost 2500 students, and there were barely five girls who wore hijab walking the halls. This guy whatever his intentions, clearly didn’t know how important my hijab was to me. Most of all he didn’t know why I wear it. He saw me as a vulnerable girl who was most probably oppressed, and forced to cover myself the way I do. I decided at that moment that I was going to try my best to educate him and others like him. Every time he saw woman fully covered, it always had a negative connotation. All over the news there were images of women fully covered while the news anchor would talk about terrorist attacks. These images suggested that a woman who looked like me had something to do with a terrorist or a terrorist attack. These images suggested that all Muslim women were oppressed. Oppressed? Who? Me? Apparently as a Muslim woman I am supposed to be oppressed. What I don’t understand though, is how am I oppressed as a Muslim, when we are asked to honor and respect the women of Islam? Islam has given me such a high status that it puts me on a pedestal. As a Muslim, I am asked to cover myself, not because my parents are forcing me to, but because Allah (Arabic for God) asked me to. Covering myself allows me to stay modest. People are forced to look at me for who I am, not what I look like. This causes people to respect me. My hijab creates an invisible shield around me, which protects me from the evil eyes of others. When I walk out of my house, no man has the courage to look at me with inappropriate intentions. He sees me for who I am, my intelligence, my character, and how loving and caring I am. This way I’m guaranteed to find a husband who will love me for me and not for anything else. Before Islam, people used to think of their daughters as a disgrace to the family. Fathers used to bury their daughters alive when they were born. Islam taught Muslims to stop burying their daughters and in fact love them, because a
Henna Hand Design
By Huda F. Biabani
By Huda F. Biabani
daughter is probably the best blessing Allah could have sent down for mankind. Allah told us that a person who raises their daughters with respect and good character, they are guaranteed paradise. A man who raises even one daughter with respect and good character is guaranteed paradise. As a wife, a woman is considered the backbone and foundation of the family. She plays an important role in a man’s life. She can help her husband either succeed or fail in any aspect of life, whether it is in his career, his religion, or his family life in general. Women are asked to stay home as much as possible to watch over the house and property. They are the guardians of the house in that aspect. Men are asked to take care of the external affairs. They are the guardians in that aspect. Both husband and wife are equal guardians of the house in their own ways. As a mother, a woman plays a very important role. Allah said that paradise lies at the feet of the mother. We are to love them and care for them as much as possible, because no matter what we do we can never make up for the way she loved and cared for us before and after we were born. As a mother we play another important role, because the way we raise our children is how we can expect the world to turn out to be. That is why it is important to raise our children to grow up to be good Muslims with good character, so they can be role models for others. Most accusations you hear about a Muslim woman being oppressed are made because of claims that families or parents mistreat or disrespect their daughters. I have to admit that my family never mistreated me nor do I know anyone who has been treated that way. Women are thought to be the respect and dignity of the house. Anyone who mistreats them, it is like they have disrespected the whole entire family, which includes extended family as well. My family has always treated me like a princess. They loved me, respected me, and honored me. All of my friends and family friends will say the same. In a perfect world we live the perfect life. However, we don’t live in a perfect world. The media likes to represent covered Muslim women like me with connotations of oppression and violence. The things that the few oppressed women we hear about go through could happen to any woman in any country or even religious background. There are many cases of abuse towards women across the world. However no one ever exploits these cases to be religious oppression. In fact, many times religion might not even be mentioned. Do you know what really oppresses me? I feel oppressed when I get rejected service at a restaurant or get singled out at the airport because they are afraid I might be hiding a bomb under my hijab. I feel oppressed when mothers frantically drag their kids away from me when I walk by. Most of all I feel oppressed when images of Muslim women covered like me are on the screen with the call to prayer playing in the background while the news anchor or reporter is talking about terrorist attacks. What I am trying to say is that at every stage in my life as a Muslim woman I am given a lot of respect and honor. So, if my religion tells me to respect myself and asks my Muslim brothers and sisters to respect me as well, how am I oppressed? So please stop oppressing me by singling me out when I have as much of a right to be here as any other citizen of America.
By Sameera Mirza
Unappreciated to the point of pure neglect. Feeling sick to my stomach, nausea at its finest. Hiding in the shadows of my own regret. Look at me sitting here, writing about my own despairs. Looking for appreciation in my on faults. Capturing the only happiness that i can get. Losing all things close to me, Losing my self, in my despair. Looking for love, at least some appreciation. its the niceness, that kills you softly. People taking advantage of your purity. Pulling you into the pit of darkness Lacking the help, that is needed to be seen. This human, this being, is unrequited. Needed to be seen.
My blood is not highlander, though I draw myself to the south where lands merge with other lands linguistically equivalent people with jagged personalities. But my parents from the eastern border once larger and farther spread smooth and flowing their tongues race. I long for my homeland, my father's land, detached from the perpetual umbilical cord, I reach for and taste the flavor of food to feed my starving soul. Alas, I was born on this side of the world. I yearn for the untainted milk, I hunger for it like a baby desires the breast of its mother. I want the crisp air that spreads through my lungs and braids my hair as I run through the sunny valleys, the grassy knolls and humped fields, grained and pocked with bouncing poppies and bittersweet dandelions, hinted with joyful memories and sprinkled with youthful laughter.
By Urszula Wudarczyk
By Patricia Dalinis
In Her Memory
By Malcom Murray
I look into her dead eyes And a part of me dies I look into her eyes with sadness, Disbelief And knowing this is probably the last time I would be able to. Knowing there was nothing I could do about it. Do you know what its like to stare into your heroes eyes while they’re so weak? So I ran - ran so I wouldn’t have to. I ran – trying to escape the demons eating at my soul, I ran – trying to escape this prison I put myself in, I ran – trying to escape my responsibilities, I ran – trying to find peace, Just like I have my whole life. In her memory I find love, In her memory I find strength, In her memory I find myself. In her memory…
By Crystal Nelson
Do You Believe In Soulmates? By Julia Davis
Do you believe in Soulmates, positions of stars and planets? Ever feel like you’ve landed... precisely where you belong? Centered between my thighs, spent like a hurricane sweaty and warm as the misty rain after a ravenous storm... Do you believe in Soulmates? Random acts of coincidental fate? Falling in love with a stranger, feeling safe and secure no thoughts of hurt or danger. Throwing caution to the wind, knowing that one is your lover, your secret confidante, climatically cumming with you my friend? I have heart palpitations. Thump! Ooh... explosive Thump. Every time my phone beeps or rings. My voice catches in my throat and “Hello”, springs forth on a throaty note. Damn! And I was trying to sound sexy. But he doesn’t mind, his smile sings across the lines settling my mind, with words that play in my ear like a love song, “Sweetheart I like your voice just fine.” In fact he says it turns him on when my voice dips low and his name whispers forth from my soft, sensuous lips. Reminds him of the deep moans and slow grind we orchestrate when he’s controlling my hips. “Do you believe in Soulmates?” I ask, his hands caressing my nipples, roaming, belonging, on every part of me. Passionately our lips meet, my body shivers with pleasure. The swell of him makes my thighs part in anticipation extending an invitation to explore my buried treasures… Ahhhh... he makes my spirit rock Sometimes I believe he reads my mind, just the thought of his magic sends electric sensations all down my spine. Ooh wee! This Soulmate of mine! He seems to know what I’m thinking... before I speak, sensing my feelings... makes me weak I get butterflies in my belly and my inner core turns to jelly, lust-dreaming this day, about you, I believe in Soulmates and random acts of fate. And cascading stars, lovemaking on Mars and falling back to earth on the tips of glistening stars. Being in lust with you, a total stranger Yes I believe! Why, you ask as our bodies surpass all time and distance, listen as I tell you of the magnetic energy I feel from you, in my Spirit and my heart as both are unanimously uplifted, each time you call my name. Do you believe in Soulmates?
My Friends in Italian
By Camille J. Severino
“C’mon man,” Matt said to Sonny. “You got to do it for me. You gotta break my fingas.” This was definitely a conversation I was gonna listen to. I’m a bartender and I work at my cousin Dino’s place in our hometown. It’s called Mi Amici, which means my friends in Italian. This den of under age debauchery has quickly become the hottest spot our area has ever seen. The first place I remember drinking was Witort’s, which was owned by an old guy, named Wally. I never actually sat at the bar and drank but I remember walking out of there with a case when I was fourteen. In fact, if memory serves, he smiled at me. Now that I’m behind the bar I think I too would consider it ballsy of a fourteen-year-old girl to walk in and ask to buy booze; only I wouldn’t sell it to her. Unless my cousin told me to. Then it’s his ass and not mine so I don’t really care. Then there was Antney’s when I was seventeen. All the “older guys” who were twenty at the time hung out there and were smoking hot. My high school friends and I loved to dress mature, which really meant slutty, and drool over twenty-five cent drafts. But now it’s 1991 and I’m twenty-one. As far as any local degos, dego-ettes or white chicks that love degos are concerned, Mi Amici is it. But for me, I’ve grown out of the whole neighborhood scene that revolves around Italian-American men who love to fight and keep their women at home. Oh, and House Music. How I hate House Music. No longer that seventeen year old drooling over neighborhood boys I found my true love, which were musicians. When I wasn’t working I would hang out at a nearby place that specialized in live metal bands and guys with long hair. It was called the Thirsty Whale and when I wasn’t slinging drinks in my family’s dego joint, I was tearing it up on the other side of the tracks. Last month I met Brian. A sexy guitarist who had great hair and a butt that filled out his denim better than any rocker on the West side. Things were going well, until my friend suggested to Brian and his band mates we head back to Mi Amici. I tried to talk them out of it but was over ruled and just as I had thought, Brian called me the next day to say he didn’t want to see me anymore. “Why?” I asked confused. We were getting along so great. “Because I’m worried I’ll wind up in a trunk.” He said and hung up. Sigh. These are the problems that arise when you’re an Italian-American woman who grew up in an Italian-American town but didn’t like Italian-American men. And the Nation’s fascination with Robert Deniro and the Godfather didn’t help one bit. It was just past closing time. 3 AM. I was cleaning up quickly so I could get home. This was my third shift in a row and I was over the bellowing, HEY BABY’S and screeching I NEED SOMETHING OVER HERE’S. All I wanted was a sofa, a couple burgers and a television. “I can’t go to work without broken fingas.” Matt pleaded to Sonny who was very calm for someone who was being asked to do such a thing. This sentence made me instantly forget the VHS tape of Jaws sitting on my coffee table. Charred beef and shark attacks; a great way to relax after a long shift. But no amount of torn limbs and grilled onions could tear me away from the train wreck that stood before me.
I walked to the end of the bar that housed all the action and lingered slowly stacking sweaty Collin’s glasses. I looked up and could see Sonny survey the bar and it’s contents. I could hear his inner voice calculating. What can I use to break this stupid shmuck’s fingas? My brother and my cousin walked in and sat on the other end of the room unsuccessfully trying to blend into the wood paneling. Their ears stuck out like domes rotating toward the point of interest. Turns out Matt called in sick to work that day due to a cocaine/Jack Daniels induced hangover. That and the red nail polish his friends dumped on his crotch. Matt worked on a loading dock and lived with his parents who found him on the front porch that morning wasted, pant less and sticky with what they thought was blood. Needless to say Matt woke up hung over with a big job of getting red nail polish off his skin. So he told his foreman he broke his fingers. “Hey Matt,” I holler, “You eva hear of the flu?” I start laughing until I realized I was the only one who was. Laughing that is. Nobody at this place got me. Not even my brother or my cousins. That’s the way it is in Italian neighborhoods. If you don’t have a penis you don’t have a brain. At least that the way it was to the penis bearing population. But I was a twenty-one-year-old girl. What I had to say never mattered. Matt and Sonny stared at me with blank faces. They looked at each other queerly for a moment and then continued talking as if my comment were a mere mosquito bite. Of course Matt’s parents weren’t speaking to him. But, since he was twenty-seven that was all they could do and here he was again. In Mi Amici, drinking whiskey and taking secret trips to the john snorting coke off the porcelain. Sonny took in the bar room slow. It didn’t take long for the hatch to pull his gaze to the South end. If you don’t know what a hatch is it’s the opening where we get in and out from behind the bar. This one was covered by a thick piece of wood latched to the bar with hinges. A light bulb ignited above Sonny’s head. He walked to the hatch with a cigarette in one hand and a Dewars in the other. “Here we go Matt. Put cha fingas in here and I’ll slam it down. Boom! You got broken fingas!” Sonny smiled to himself internally complimenting his own brilliance. “Hell no!” cries Matt stumbling to join Sonny at the South end. “Dat’ll chop ‘em off! I don wan em chopped off. I jus wan em broken.” Sonny rolled his eyes and called Matt a pussy. Then he laughed to himself, lit another cigarette and ordered another Scotch. I poured it and walked his way. “How am I gonna break your fingas without chopping them off.” He called out for what seemed to be his benefit, but I knew it was for ours too. Then he laughed to himself and drank his scotch. For those of us who know Sonny this behavior was not surprise. Sonny was just the kind of guy you would go to for something like this. When we were growing up Sonny’s best friend Tony didn’t want to go to the public high school with all the “shines” from the neighboring town. He wanted to go to the Catholic high school with his friends. But Tony’s dad didn’t give a shit what Tony wanted. Tony’s dad was a marine and fought in ‘Nam. If he could handle that then Tony could handle high school filled with black kids. What Tony’s dad didn’t know is that Tony and his friends would jump the black kids from the neighboring town when they’d ride their bikes through ours. The way the geography was set up it was necessary for the black kids to ride their bikes through our town if they wanted to get anywhere North. But the guys I grew up with thought they could beat them back South “where they belong.” Now Tony was looking at being the only Italian kid in a room filled with those black boys he attacked. Tony knew he’d never survive. He had to go to the Catholic School. So Tony got Sonny to beat the shit out of him in an alley with a baseball bat. Sonny agreed to help his friend gladly. When Tony’s dad got home he took one look at his son and enrolled him in the Catholic School the next day. Of course Tony could’ve probably achieved the same results by just showing up at the public school. I watched them all act that way and it never escaped my attention that one day those black kids were
gonna get their revenge. Maybe that’s why Tony had Sonny beat him up. Maybe he didn’t want those black kids to get the best of him. Italians are funny that way. It’s all about the pride. “I got it!” Sonny cheered. “Here…” he grabs his cigarette and puts it in his mouth. “…put the tip of your fingas on this ashtray then I’ll take the saltshaker and slam it down hard…BOOM! You got broken fingas.” Matt hesitated for a moment and then whimpered, “Okay” as I heard the last brain cell he had washing away with Jack and coke. So then it begins. Matt puts his fingers on the ashtray the way Sonny instructed and Sonny took the salt shaker and slammed it down hard on Matt’s digits. Matt’s reflexes were to jump around while shaking his hand and screaming obscenities. At this point I had given up trying to hide my voyeurism. I stood right in front of them. Watching with anticipation. Rooting for those babies to break. Matt tried to bend his fingers and did so successfully. He walked back toward Sonny and said, “They ain’t broke. Do it again.” Placing his fingers against the ashtray again Matt looked around the room and snickered stupidly. He was not used to this much attention. Sonny’s devious smile grew as the fueled saltshaker crashed onto Matt’s hand. “AAAhhh!” Matt cried jumping around this time like the job had been done. “They’re not broken.” I yelled. “I didn’t hear a crack.” Still no one paid me any attention. Matt tried to bend his fingers and did so successfully. He walked back toward Sonny and said, “They ain’t broke. Do it again.” My brother and my cousin were not as bold as I to stand right over them. Instead they watched from their original table. Their laughter filled the room, which was filled with base lines, strobe lights and house music not that long ago. Once again, Matt placed his swollen fingers on the ashtray. Sonny took the saltshaker and repeated the move a third time. But something went awry. Something in his movements maybe. Something in the way his elbow was bent. Something in the air. This time the saltshaker did not land on Matt’s fingers. Instead, Sonny’s hand slipped and hit a glass that teetered toward the edge of the bar. The glass plummeted to its demise where it shattered into my ice bin. “DINO!!!” I yelled for my cousin. “He broke a glass in the ice!!’ “Dat’s it!!’ My cousin’s funny bone suddenly broke along with the glass in my ice. “If you wanna break your fingas get outta my bar. Go break your fingas outside!!” I looked at the clock. 4:55 am. I melted the ice and picked out the shards piece by piece wishing they weren’t the remnants of a martini. My next hour was spent melting the ice in the bin and picking out the glass piece by piece. When I saw that the clock read 4:55 am I wished more and more that Sonny would’ve chopped Matt’s fingers off. After I was done I looked at the clock. 5:30 in the morning. Shit. Matt was sitting alone at the South end of the bar. Sonny had abandoned him. Matt’s head hung low and I could see Cindy’s face swirling around his head. Whose Cindy? Oh. Didn’t realize I didn’t tell you about her… Cindy was a local girl who started dating Matt when we were in high school. He was one of those twenty-year old hotties we would scope out at Antney’s. I remember she and I would ditch classes to drive around Chicago in his IROC with the T-tops. Kind of a Thelma and Louise meets Farris Beuller meets Goodfellas. Matt adored Cindy. Lending us the car to go joy riding all day while he was at work wasn’t even the beginning. She told him to buy us booze and he did. She told him to get us pot; he did. If Cindy told Matt to jump, as much as I hate to use such an old cliché, he would ask, “How high?” After a year of getting what she could out of him Cindy grew bored and needed an adventure. Matt proved he wasn’t as dumb as we thought and he followed Cindy to a Wide End Motel where she met his best friend and proceeded to screw him in a shabby room. The joke around town was they went slidin’ at the Wide End.
Matt didn’t bang on the door and plead for her to stop. Instead he called her Sicilian father and let him know exactly what his daughter was doing. Cindy’s dad kicked down that motel room door and dragged her home by her hair. That was three years ago and all this time later he still mourns her. He thinks he mourns her love but she never loved him. She used him. You know that Paul Simon song Slip Sliding Away? There’s this one verse… I know a man He came from my hometown He wore his passion for his woman Like a thorny crown That’s Matt. No matter how badly she had treated him, no matter that she slept with his best friend, he still wanted her back. The reality is she didn’t want him. I poured Matt a Jack and coke and told him this one was on the house. He gave me a weak smile and drank down half in one gulp. Then he looked into my eyes and I saw a gleam of hope. Hope that maybe someone was taking pity on his pathetic little life. I actually felt a bit sorry for him. “You know.” I leaned in. “You could go to the Walgreens and buy a splint. They’d never know.” Matt stared back at me in amazement. “What do you know huh? All you women are the same. It’s a woman’s fault I’m in this mess to begin with. You broads really need to learn how to keep your mouths shut…” Dino was behind the bar guiding me away from Matt by the arm. “Listen, Just stay away from that end until I get rid of that guy. I don’t need you adding onto any more problems. “ While I listened to my cousin blame me for an insane customer I watched Matt over his shoulder. Sonny reappeared mysteriously. He had one arm behind his back. With the free hand he had, Sonny ripped Matt’s drink away from him and finished it off in one gulp. Sonny put the glass down carefully and then pulled a steel hammer out from behind his back. He put his free hand on Matt’s shoulders as I heard him say, “C’mon Matt. Let’s go break your fingas.” And they walked out. My brother followed the freak show but my cousin and I had had enough. Rumor has it Matt refused to put his hand on anything concrete for fear of crushing his hand so they spent the next hour running around the parking lot. Sonny chasing Matt down trying to get a good one in. To this day the story goes that Matt’s never broke his fingers but they were bruised enough to not get him fired the next day. I’m sure his fingers will heal fine, but his heart well, that’s a whole nuther story…
By Rebby Montalvo
Mother Nature →
By Crystal Nelson
The Bad News is Time Flies. The Good News is You’re the Pilot
By Sarah Paulis
Hands violently trembling, heart rapidly pounds, teeth grinding, eyes stinging so painfully that blinking the wrong way could explode the dam and send the stream of tears rushing out. It’s been six years, two months, three weeks, two days, and yet the aching feels so fresh. Almost as if somehow the hurt is not supposed to go away. Physical trauma is easy to get over, if it doesn’t kill you. It’s the emotional distress that cripples all that is good in the world. The ability to “look on the bright side” escapes. The memories, thoughts, hopes, dreams, positivity, and love that you once had are gone before you even have a chance to realize what’s going on. They don’t pay me enough for this, he thought walking through the snow to the hangar. It was unusual that when he got to the door it was already unlocked, but he didn’t think much of it. One of the other pilots must have forgotten to lock up, he thought as he continued through the football field size garage. As he walked past the planes he was careful not to run into anything. It was only 4pm and it was already dark. November in Chicago gets like that. This particular winter was already setting some of the new records for most snowfall and coldest temperatures. The reflection of bright lights from the runway and light posts was enough. He didn’t need to see though; he had been in this garage so many times it would be hard to forget where things were. He had flown the Aero Commander 500 numerous times a day and, by this point, could practically do it with his eyes closed. Climbing the stairs he positioned himself in front of the airplane door. In one motion he turned the latch opening the door and effortlessly swung himself into the first seat. The cushion was cold and firm, sort of comforting. Suddenly he felt a vibration shoot down his leg. His phone had startled him; he typically left it in the office. “Hello Mom.” “Hey Suhel, where are you?” “Oh, I totally forgot to call you. I just got in the plane, I’m about to deliver some packages to Gaylord, Michigan for the second time today.” “I thought you were scheduled to fly this morning. Why did you wait so long? It’s snowing pretty badly. They’re letting you fly?” “I didn’t wait. I was scheduled for this morning and the trip went well. I was finishing up some paper work in the office and Bill called saying he wasn’t feeling well. Apparently he has some stomach flu and can’t keep anything down. He asked me
if I could cover his PM delivery so I’m going again. I was reluctant, but he was really worried about what Tom would say if he missed a delivery. I figure it’s only a couple hours.” “Aren’t you tired though? You’re too nice. You need to learn how to say no. You’ve been there all day; you barely have time for yourself.” She replied in a very motherly tone. Sometimes I forget that I’m a 30-year-old man the way she talks to me. You’re never too old to have to check into with your mom. He thought to himself. “I was raised well, what can I say? You worry too much, I’ll be okay. What are you up to?” He asked politely trying to change the subject. “I worry because I care. I just had dinner with your brother and the family. We aren’t up to much. Just miss you, wondering when you’ll be home. Didn’t you say you’re plane was getting something fixed today? Did they do that already?” “Yeah after I got back from my first trip a technician came by and checked the navigational equipment and changed the glide scope that helps guide the plane during landing. Everything’s good. I miss you guys, tell everyone I say hello. I’ll definitely be seeing you guys soon.” “Alright well I’ll let you get going. Please be careful. They say we’re supposed to get up to 6 inches! I can’t speak for the snowfall in Michigan, but I always expect the worst when it comes to weather in Chicago. I’ll be praying the entire time. Be careful, love you.” “I will. Thanks. I’ll call you sometime tomorrow. Love you.” It’s typical for parents to worry, but Middle Eastern parents never stop worrying. Even when their children are grown, married with families and careers, they still feel the need to input their opinions. They always know what’s best. At least that’s what they’ve convinced themselves. Suhel closed the phone put it in his pocket and snapped back into his reality. Grabbing his head set he began his routine of flicking switches, turning knobs, and communicating with air traffic control. He removed his glasses, wiped the lenses and placed them back. As he started the engine he realized that he hadn’t eaten since lunch. I should’ve probably eaten before, but I’ll just grab something when I land. After waiting a few minutes, he received the approval to hit the runway for takeoff. Procedural knowledge always comes in handy for this part. It took many years and a large amount of time and effort for that knowledge to become so second nature. Easing the small carrier plane onto the runway he did the sign of the cross and said a prayer. Becoming a pilot was his childhood dream, and here he was. Ever since that first plane ride he took from Baghdad, Iraq to Phoenix, Arizona he felt that there was something magical involved. After years of studying, training, and dedication he made his dream a reality. Accelerating down the runway he made sure to take all of the correct precautions. He noticed the snow, but wasn’t troubled by it. The only cause for concern was that it was getting foggier as he began to lift the wheels off the ground. He
was always extra careful which proved to work out in his favor. Wheels are up, speed is high, and the plane is at perfect angle to slice through the atmosphere. He continues on and eventually straightens out in the air. Simultaneously communicating with ground control he establishes his location in the sky and continues forward following the commands of his navigational system. The duration of the flight is a about an hour and a half, no problem for someone with his experience. The weather conditions were not really proving to be worrisome. It was awful ly cold though, strange for a heated airplane. He fidgeted with the heating system for a few minutes until he gave up. “Hey, what’s with the heat? It was working just fine earlier. This thing is so on and off.” He said speaking into his head set. “Yeah we put in the FAA paperwork for a repair a few weeks ago. I guess they haven’t gotten around to it.” The voice answered. “I thought the paperwork was put in for that along with the glide slope replacement.” “It was.” “You’d think they would fix everything in one visit. Leave it to the Federal Aviation Administration to solve one problem at a time. Thanks anyways.” “No problem. Try to use your body heat to stay warm.” If I had any left I would, he thought. As a strategy he began thinking of warm places he’d visited over the years. It rarely snowed in Baghdad, maybe once every few years. Everyone would go crazy at the sight. It was always warm during the day, though the temperature would drop during the night. The memory of a summer trip to Disney Land with his brother, sister-in-law, and their children was casting a warming effect. All these memories flooded his mind and before he knew it, it was time to land. Making the correct commands, he began initiating the land sequence. Boy is it foggy; I can barely see the runway. Is it even lit up? This is going to be a challenge. Communicating with air traffic control as he circled the area, he couldn’t help but to feel that something was wrong. The plane used an instrument landing system yet the rate of descent formula was not appearing where it should be. Thinking he would have to land the plane relying solely on his own vision he adjusted his approach lighting, but still found it difficult to see. As he began gently tilting the plane he noticed the fog thickening. A smashing noise sent the plane twirling and he firmly gripped the wheel trying to straighten out. Chaos ensued in his mind as he began to understand what was happening. Spinning around and around he wasn’t able to notice much, but he could see that the wing of his plane had brushed against a tree- but where were the flames coming from? Surely it can’t be the engine, he thought. The white out snow conditions made it hard to see anything, and now he was dizzy. They simulated an emergency crash landing during his training. He always kept
his composure. Trying to regain control he did everything he learned in school, but to no avail. The trees were fully engulfed in flames as the airplane wing had leaked oil spreading the fire. He prepared himself for the impact. He thought about his family and his friends. He thought about all of his schooling, the challenges and the triumphs leading up to this moment. His mother’s words, “Be careful” lingered in his mind. Be careful, be careful, be careful, be careful, be careful. I am careful! This shouldn’t be happening. This can’t be happening- This ISN’T happening. The report called it immediate. Cause of death was blunt force to the chest.
By Christopher K. Till
By Regina Torres
he follows their gazes down to his swollen and gaunt-gray ankles he closes off his lids to the vacant pupils -passengers judging in silence biting their lips over the poor young pin cushion -burnt fingers doing their best to hold up a sick baby face simple milk money he nods off to the usual -unhappy endings sought in fairy tales cooked up in a spoon
By Janean L. Watkins
By Christopher K. Till
Beneath Our Feet and While We Sleep
By Jon-Paul Kreatsoulas
Construction workers must have some idea about it. If they don’t then it’s probably the best kept secret around. On the busy surface, there is a constant rhythm of walking feet headed in all sorts of directions. Every three and a half seconds an aimless individual picks up their cellular phone and exclaims a type of greeting, both common and foreign. Heavy machinery is often in operation, as well as the slamming of doors and gates. Heavy-handed closings of trashcan lids and cars breaking too late to echo a nightmarish screeching halt. Locomotives shake the city as they blaze by on the tracks and every woman and man who’ve spent the last few minutes in their homes trying to look halfway presentable for work or school just wasted those last few minutes. The rushing air of the multi-car train pulling in to each stop makes sure that hair on people’s heads becomes something reminiscent of a mangled hornet’s nest or an untidy pile of leaves. Newspaper vendors shout out the day’s date and the discounted price of the printed material. Bicycles whiz by and baseball stadiums erupt with mixed emotions after every home-run. Needless to say, there’s a bit of noise up there. But it’s even louder down here. If you take the right bus, that leads to the right train, that stops at a particular street where a certain record store has a back room (and a great vinyl selection) that opens up to an alley, and if you take 32 paces west and look down, you’ll come across an ordinary looking sewer cap that spews out a fog like substance that used to be seen in gritty, hard-boiled detective films at the most dramatic of times. After all, finding this specific sewer cap requires a bit of detective work, so it’s quite fitting, granted, that there’s a bit of rewarding campiness. And when you reach this destination, you must kneel down and put your ear to the ground. Like listening for the ocean in a seashell, this requires a bit of patience as well as a fair amount of ridiculousness in your bones, for only the ones who favor the stranger things in their existence may be offered admittance to what lies below. Disregard any inkling of maturity, self-consciousness or worry, and you’ll be among infinite friends. Or if you’re not in need of that many people in your life, you could be surrounded by an infinite amount of bastards who are just as cynical as you are, if not more. But you wouldn’t be here, turning your
head as both ears struggle to hear something as fabled as an underground civilization. Cynicism digs holes while hopefulness is said to propel. Digging isn’t necessary, but you want to go down instead of forward. This is why you’ve followed the vaguest of directions and are possibly being scouted out by the authorities because you ran through the back room of a record store. But you’re here, and this is what matters. A familiar song is playing, and that’s reason enough for you to lift the incredibly light sewer cap. One last look around to make sure that no one is watching a strange person enter the sewer system, and the cap is placed accordingly. Go down the ladder, and follow the sounds. A long hallway with numbers over each doorway lead some to puzzlement. The numbers represent the years of your life and depending on how old you are when you stumble upon this underground, living and breathing photo album that you would rather not revisit, but you can’t help to delve further into, some halls are longer than others. Some rooms will be bigger and some will be smaller. That depends entirely on those who choose to venture down these parts and how eventful they’ve made their life to be. Everyone has a different “below” experience. It’s a period of reflection that you can only visit once. After you’ve come up from you’re childhood, adolescents, first sexual encounter, eighth divorce or near death experience, that sewer cap becomes impossible to lift and no familiar songs can be heard. Those who’ve seen what the “below” has to offer are required to leave something behind. Business men on their lunch hour usually leave a cuff link or a tie clip. Some students have been known to leave photographs or doodles depicting some cruel joke made at someone else’s expense. Others treat this opportunity as a formal occasion and leave flowers as if a part of them has passed on to a spiritual plane, never to be seen again. Some choose to stay for extended periods just to take everything in and attempt to register what they’re reviewing. Time stops when you come down. Some never resurface. Some can’t help but to leave immediately.
When you have tapped out your last favor And ruin a friendship for $45 I will still believe in comrades. When you have walked the path of lies and deceit Always getting caught and left by your lover I will still believe in honesty. When you have forgotten where to kiss Demanding only your own satisfaction I will still believe in intimacy. When you have hurt everyone around you Stabbing each one in the back, multiple times I will still believe in forgiveness. When you adopt and perpetuate violence, sexism, racism, etc. Belittling all humans as inferior to you I will still believe in human kindness. When you threaten with your weapons of mass destruction Waging war and forgetting your allies I will still believe in peace. When you destroy a sunset with harsh words And describe nature as an ugly woman I will still believe in beauty. When you lie down and pave the world as this enemy against you Creating yourself a victim of your own lack of determination I will still believe in survival. When you break your child’s heart over and over again Leaving them with an unacknowledged emptiness inside I will still believe in responsibility. When you walk and talk with anger and rage Leaving smiles smashed on the ground before you I will still believe in love. When you leave a woman to cry While mesmerized by the 12 stories looking up thinking you can fly I will still believe in life.
I Still Believe
By Andi Michaels
By Urszula Wudarczyk
Forever scorned and buried under rubble, Your soul purged to the last bit, The country had forgotten you in its economical bubble, And, still, politics never brought your situation alit. The city thrills and bayous to see, The heavy amusement landmark of past, Your homes never rebuilt, never to be, Forever lost, only the sorrow remained to last. Oh! Dear country’s Lycidas! Why are you gone? Why had Mother Nature brought this upon you? Why were you the target of despair, stripped to the bone? Cannot we bring life back and its people, too? How hard it is to see the painful images still, Never to be brought back to its normalcy, Never for its natives, culture, will, Power nor beauty to return due to fallacy. Where are you muses to help this city’s fight? Help use the country’s resources instead of promoting wasteful spending, Help its people; help the entire region with its plight, So that the everlasting sorrow will soon be ending. Lycidas, you were swept away and cradled to the deepest sleep, May history remain faithful in verse and song, May we learn our lessons and keep them deep, And end future suffering- let it not take too long. For tomorrow is a new day, may the light shine, Let the country see its dependence on you. When we still have a chance to know wrong from right, And for all of us to start the on real work we must do. Clear away the water damage and breathe new life, Cajun and Creole traditions replanted in the soil, Little by little we can sense the ancestral strife, Relive in the present survivors’ toil.
(On the loss of New Orleans after Katrina)
By Elbert Tavon Briggs
Rickshaw From the Roads of South Asia
By Syed A. Hussain
Mesmerizing Nostalgia: Voice from the South
By Syed A. Hussain
انرک رامش بج اک ںوتہاچ ینپا رای ہک ےہ شرازگ ینتا سب انرک راب راب رکذ ارم انرک باستحا بج اک ںودیما ینپا رای ہک ےہ شرازگ یرم ینتا سب انرک راظتنا یھب اک دیما یریم یھبک ہنامز لدگنس ہی ےاھکد رگ لد ہک رک رھگ ںیم ںوھکنآ یریم انرک رای زاغآ اک تّبحم رای ہک ےہ شرازگ ینتا سب انرک ماجنا بج اک ںؤافو ینپا درو یھب اک ںوتیگ ےریم انرک راب کیا سب “When amounting affections of this love of yours, My only humble request is that, Count my affections once again. When auditing hopes of yours, My only humble request is that, Wait for my hope too once again. If this cruel world burns your soul ever, Come, when looking into my eyes forever, Began a new tale of love in them once again, My only humble request is that, When concluding faith of yours Recite my love song’s verses once again Just once more!”
When Life Hands You Sour Lemons...
By Juan Manuel Gonzalez
My feet hit the cold tiles just as the gun goes off downstairs, at first I think to run, then my mom comes in telling me to hide with her in my closet. Not even five seconds later and our robber bursts in searching the room. “Shh” I hear my mom whisper, as the robber gets closer I fear that the drum noises coming from my chest will give us away. Then from below I hear the cops yelling for signs of life, at that moment all I know is I feel myself as I push my way out of 10x7 closet, and right into the arms of the robber. I kick and scream and claw at my assailants face and arms with all my strength. Something falls, and that is when the cops bust in. The cops pry me from the guys hands, and then take him away. This is the third time this month our house has broken into, but the first time that the robber was violent. He had shot the gun off, as a warning to any sleeping person. That same gun was responsible for a murder, less then four blocks away at the Citgo. “Mira Bethsaida, nosotros no podemos vivir aqui” My father yells “Look, Betsy, We can’t live here”. My oldest sister translates it so that we can understand what they are saying. “Y donde nosotros vamos a vivir?” She begins to pace the floor “Con tu madre en Nueva York” I hear my mom rebuttal “And where are we going to live?” “With your mother in New York” This goes on like this for about an hour, until my father goes out to drink himself blind. He comes back with liquor on his breath and el Diablo (the Devil) in his soul. He kicks over the plastic kitchen table, and begins to go through each room waking everyone, even the dog is going to receive his wrath tonight. He yells, and even hits some of them, but when he gets to me, I see something sinister in his eyes, as he grabs the extension cord. “What (smack) the (smack) HELL (smack) were (smack) you (smack) thinking????” which was followed by five more hits of the now red cord, and then… well I can’t remember, I must have passed out. I wake up the next morning to my mother singing to some spanish song as it plays on the radio. I lay on my back and instantly feel pain exploding through my body like a volcano. I don’t fully understand the effect of the beating until I attempt to sit up, and the welts begin to pulsate and burn. That day, I stay home from school, and assist my mother with cleaning up, and preparing my father’s favorite dinner. The day after I get beaten, and here I am preparing Lechon Asada, con Habichuelas colodao Y arroz con gandules. I know his happiness won’t last, and that he will be back to beating us senseless again in two days flat, but this time when he comes home he heads straight for the bedroom. My mother quickly follows him like a tail, and they quickly begin their verbal assault on each other in spanish, my oldest sister isn’t home, so we don’t understand what they say until I hear my mom yell “LEAVE THEN CABRON (Bastard), BUT DON’T EVER COME BACK.” My father goes leaving out the front door, looks at me before he slams the door, and is gone as I run chasing after him. That night I knew we were in trouble, My mother had one job, which was for Eagle Insurance, while my two older siblings went to school, and I went to daycare, which was provided by my
grandmother. When she would get off of work, at twelve she would go volunteer at my brother and sister’s school for the next couple of hours. After which, she would come and pick me up, but the day after my father left she didn’t. I spent all day thinking that she too had abandoned me. That thought quickly was brushed away, when her beat up van would pull up into my grandmother’s driveway. The next couple of months were filled with many tears, and many attempts of my mother giving up on life. She would come home from working two jobs, my brother would then come home from McDonald’s, with dinner, and then our neighbor would come in with some fresh baked cookies. My brother had quit high school so he could work, and help provide, my sister would do odd jobs like patching up clothes, or cleaning, while mi abuela would sit in her house sipping on some expensive brown liquor, eating her exquisite cookies. She never once offered to help my mother even though whenever my mother could, she would help her, whether it be with chores around her house, or by watching her brothers and sisters while my grandfather and her went on vacation. They would come back with the latest toys, and prettiest clothes for my aunts, and uncles, but for my mom a little keychain, which they had bought at the airport. We would go days without eating while every night they would trash at least twenty dollars worth of food. I loathed them, even though when I was there I was treated like a king. Here I was eating while I knew my brother and sister hadn’t eaten in days. I began to boycott, going to my grandmother’s and would instead hang out with Pepito. Pepito, was our neighborhood “provider”, and he would often hand me several dollars, and say “Mira Hijo, your future is bright, now you gotta go out, and get an education, and leave this behind”. After giving me the same lecture for the eighth time, Pepito walked into the nearest Edmart, and opened fire. He was shot not a second later by an off-duty police officer. Within, the next three years I began to take Pepito’s lectures to heart. I became the class president, I was getting all A’s, and I was one of the brightest students in my class. After I breezed through fifth, sixth, seventh, and eight grade, I was faced with a choice. Either go out and find a job, or go through High school. I chose the latter, and became quickly acquainted with my school. I had began to notice a small change in my stature, and my body. I would feel strange when it was gym time, and all of us adolescent boys, were squished together into a room, where penises would be flapping around and towels would be whipped against bare buttocks. Rumors began to spread as they do in high schools, and I was it’s target. “Angel’s gay” people would yell, and write on outdated copies of Algebra Now. I became a scandal and was ostracized because I was confused about my sexuality. I quickly entered into a relationship with my friend Jenny. I had managed to stop the rumors until someone had snapped proof as to my homosexuality. Around the same time, that I had started dating Jenny, I began to date, Raymond, who also went to my school. One day, while we were “hanging out”, he thought it was funny to take a picture of me, and soon afterword the picture made its way onto his myspace, it then made its way all around the school. That Monday, after spring break I contemplated suicide. My dark secret was out, my mother accepted me, but my brother despised me for it, and my grandmother, wanted nothing to do with me, and at school, things were worse, I was a loner, my teachers would purposefully flunk me, and then when I would argue they would tear up the homework in front of me, and say I never turned it in. As I sat on the edge of the bathtub with the razor in my hand, I thought of Pepito, and the lecture he would always give me. His speech saved me, and so here I am a proud gay man who is telling others, that when life hands you sour lemons, you take those seeds and grow a lemon tree, from which you can make countless quarts of lemonade.
“Cuando la guerra le persigue...”
When the war pursues you...
By Tutus Mobio
“Quand la Guerre Vous Poursuit...”
Tabloid Shame Walk
By Shantez M. Tolbut
I thought about my ability to walk down dilapidated streets Vacant lots Full of jumbled up trash, broken bottles that reek of a Friday night 2/11 Torn Newspapers Mildewed clothes from the Jones families foreclosed home Tan and orange faded cardboard That covered the windows of abandoned houses Brown faces scattered about With worn and weathered faces Looking like 1950 in 2011 Shootin crap on top of neon sketched hopscotched sidewalks Where there are no cabs Walls lit up in rust and broken All along one block made up of concrete and wood Potent paint And colored folk Lots and lots of colored folk “HEY Mr. Anchorman!” “Ms. Anchorwoman!” Come in and shoot this I bet you won’t shoot this I bet you won’t come in this lounge This Dark, exciting sphere Filled with marginalized people And dismantled identities Come right on in And share our pleas Our words Our rhymes intertwined with rhythms Made into melodies Made as fluid soundtracks To our anguish Just as the ‘Sunday Morning Juke Joint’ Deeply moves the audience to tears Motivates us To sing Write Speak our own collective Stories and testimonies Into the mic For all of whoever wants to listen? I bet you won’t feed this scene to the masses The white people don’t want to see this This yelling, aching, pain that their ancestors caused This prose and verse birth from our bellies The media News Tabloids Won’t shoot Resistence They won’t shoot Positive spaces like the Jeffery Pub on the Southside of Chicago Where people of color can peacefully come together In love and peace And educate one another Love who they want Say what they want Dance with who they want As I sit back and drink to “You tell it girl!” “That’s the book!” and “Boy, you teachin now!” I reflect On how things HAVE changed On how my predecessors have always fought This fight For equality For humanity For community For togetherness For Mr. Anchormen/Ms. Anchorwomen to actually come in OUR spaces Bring their cameras And shoot the REAL The voice of the people The fight of the people These HUMANS Different Only as Queers And Colored Folk.
By Michael Slas
It’s mercy to be a speck of dust, out drifting through our massive space, free of knowing what has made us. It’s mercy to be a speck of dust, blind to seeing what can and must finally end our time on this place. It’s mercy to be a speck of dust, out drifting through our massive space.
By Sameera Mizra
For Who I Am
By Candace Boykin
You love me not for the color of my skin and not for things I wear but the little things I have to give. Unity can overcome, even when struggle persists, any obstacle this world brings can be overpowered by our strength. Our heritage, deeper than tree resin. Our love, flowing, like northward migration.
The Giving Tree
By Linda Monacelli
My Neighbor’s By Vladimir Skala Keeper
I got a neighbor with the same name as mine. John Smith. He lives next door to me on Chicago’s south side. Now, I’ve never seen the guy or heard any neighbors talk about him and before I got his mail, I didn’t even know we had the same name. Some months ago I started getting his mail. This I credit to the new mailman. At first it was junk mail, some of which I threw out without ever noticing the address. But imagine my surprise after tearing open a manila envelope to find a pornographic magazine inside. I asked my wife and she didn’t order it either. That’s when I looked at the address. Everything, even the name, was right except for the last digit of the street address. Saving both of us the embarrassment of having to return it, I decided to keep it. After the first magazine, I was bombarded with new issues every other day: Hustler, Penthouse, Juggs and a host of magazines with Asian women. Porno magazines began crowding up all my storage space. I had a stack of them under my coffee table in the living room. Eventually, I had to throw some of them out. All of my mail, including eBay packages, was in good order at the time. As far as the US Postal Service was concerned, I was the real John Smith. However, the mounting stacks of porno mags were disconcerting to my wife so I decided to have a talk with our mailman. I caught him one Saturday morning. He greeted me with a smirk, shoving yet another manila envelope into our box. When I told him about his mistake and all the wrong mail I got, the bastard chuckled. I raised a possibility of a complaint and he promised to “never make a mistake again.” I finally had some peace and quiet and my mailbox went back to normal. The porno mags were becoming a standard fixture in the house, but I really meant to return them, just haven’t worked up my courage yet. Soon the troubles with the mailbox started again. First, it was the junk mail which was becoming exceedingly rare until it vanished completely. This didn’t bother me the least. When the first shipment from eBay wasn’t delivered, I naturally blamed the seller. I berated the fellow over the rating system and vowed never to buy his celebrity pin cushions again. But when my tiger striped plush bathrobe didn’t show up I started worrying. By the week’s end I was at a loss for a Stanley Cup replica, 3D glasses, beef jerky-flavored jelly beans, a pair of shrunken heads and the tiger striped plush bathrobe, all the items bought and paid for with my hard earned line of credit. I nervously waited for the damn mailman all Saturday morning and into lunchtime. He didn’t show up. My wife tried to console me and told me to quit ordering stuff from the internet for the time being, at least until I sort it out with the mailman next Saturday. When she left for her weekly round of shopping, I quickly rounded up all the porno mags in our house and stacked them into a cardboard box. I just couldn’t let my wife know about the golden-plated wrestling championship belt on its way here. Next
Saturday could be too late. The box was heavy and unwieldy so I got a dolly from the garage. I wheeled it to the other Smith’s entrance staircase, grabbed one magazine and stepped up toward the door. A hulking black guy opened. “What do you want?” he asked. I stood there for a second trying to remember what I wanted. Clearly, the man was busy. “Oh, yeah. I’m your neighbor, John Smith, and live right next door.” “I’m John Smith,” he said as I noticed the stripped bathrobe he was wearing, his arms sticking way out of the sleeves. Son of a bitch! “We both are,” I said with a smile. “You see, the postal office has been having some good fun at our expense and sent some of your mail to my house and vice versa.” I stuck up the magazine I was hiding behind my back. He gazed over it and his face, which I didn’t believe possible, became even angrier. “You think I’m a pervert?” he shouted and slammed the door in my face. I wheeled the box to my garbage can. With as much clamor as possible, I plunged the box in and covered it up with other refuse. When my wife came home, I told her I had returned the magazines. She asked about my packages and I said he didn’t get any. She thought it strange, so I quickly relieved her suspicions with plans to visit the postal office on Monday. It was evening already and Fox was showing reruns of our favorite sitcom. We sat down and, amid the punch lines and recorded laughter, my wife quickly forgot about the packages or the fake Smith. I turned to look at her. She seemed happy, her face beaming with laughter. Thoughts of the golden-plated belt were getting at me. The amount of hours spent in the office so I could afford it – wasted. You can’t buy back the time, I thought, as I reclined on the couch and consoled myself with the sight of a Klingon sword proudly displayed above the TV.
Reminiscence from the
By Mary Clemmensen
I got a neighbor with the same name as mine. John Smith. He lives next door to me on Chicago’s south side. Now, I’ve never seen the guy or heard any neighbors talk about him and before I got his mail, I didn’t even know we had the same name. Some months ago I started getting his mail. This I credit to the new mailman. At first it was junk mail, some of which I threw out without ever noticing the address. But imagine my surprise after tearing open a manila envelope to find a pornographic magazine inside. I asked my wife and she didn’t order it either. That’s when I looked at the address. Everything, even the name, was right except for the last digit of the street address. Saving both of us the embarrassment of having to return it, I decided to keep it. After the first magazine, I was bombarded with new issues every other day: Hustler, Penthouse, Juggs and a host of magazines with Asian women. Porno magazines began crowding up all my storage space. I had a stack of them under my coffee table in the living room. Eventually, I had to throw some of them out. All of my mail, including eBay packages, was in good order at the time. As far as the US Postal Service was concerned, I was the real John Smith. However, the mounting stacks of porno mags were disconcerting to my wife so I decided to have a talk with our mailman. I caught him one Saturday morning. He greeted me with a smirk, shoving yet another manila envelope into our box. When I told him about his mistake and all the wrong mail I got, the bastard chuckled. I raised a possibility of a complaint and he promised to “never make a mistake again.” I finally had some peace and quiet and my mailbox went back to normal. The porno mags were becoming a standard fixture in the house, but I really meant to return them, just haven’t worked up my courage yet. Soon the troubles with the mailbox started again. First, it was the junk mail which was becoming exceedingly rare until it vanished completely. This didn’t bother me the least. When the first shipment from eBay wasn’t delivered, I naturally blamed the seller. I berated the fellow over the rating system and vowed never to buy his celebrity pin cushions again. But when my tiger striped plush bathrobe didn’t show up I started worrying. By the week’s end I was at a loss for a Stanley Cup replica, 3D glasses, beef jerky-flavored jelly beans, a pair of shrunken heads and the tiger striped plush bathrobe, all the items bought and paid for with my hard earned line of credit. I nervously waited for the damn mailman all Satur-
South Side of Chicago
day morning and into lunchtime. He didn’t show up. My wife tried to console me and told me to quit ordering stuff from the internet for the time being, at least until I sort it out with the mailman next Saturday. When she left for her weekly round of shopping, I quickly rounded up all the porno mags in our house and stacked them into a cardboard box. I just couldn’t let my wife know about the golden-plated wrestling championship belt on its way here. Next Saturday could be too late. The box was heavy and unwieldy so I got a dolly from the garage. I wheeled it to the other Smith’s entrance staircase, grabbed one magazine and stepped up toward the door. A hulking black guy opened. “What do you want?” he asked. I stood there for a second trying to remember what I wanted. Clearly, the man was busy. “Oh, yeah. I’m your neighbor, John Smith, and live right next door.” “I’m John Smith,” he said as I noticed the stripped bathrobe he was wearing, his arms sticking way out of the sleeves. Son of a bitch! “We both are,” I said with a smile. “You see, the postal office has been having some good fun at our expense and sent some of your mail to my house and vice versa.” I stuck up the magazine I was hiding behind my back. He gazed over it and his face, which I didn’t believe possible, became even angrier. “You think I’m a pervert?” he shouted and slammed the door in my face. I wheeled the box to my garbage can. With as much clamor as possible, I plunged the box in and covered it up with other refuse. When my wife came home, I told her I had returned the magazines. She asked about my packages and I said he didn’t get any. She thought it strange, so I quickly relieved her suspicions with plans to visit the postal office on Monday. It was evening already and Fox was showing reruns of our favorite sitcom. We sat down and, amid the punch lines and recorded laughter, my wife quickly forgot about the packages or the fake Smith. I turned to look at her. She seemed happy, her face beaming with laughter. Thoughts of the golden-plated belt were getting at me. The amount of hours spent in the office so I could afford it – wasted. You can’t buy back the time, I thought, as I reclined on the couch and consoled myself with the sight of a Klingon sword proudly displayed above the TV.
Powerful currents wash away my identity and religion based on the actions of few. Struggling to stay afloat Swimming past the sea of voices restricting me to stereotypes. On shore, the hot sand burns my feetcovering my souls with blisters. The seagulls fluttering above reminiscent of my crippled wing Trudging along desperate for shade The scorching sun Illuminates my alienated soul The omnipotent sea filled with rage crashes its waves against the ocean floor. The path ahead filled with obstacles. Perched with sand dunes making it difficult to cross Further…. A powerful wind blows part of the sand dune . Filling my heart with content for a better tomorrow
Near the ocean, fragmented shellsmirror my shattered identity.
By Sumaiya Maniya
By Janean L. Watkins
So did we then turn South:
An elegy in commemoration of the passing of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
By Winston Rysdahl
Amidst the turmoil long endured O'er peace the prophets tell A greater halt was never heard Than when our Shepard fell Yet not in this contentious time Did this dispute arise But from a deft historic rhyme The Memphis heart belies An ageless war of states And graves which thus o'erflow From wars of North and South and Fates Of human rights we know In Memphis did the Pharaohs rule Until a shepard rose Delivering from tyrants cruel A covenant composed Inspired of fire, forged in stone On tablets brought to man The laws of God upon his throne To live by as we can At this and fated moments since, Our flock's had prophets 'round To guide us to a future whence A proper shepard's found For as an endless turning herd Our human will is lost Until our faith is new conferred Unto a righteous Host And know we once again our Hearts The driving force and will Of Earth of which we each are parts With purpose to fulfill
'Fore man's first disobedience Was sacred charge ingrained With or without obsequience The duty, ours remained. Within each covenant we keep We're held within the fold As God had tended we his sheep In turn, we'd tend the world. It surely stands to reason then, We are not merely sheep But watcher's kin o'er all we ken The world's our own to keep Return, now, to the city's sin Which let our pastor fail The last true mortal Shepard's kin His words of no avail. From this context were we so blind His righteous grace to spurn No further fields of faith to find? No, from him, South we turn.
SouthSide of the Laura Nieves By NorthSide
Its two faced tandems with posting flashing blue lights on street corners police camera memorandums telling insiders and drive-byers your neighborhood is messed up. On the SouthSide of the Northside We are sold into food and liquor store slavery, being thrown scraps of capitalist survival meat of W.I.C. Food Stamps And Minimal healthcare in barely standing clinic facilities 35 cent juices 10 cent freeze pops And social security. It’s a 24/7 pharmacy – grab 2-for-1 baggies of purple green 8 balls of white girl with girls who don’t give bumps for free The boys who never had daddies have their crimson reds spread in patterns on solid grounds like a screaming man painting. There’s so much thunder on the block you can’t tell it’s a storm ‘til there’s lightening. Let’s be “the hood’s” mother and stay together for the sake of the childrenWho chase butterflies when the sun is high and the fireflies at night. Old ladies sitting on front porches talking old times and how their gardens grow tomates gandules cilantro. Hydrant hot days turn corners into ghetto waterparks and summer breezes bring reprieve from weeks of humidity. Mothers calling for their children when the streetlights come on- Right before late night 10pm ice cream trucks do drop offs and pick-ups playing: “Do your chain hang low, do it wobble to and fro….” So don’t come shaking your head claiming suburban stakes on city landscapes. If you never spent two generations here, you never knew. Child’s eyes to witness a mother’s cries as Baby wails to daddy being pulled out of the passenger seat window. Three calls to 911to deaf tones Beep. Beep. Beep. By the time blue and white with flashing lights five-O rolls through All that remains is busted windows, broken bats and the echo of a tire iron on skull cracking pavement.
Don’t come knocking at my broken chain link fence to clean my street, we do it ourselves. Its two faced tandems with posting flashing blue lights on street corners police camera memorandums telling insiders and drive-byers your neighborhood is messed up. If you ever had to write anything other than ‘606’ as an area code on your mailing address – I don’t want to hear it. If you never laid your head to sirens and ambulances lullabying you to rest with thoughts of hope to Second chancesI ain’t having it. You can’t fake the funk of city life It’s a talk, it’s a walk and we always know when something is off. A knowledge of back streets and quick routes to peace. It is “real talks” and self-understanding, Planting roots to concrete and your ghetto roses expanding. An urban jungle lies in the ventilation of the train station of my spirit. This mental vision of colored folks’ precision in being able to guide their own decisions Coupled with The culmination of suburban justification of finding identity in saving the city from damnation Raping it for its public demonstrations Without ever living the experience yet crying out calls to action This city identity that is clamored for can’t be bought at auction What’s inside of you and what you portray is causing concrete traction The SouthSide of the Northside is just a fraction of the friction between you renting an apartment and a family’s eviction And restoration of our standing determination lies in the realization of this city proclamationYou can’t fake the funk.
By Lakeesha J. Harris
Breathing, in and out, chest falling then rising again, sucking in heat. You’ve met your match and have found your rhythm. We be between clinking of mixing bowls and the glide of rolling pins. Brow sweating muscles bulging and flexed. You enter, I exit. You exit, I enter. We are building orgasms of sweet peaches and rolled dough. Announce you, at the table of thanksgiving, I stuck my foot in that one!
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