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(Are you mad?) Yes, I'm mad
(What make you mad?) I don't fuckin' know
– Jamila Woods
There are days where I don't understand which of my emotions are at the reins. My rage is fighting my sorrow, which fights my exhaustion and my joy for attention. I want to weep in the kitchen. I want to make love on the sofa. To be alive at a set of intersections is to be digesting the world, feeling all of it. It's quite a playlist of sound. And on those days, I'd rather not be listening to it alone. Feel me?
What I love about the poems this week is they are neither flattened in rage nor clean in resolve. These poems are alive: messy, petty, embodied. Make no mistake, there is rigor at work. In Faylita Hicks' poem, "A Tale as Old as Time," there are three pieces, actually: Two versions of a world, inextricably linked, interrupting the reader to create a third, wilder thing.
In "A Maiden Name Was Once Useful as a Strong Test of Identity," Victoria Newton Ford says, "I remember / learning this difference / between a parent and the collapse," a brief and spectacular peek into the interior of grief. Here (and in all her works), Newton-Ford is good at everything. This poem excels at granular investigations of memory, at using (re)collection to find the truest parts.
In a very different world, on a very different page, poet Kiki Nicole confronts the confines of binaries by deconstructing the line, projecting errors upon the "simulation" of traditional poetics and conventional bodies. Dedicated to Legacy Russell, author of the text Glitch Feminism, it seems appropriate that this poem glitches, breaks down, makes a mess, and leaves the reader among the ruin.
Each writer digs at the very fabric of aliveness, inviting us to lose (or find) ourselves in the tenor of these poems. We all contain multitudes, as the saying goes. So, you are welcome to return here to the constellation of these masterpieces with me, to listen on the days we need reminders the most.
— Aurielle Marie
TRACK 01 …….. Faylita Hicks
"A Tale as Old as Time"
When I say God is a cop, I mean to say god
is a sergeant of sapphire and riot. He loves me
is a sergeant over at the local precinct. He keeps following me
like a meteor hurling itself into my muddy emollient,
like he's looking for a good reason to pick me up
my fated impermanence.
I can't just say it plain. Not this. Not the terror of my lineage.
I was designed to die—of course—but see how He charges
I know how this ends, with me flat on my face again
across my threshold & into my womxn, tearing through
and some story about my indecency,
the many etches of my face, a symphony of lead
my criminal record—my history of theft
playing into the palette of my ivory, blistering my cheeks
playing out perfectly in the headlines—I'm sure they'll see me
until I evaporate under the gas-doused kiss of yet another one
as another one of those wannabe anarchists
of His greedy nights.
talking too much shit.
I can't say it plain. Not this. Not that which has always been.
My womxn is a glass marble He eternally cut out
What will I tell my niece about the gun
from the breast of an Eon or a She,
and about the handcuffs and about what happens when
a god of another name now forgotten,
a Black girl is the victim of anything,
plummeting wet and unwanted
especially when she is soft and kind
into the gaping mouths of our descendants
out in a world that believes she is
branched out in the flushed indigo desert of here,
some terrible threat to innocence,
a place compressed through His filtered memory
a liar looking for lies in what has already been fact-checked
of our mutual existence, leaving scratches in the zodiac
by god, by the sergeant, and the judge
and on the lids of their eyes, a single flake
and the president, dammit, the congress
of Hir original form survived,
of our country
—a universe unceremoniously unraveled.
—a democracy dying.
I can't say it plain. Not this.
In His murderous light-stained hands
And yet, after he has consumed
anything able to move
we have yet to move anything,
Faylita Hicks(she/they) is the author of HoodWitch (Acre Books, 2019), a finalist for the 2020 Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Poetry, and a voting member of the Recording Academy/GRAMMYs.
TRACK 02 …….. Victoria Newton Ford
"A Maiden Name Was Once Useful As A Strong Test of Identity"
Before that day, I did not know our mother
owned a name other than mother.
Just as it had yet to occur to me any mother might flip
the magazines of paranoia and perfume in a waiting room
without her children and be summoned before
a block of cells containing everything
she had ever lost. Behind the door she remains
a woman in need of attendance or removal.
It never fails. The entitlement of our memories.
Already scheduling a screening for blood. Tending
to the knees matter of dissolve. An arm
observed for tenderness. I remember
learning this difference
between a parent and the collapse
of a total person when I read the title
of her obituary in The Commercial Appeal:
"Ex-Wife of John Ford Dies in South Carolina."
And searching for her name,
I suddenly had an urge to piss
just as it happened back then on the road—
the pit stop where we drank one thousand
popsicles in the grass, visiting her childhood
friend. The air was a thick grit against our skin.
That night, you both were drooled
to the floor. I leapt over your spaceship
heads toward the toilet. Then there, I finally saw
her. Grunting naked above a man
we knew barely beyond this offering of sugar.
His thighs jerking underneath
and her teeth cuffed—Say it again.
It never fails. I stood behind the door.
Reading their outlines, uncovering
her name from the ground like a match
to a sock. I held that drawn out growl
just as a figure in the night might lift
a leg in the street to prove she can stand.
The narrative collapsing
in a room of displaced things,
which had nothing to do with us.
Victoria Newton Ford is a poet from Memphis, Tennessee. She is a MacDowell and Lambda Literary Fellow, and her work has been supported by Tin House Summer Writers Workshop, the Vermont Studio Center, and The Hurston/Wright Writers Workshop. She earned her B.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing from the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently working on her first manuscript about Black mothers and their daughters, captivity, and haunting.
TRACK 03 …….. Kiki Nicole
"To Become An Error Is To Surrender"
After Legacy Russell
Kiki Nicole is an agender poet and artist who works to archive Very Black Feelings. Their work appears in The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Shade Journal, TWANG Anthology, and more. Kiki is co-founder of the new media/film archival project and screening series, the first and the last, which uplifts work by Black trans and queer new media artists. In 2021, they served as the Citizen Literary Fellow at Graywolf Press. Kiki is a poetry editor at Muzzle Magazine and a member of art collectives, Goodyear Arts and Saltwater Sojourn. They live in Charlotte, North Carolina.
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