Post-Election Song of Myself

by Cynthia Dewi Oka
Appears in Issue 6 of The Blueshift Journal (theblueshiftjournal.com).

Time walked across the street called midnight.

It left us standing in a forest of pundits and their fluorescent fruit.

Still, it was dim. As water in the bowels of the city, as the impression that I had been here before,

looking over this fear in the shape of a red pudding, trembling at the fork’s slightest gesture.

What good is the fork when hunger is gone?

There is no secret to resurrection buried under the wood. I know I am forcing the opposite of

song to sing.

Does it ever miss us – time, I mean? As it strides into the fire-worked night, the crowds pale with

clenching their fists.

A predator has been elected president.

Strangely, his orange hue reminds me of hope. In the sense that as a child I used to swallow

orange seeds to transform my body into a tree.

Because in place of roots, a displaced people have nerves sparkling with rings far too small for

our fingers.

Binders of laminated identity, and mothballs to seduce time into staying a little while longer.

Does it ever miss us – hung here like lanterns over the monstrous body of love?

I was seven when I tried to pee standing up without a penis. The piss ran hot down my legs, and I knew I had failed.

The latch was rusted shut. In the ditch under the toilet seat, mosquitos bred their empire.

I banged on the door, screaming, “Papa! Papa!” though I knew he would beat me afterward for

trying to escape my body.

This is how I think about race in America. That banging,

because we do not want to die.

A white supremacist has been elected president, and I keep

thinking about the bullets hugged by my friends’ brains, and my father, skin smooth as teeth,

under a thin hospital blanket.

How he drew that last breath and everything behind it:

the buses stained with chicken shit, the ghosts in the rafters who stole his hair
and the combs for his remaining hair,
my mother’s feet black with dried blood,
and everything he was willing to kill in himself

to be here, and hated

in a new way. How that breath raged

inside him, and how I stood at the closed door of his life, with no hammer, no key.

I never did grow leaves, and roots to me sound like Questlove saying, “Time will tell…Time

never stops telling,” which is another way of saying time will not come back to save us,

the body is not a thing to escape.

Here is mine. It is soft and hard at once. It pees sitting down. Sometimes it can exhale a poem

out of the most poisoned air.

It would eat the rusted latch before it gives in.


Cynthia Dewi Oka is a poet, mother, and author of Nomad of Salt and Hard Water (Thread Makes Blanket, 2016). A two-time Pushcart Prize Nominee, her poems have appeared online and in print, including in Guernica, Black Renaissance Noire, Painted Bride Quarterly, Dusie, The Wide Shore, The Collapsar, Apogee, Kweli, As Us Journal, Obsidian, and Terrain.org. She is also a contributor to the anthologies Read Women (Locked Horn Press, 2014), Dismantle (Thread Makes Blanket, 2014), and Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Frontlines (PM Press, 2016). Cynthia has been awarded the Fifth Wednesday Journal Editor’s Prize in Poetry, scholarships from the Voices of Our Nations (VONA) Writing Workshop and Vermont Studio Center, and the Art and Change Grant from Leeway Foundation. An immigrant from Bali, Indonesia, she is based in South Jersey/Philly. Her second book of poems is forthcoming in 2017 from Northwestern University Press.

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Hands On

by Amanda Stovicek

Having her hands on the attacker’s face

it became impossible to hurt

 

the supple bending of skin baby-soft

or lamb’s ear cotton in her palms.

 

Not to tear or maim but to feel the pulse

underneath his body’s covering. Not to run

 

even as the attacker tore safety away like a river

tearing its bank. Her body as that crumbling,

 

finally noticing the river, closer than before.

The attacker wanting to drown in the river

 

to become a prism for her body. Always the river

was a part of her body, grabbing more dirt and flesh.

 

She rubbed it from the corners of her mouth

and held no shape. The attacker grew gills and swam away.

 

By morning she transformed into a small deer

who anyone could put their hands on.


Amanda Stovicek is a writer and teaching artist from Northeast Ohio.  She works to bring poetry to various public audiences, including local hospitals, schools, and detention centers.  She is the co-founder and editor of Voices of Dan Street, an online journal that showcases the work of students at the Summit County Juvenile Detention Center. Amanda is finishing her MFA in Poetry in the NEOMFA Program. Her work has appeared in Rubbertop ReviewThe New Old StockJenny Magazine, and Calliope.

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The Fourth of July

by Sarah Duncan

I told you I wanted to know
what our flag is and you said it was
all hero, a kind of soft night
light in the hallway
so you can make it
to the bathroom without falling,
you said it was a quilt, wrapped
around mountains and snow drifts,
sleeving the arms of trees,
like purple, like mountain, like majesty,
you said it’s a taut man
in green with a barrel in his
hands the shape of freedom,
you said it’s our name, child,
your hands, your feet, and you
told me to touch it
so I gathered in my fingers
a piece of cloth, red-wet,
blood-dry, heavy with the sound
of last words from brown mouths


Sarah Duncan currently lives in Laramie, Wyoming, where she’s getting her MFA in creative writing. She is a queer multidisciplinary writer, performer, educator, troublemaker, and community organizer with SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) Wyoming and Laramie for Black Lives. Her poetry has been published by Pelorus Press, Ghost House Review, nin poetry Journal, Souvenir Lit Journal and the anthology States of the Union (forthcoming); her plays have been produced by Sanguine Theatre Company in NYC.

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Survival Practice

by Jasper Wirtshafter

I know how to start a fire
how to build shelter from sticks and leaves
and how to make love after being raped

I know how to run a 10k
how to cook on an open fire with a steel grate
how to purify water

I know how to navigate the wood and city streets
how to ask a stranger fro help
how to travel light

I know how to file taxes and fill out spreadsheets
how to survive in a world that values my spreadsheets more than my survival skills
values my livelihood more than my life

I know how to survive another comedy show where a body like mine is the punchline
how to survive another horror story where a body like mine is the boogie man
how to survive another news clip where a body like mine is just another freak in a body bag

I know how to administer intramuscular testosterone shots
how to talk someone down from suicide
how to hide pills from myself

I know how to act in a crisis
how to watch my back
how to cope when watching my back isn’t enough

I know because I’ve had to learn
despite every way they say people like me are weak
we are practiced in the habit of surviving

I know we fought so good we made cliche the phrase “it gets better”
soon it will be worse than I have been alive to remember
but

I know queer culture was built from what AIDS left behind
we have survived before
we have survival practice


Jasper Wirtshafter is from Athens Ohio, in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. He has been writing and performing spoken word poetry for four years.

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I Come from No Man’s Rib

by Brittani Rable

I come from soil
beneath hollow trees,

        from ore
        fissured
        in dewy cavern walls.

I come from the sky—
rain evaporated

        from glaciers
        that bit the earth
        and birthed rivers,

that kept their hearts
solid and dared
anyone to tell them
that they came

        from a page,
        that they came
        in one day.

I come from
stardust
and sulfur,

        from the collision
        of continents.

I come from no story,

        from no invention,
        from no blame.

I come from pink
salt beds and sea
froth. I come

        from the flesh
        of fruit and the woman
        who ate it,

who already existed
without shame.


Brittani is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Arts in English and minor in Creative Writing. She has previously been published in Mosaic Magazine and currently lives in Columbus, Ohio, where she works in marketing and freelance writing.

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Trump as a Fire Without Light #122

 

by Darren C. Demaree

The eels have found the sand.  They’re not slowing down.  They must plan on drowning in our throats.  We were right to use our bodies as a fortress.  I wish they had found a better way to sanctify their efforts.  They wanted prayers.  They got chants.  They wanted God.  They got to join the processional.  There is no darkness that will not be met with an absolute resistance.  


Darren C. Demaree is the author of six poetry collections, most recently “Many Full Hands Applauding Inelegantly (2016, 8th House Publishing).  He is the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net Anthology and Ovenbird Poetry.  He is currently living in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children.

Darren’s Twitter: @d_c_demaree

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On Food

by Joshua Everett

If Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben birthed a baby, I wonder if President Obama would pour it on his waffles

I wonder if these Black-faced products are just an inside joke of the Nu Klux Klan that our stomachs are the punch line to

 

How many Black kids have bellies that swell like black eyes

Bruised by blows of empty cereal bowls

And a fistful of crumbs in the pantry

 

How many Black kids have bellies like airbags

Stored with food to keep from crashing into reality

Meant to protect but sometimes fatal

 

For us, food has always been a contradiction

Most likely to suffer from hunger, most likely to be obese

Most likely to window shop at restaurants, most likely to hoard every feast

Most likely to live like a slave and eat like a king

Least likely to live long enough to quench the appetite of our dreams

 

What does success taste like?

While we on the subject what you digest last night?

Can’t feed you knowledge if you hungry

 

We force feed alleged terrorists

Yet starve those who live where hunger strikes

Fresh fruit don’t grow in the desert

They say it’s easier to deep-fry mirages

Plus the journey from soul food to Whole Foods

Creates a trail of tears from affordable housing

 

So we stuck

Between gentrifying greens and

Kentucky fried pleasures

 

The South shall rise again

Only this time it’ll be our blood pressure

Only this time the soldiers won’t have weapons

They’ll just have receipts

Only this time, we won’t have to bleed

We just

Gotta eat


Joshua Everett is from Leeds, Alabama and recently graduated from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. He started both writing and performing to try and impress two different women at different points in his life. He’s been swept up in a love affair with poetry ever since. His writing ranges in topics from love to racism to awkwardly stumbling through young adulthood. Music has strong influences on his writing, especially hip-hop, jazz, and soul. The goal of his writing is to infuse these distinct, yet connected African-American art forms to make work that people can really feel. He currently works as a community organizer in Jacksonville, Florida with Interfaith Coalition for Action Reconciliation and Empowerment (I.C.A.R.E).

Joshua’s Facebook

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