Here’s to the security guards who maybe had a degree in another land. Here’s to the manicurist who had to leave her family to come here, painting the nails, scrubbing the feet of strangers. Here’s to the janitors who don’t even fucking understand English yet work hard despite it all. Here’s to the fast food workers who work hard to see their family smile. Here’s to the laundry man at the Marriott who told me with the sparkle in his eyes how he was an engineer in Peru. Here’s to the bus driver, the Turkish Sufi who almost danced when I quoted Rumi. Here’s to the harvesters who live in fear of being deported for coming here to open the road for their future generation. Here’s to the taxi drivers from Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt and India who gossip amongst themselves. Here is to them waking up at 4am, calling home to hear the voices of their loved ones. Here is to their children, to the children who despite it all become artists, writers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, activists and rebels. Here’s to Western Union and Money Gram. For never forgetting home. Here’s to their children who carry the heartbeats of their motherland and even in sleep, speak with pride about their fathers. Keep on.

Immigrants. First generation.

Ijeoma Umebinyuo.

there are days i am fully there;
bubbling and bursting with life,
where conversation feels like
the most natural thing
and my instinct first
is to hug and kiss,
and dance with anyone
who is near and dear,
i am alive and here.

and then there are days like today,
where i begin to drift away
and the words in my head need
all the energy in my body to speak,
i feel weak and distant;
all i want is to retreat to a space,
that is quiet and warm,
where i am alone
and breathing is easy.

it seems as though i am
two opposing beings
vying to live in a single body.

even i,
do not know
which version will show,
each day.

—  living in parts, f.gabdon

one day
your bones will get weary
of men
who refuse to
worship the God in you

on that day,
you will either silt your soul
or gather your spirit
leaving any man
who has never called you

—  Ijeoma Umebinyuo

My frame aches in all the places that
you’ve never touched. In every birthmark
that has yet to be kissed by the bronze of
your skin in moonlight, in every bend of
my bones that hasn’t had the privilege of
cradling you to sleep, in every fiber of my
muscles that have fused whimpers within
the pronunciation of your name,

I feel you everywhere.

Two days ago, I ran into a glimpse of
your hair color by the train stop and
misplaced my athlete’s pace; I forgot
how I’d conditioned myself to forget you.

Last night, I drank to find numbness
but only unearthed slurred poetry and
a constellation that linked heartache and
migraine beneath a star-crossed smile.

I am every inch sore from loving you
and you’ve never even slipped bare
beneath my fingertips. But see, my hands—
I think my hands are the most tortured
part of my body because they can’t stop
writing to someone who is not here.

I still feel you everywhere,
just everywhere except here.

—  "Symptoms of an Unrequited Love" -Valentina Thompson
The only game I’ve ever wanted to play
while loving you was maybe connect
four with our flaws on the living room
carpet to watch as they all canceled out
with my hand still in yours. But I guess
I wouldn’t mind leaving rug burns on
your back and ruby scratches on mine
and calling it coloring, either. Perhaps
I’d pitch a round of hide and seek with
your insecurities and do everything in my
power to choose a place you’d never see
again, but what you do need to see, is:

They only ever ended in still loving you.
But you, you want hesitation, and
anticipation, and I’ll text you back
fifteen minutes later and I swear to God
I wasn’t flirting with our waiter; you
are I guess I’m not busy tomorrow, but
maybe tomorrow’s not the best time
for this—us. I think, maybe the whispers
you send crawling along my spine past
midnight are just reminders that I’m
lucky you’re at least mine for tonight
and I never signed up for this, I’m sorry.
You only ever played to win, to make sure
that in the end I’m still pining after you, but

I was only even rhyming for you in the
first place to find a space in your chest
for the best of us and the rest of us and
the mess we made with chalkboards
and dust, lazy promises we traced trying
to play hangman in the dark to one day
say something that would solve the
ache in our hearts that kept screaming
something’s missing here; It took me a

year to bring this up and you pretended
you had know idea what I meant, so I softly
slid the cobwebbed puzzle from the closet
out onto our living room carpet again. That
night, you told me we couldn’t do this together
because too many pieces didn’t fit, remember?

I said, yeah
yeah, that’s exactly it.
—  "Child’s Play" -Valentina Thompson

everyday begins the same and ends the same. even the layers in between have told the same story for what is coming up close to a year. every night i tell myself the same lie that tomorrow will be different and every morning i feel the same guilt in realizing it will only be the same. so much room for change yet so little risk taken for action. in my head are visions and outlines of what needs to be done in order for them to come to life. but the idea is birthed and murdered as a vision before it has a chance to be nurtured into reality. what is to blame? who is to blame? is it i? the same guy who tells himself the same lie every night? or is it the excuses i feed myself every day to put the blame elsewhere to not make myself feel bad? whatever it is, the problem is alive. more alive than i give my life to live. because simply waking up, going through the same actions and going to sleep does not give me life. it actually gives me death. death to my humor, happiness, soul, expression, voice, purpose, ambition and potential. so much potential going to waste waiting for something to change. waiting to hopefully wake up one day and be living the life i always imagine. but the life i imagine will never be lived if i continue to live through my visions. 

you are not the kinda girl a dude takes out and tells somewhere through a sweeping night you pretty. you are not the kind of girl a dude hesitates over, pauses, feels something somewhere. you are the kind of girl a dude imagines with dick at the back of your throat, he thinks of choking you until he cums. he lets you put your clothes on and leave. you are orderly like that. every conversation is a leading point to that moment. your mascara run downs your face. you are hungry when you get home and eat uncooked pasta with feta cheese. you like the view from his room, the way his clothes are neat up on the rail. he asks you what a building is, his accent is out of town. you realise how desperately you cling to london as your own but there is no place. in new york your ex lover who promised he loved you fucks the back of your throat from a roof top building. he tells you like all these years you aren’t worth pretty or a conversation or present. you are worth cum you wipe off, mascara down your eyes. you have no right to say dude is cute or interesting or you’d like to know him. instead you watch something, listen to a soundtrack that isn’t yours and remind yourself over and over that girls like you are just back of the throat and not deep in the heart. the building in the skyline you can’t name is not yours. 

Yesterday, I asked my dentist to drill you out of my enamel so
that I couldn’t give you the gratification of slipping into my
conversations anymore; then, to please place your name
in the filling of my first cavity. I said I wanted to keep it there
as a reminder that all you do is deteriorate others.

You stopped hurting a while ago. But I’m still sick
and tired of seeing your face around. So I went to my doctor
and requested he feed me an IV of humanity, ‘cause then just
maybe I could flush your hypocrisy out of my system and
remember what it’s like to breathe without the pressure of
a fabricated friend standing on my chest trying to get ahead.

How’s the view from up there? If it wasn’t already
apparent, I’m not a fan of yours, but my oversights also
aren’t as transparent as yours, therefore I’m thinking about
leaving you my optometrist’s card one day. Maybe she’ll be
able to help you see what little character you have left.

Because you let me stand on a stage in nothing but
a hospital gown. Because the only mistake I made was
placing my trust in the palms that only know how to fend
for your status. Because I’m fucking done with being the
patient, and the victim, and being contorted into the one who’s
a little bit misshapen from your stories. I fell for those once.
I was the one who ended up with a cracked spine and a self-
stained page from the trauma; but I’ve bookmarked you as
a mistake, and I’ve removed your knife and rebuilt my backbone
on my own. I’ve found home in my poems, and truth in my marrow—
and I hope that I one day get published for me, and I hope that my
tox screens will be free of the doubt you once injected into my
bloodstream the next time I go to tell another person a vulnerability.
I hope that one day you come across this piece, and read:

the cure for an egoist is one: quite a hefty dose
of modesty, and the next time your symptoms itch
to spread rumors, take two tablespoons of shut the fuck up.

—  "To the Girl Suffering from Duplicity that I Used to Call a Friend" -Valentina Thompson

he flashes his hand
with the tungsten ring
polished on fourth finger
like it’s supposed to mean something
after letting it sit on the kitchen counter
for so long
that picking it up again
left a silhouette around the dust
my heart was already dead
when you slid it off your finger
when your cheeks were slick
with angry tears
mine were already spent

-he flashes the promises we made three years ago like they’re supposed to mean something /.w.m.w.

You have such a common name and yet I can spot yours immediately.

I miss you.
Do you miss me too?

I text you but you didn’t answer.
I always get a little scared when that happens,
And I pray you’re just busy
And safe.

You’re okay, right?
Is Michael okay?
How’s your brother and his baby?
How’s your cat?

You suck at texting
But I’ll try not to worry.

When you do answer, don’t ask me how I am.
I won’t ask you how you are
I promise.

We’ll keep the conversation light.
I put on a good front, you know that.

I miss you.

You have such a common name and yet I can spot yours immediately.
But I never get to read it anymore.

—  We have one of the oddest friendships, a sick relationship between the two of us.

watch them argue
“you cannot kill an unborn child!”
as they scream
quoting their scriptures


aren’t those babies
they fold their hands
watch being murdered
in Gaza?

tell me
does your scripture
turn numb
at the sight of brown skin
children of Arabs?

show me
what holy book
gives you the right
to plead superior

and i swear
i will be the first in line
burning it to ashes.


brown skinned. Gaza

Ijeoma Umebinyuo

People keep saying that loving yourself cures loneliness.
People keep lying.
People won’t admit that it’s a lonely thing to be the only person to have loved you unconditionally…
No one to witness it.
No one to pick up the slack.
Just a buncha lonely selfies and leftovers in the fridge.
Just a buncha love… All by yourself.
You know you’re a ball of fire and for you, the only warm thing in this cold world.
—  "talking to myself about loneliness…", j.l.