8 Hours

Every 8 hours, a black person is killed at the hands of the police.
Every 8 hours.
That is the recommended amount of sleep that we are supposed to get.
So what you’re telling me,
Is that I could say goodnight to someone and forget to tell them I love them,
And how important they are,
And when I wake up they’d be gone?
My best friends
My boyfriend
My mother
My siblings

The White girl laughs at Blacks who cannot swim,
The Black girl told the White girl,
I know all too well of sunken Black bodies marinating in the ocean.
Pools polluted with acid to burn off Blackness,
Police that pull up on pool parties where the barrel of their gun whispers “This is White only”

Dear White woman,
I prefer showers over baths because there is something about being submerged in a white tub filled with water that feels more waterboarding than cleansing

—  McKinney, Texas by kinghijabpin
I who would love and be loved
Am hated.
I am the victim
And the guilty;
The savage
And the trapped.
I am the angry
And the ill-at-ease.
Oh God!
If I were free
In life
And as I die,
I would neither be
Nor ambushed.
i would find a better way
For existing
And ceasing to exist.
Release me now
From my soul-binding cage
Wherein I touch
But never hold,
But never savor,
But never belong.
—  mary coleman jackson, on being asked to pray.

Lullaby (For a Black Mother)

My little dark baby,
My little earth-thing,
My little love-one,
What shall I sing
For your lullaby?

With a few simple words as smooth as a song, the poet Langston Hughes celebrates the love between an African American mother and her baby. The award-winning illustrator Sean Qualls’s painted and collaged artwork captures universally powerful maternal moments with tenderness and whimsy. In the end, readers will find a rare photo of baby Hughes and his mother, a biographical note, further reading, and the complete lullaby. Like little love-ones, this beautiful book is a treasure.

I drink champagne early in the morning
instead of leaving my house
with an M16 and nowhere to go.

I’m dying twice as fast
as any other American
between eighteen and thirty-five
This disturbs me,
but I try not to show it in public.

Each morning I open my eyes is a miracle.
The blessing of opening them
is temporary on any given day
I could be taken out.
I could go off.
I could forget to be careful.
Even my brothers, hunted, hunt me.
I am the only one who values my life
and sometimes I don’t give a damn.
My love life can kill me.
I’m faced daily with choosing violence
or a demeanor that saves every other life
but my own.

I won’t cross-over.
It’s time someone else came to me
not to patronize me physically,
sexually or humorously.
I’m sick of being an endangered species,
sick of being a goddamn statistic.
So what are my choices?
I could leave with no intention
of coming home tonight
I could go crazy downtown
and raise hell on a rooftop with my rifle.
I could live for a brief moment
on the six o'clock news,
or I can masquerade another day
through the corridors of commerce
and American dreams.

I’m dying twice as fast
as any other American.
So I pour myself a glass of champagne,
I cut it with a drop of orange juice.
After I swallow my liquid valium.
my private celebration
for being alive this morning,
I leave my shelter.
I guard my life with no apologies.
My concerns are small
and personal.

—  essex hemphill, cordon negro.
Lonely ain’t a good enough reason.

Because even though you are lonely…
He ain’t right for you.

And even though you wake up to the thought of him… As though your spirit were his answering machine.
He ain’t right for you.

And even though you see him post on Facebook,
liking pictures that are not yours
and you, becoming little burning ember
imagine his voice to be the cooling quench to your anxiety.
He ain’t right for you.

Even though you are covered by a cloud of memories…
All the good ones that is.
and this cloud will follow you in your home all disrespectful and what not…
and you will turn the lights on…
but you will not notice it to be light…
so busy covered by the haze of his laughter…

Even though you look at your phone from time to time
wondering if he will call
wishing he would call
knowing ain’t no way in HELL he could try and get away from all this goodness you gave him,
yes every little bit of it,
and he’d better call and act like he know what’s right in this world for him, namely God, and then you! TUH…

Even though he might call…
and it might feel good…for the night
or the week. or maybe two…

Still…he will not be right for you.

And you know this.
And there is no unknowing what you already know.
You can choose to unlove you…and chase him…
You can choose to untrust you and trust him…

But there is no way to forget the moment you
realized that he could never fill your cup…
and even though you are lonely
Please understand that he won’t ever be enough.

C. 2015 Rashawna Wilson

I’m Not Like the King of Black People by Morgan Parker

I’m sorry I don’t
know why I like
grape soda or how
my hair got like this

I couldn’t tell you
where the watermelon
thing came from

I’m what
you don’t swallow
the glossy dark

I read somewhere
my folks used to be princes
Their earrings were
pulled out
in their sleep

Then one day
they woke up

eyes red and blue
craving chicken
and gold teeth


If you are quiet
for long enough
you can hear

my stomach
fill with color

chariots and rivers
in a language
you will never

what got buried
under Kentucky bluegrass
slit open

like the side of a hog
or whose backs
swelled up

became the red
of my gums


It happened that I became
the same as
shoe polish low-grade fever
you can catch

staring too long
at the moon
or falling asleep
to Etta James

your body
can’t be a cure

let me
spoon feed you
acrylic nails
while you sweat

let me press
my cold tongue
to your head


I read somewhere
my blood is gin
and OJ from the carton

My people were once
just words
in damp soil

One day they got
scuffed onto
a wooden block

melted into tar
and troubled

Then someone
leaned back
on a plastic-covered
sofa lit

a menthol I was
discovered red-
lipped impression
circling the filter

To a Dark Girl

I love you for your brownness
And the rounded darkness of your breast.
I love you for the breaking sadness in your voice
And shadows where your wayward eye-lids rest.

Something of old forgotten queens
Lurks in the lithe abandon of your walk,
And something of the shackled slave
Sobs in the rhythm of your talk.

Oh, little brown girl, born for sorrow’s mate,
Keep all you have of queenliness,
Forgetting that you once were slave,
And let your full lips laugh at Fate!

—  Gwendolyn Bennett (1902-1981)
I want to
your thoughts
in the same way that you
through mine,
multiple times,
like repeated orgasms, and I
at each word
left by your tongue
and dripped from your lips
You leave chills that travel
through my mind,
cerebral stimulation
Blood rushing
to the head,
You have me
—  Dean Steed, “Mind Spread Wide Open”