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Two Poems by Jeffrey Banks

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I Want Better

I want better.

I find this double mindedness debilitating
And I am hating the outcomes that I see

I want to flee from reality
Because of the way the world treats me

You see
I want better.

Seeking my significance in others
Is not what the lover of my soul had in mind

He wants me to find the divine love
And he gives me enough to snuff out

Any enemy
So I would not have to plea

For anyone to validate me
I want better.

I deserve way more than mediocre
And I’m tired of being broker

Than any two cent share
On the stock exchange

I want to proclaim prosperity
Not to brag on myself

But to declare your wealth
So others may know about

Your greatness.
I want better.

I’m mad at me
For allowing the tragedy of people-pleasing

Because of teasing
Lord, you have my best interest at heart and

You want to impart the wisdom of what is coming
I just have to quiet my spirit

So I can hear it.
I want better.

I want the best but sometimes I settle for less
Because silently I felt I was cursed

To be the worst
But in the midst of low self esteem

I still believed in me
And with the vision

Although others may not agree
You said

To wait on me,
Because it will tarry.

I want better.
I plan to see the promised land

But even as the quicksand
Tries to suck me up

Lord you fill my cup
And when I want to doubt God

You work it out
And when life seems barren

You are still caring
And you are daring me to trust you

And that is what I must do if
I want better.

Hope

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’
blood and righteousness
This hope is all I have when I feel that all hope is gone
I have to remember where my hope is built

I hope so I can encourage someone who does not
know Christ
I hope so in darkness someone can see the light
I hope because I cannot put my trust in man
I hope in Christ because He knows my plans
I hope because I know I have an expected end
I hope in Christ because my broken heart He mends
I hope so I can make it through the day
And I hope because there is a debt
I can not repay

God so loved the world that a blessed hope was given –
Christ was born, He was crucified, and now He’s risen!

Whenever someone tries to steal my joy
I hope I remember I’m Abba’s baby boy
And I hope whenever I’m down and I’m feeling weak
I hope in my secret place His face I seek

I need to hope –
My faith is the substance of things hoped for
The evidence is not seen
The reason I place my hope in Christ is
He’s my everything

I hope so I can give hope to others
I hope so I can speak life to my sisters and brothers
The life of Christ is the blessed hope and why I live
So if Christ is hope and He brings life
He is who I give

 

Jeffrey Banks, poetically known as “Big Homey” received his Masters in Divinity at Howard University. A regular fixture in poetry series in the DMV area, he’s had opportunity to perform with major entertainment figures, and is the recipient of artist grants from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. A finalist in the DC Poet Project he’s also a poet educator and a fundraising and events consultant to non-profits. He’s taken opportunities to bring his artist activism as an advocate against homelessness and in 2019 his poetry was featured in the National Association for Poetry Therapy anthology.

Image by Davidvraju – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80047190

Two Poems by Kevin Wiggins

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Can I Borrow Your Iniquities?

If you don’t mind

Can I borrow your iniquities?

Since my sins are so much greater and heaven has no room for
me – could you loan me your transgressions?

See my sexual prowess is so detestable that I need to prove to the
almighty that I’m worthy of a straight man’s blessing

Christian – let me borrow your passive aggression, so I can
somehow learn the lesson that Jesus loves you but you will burn…
in the name of the Lord

Let me borrow your discord, Christian!

Let me borrow your discord, Christian!

Let me borrow your discord, Christian – how can you use your
Bible as a double edged sword and think both of those testaments
will only pierce me?

Or is Judgment reserved only for those heterosexuals of you who
sin so beautifully?

Could you loan me your audacity?

Your ability, your nerve, and the capacity to love and hate all in
the same breath?

See my plea is simply to be sure, happy, and wanted, as myself

So I feel that somebody owes me some confidence

Because after hearing all the reasons why I’m not worthy of his
mercy I have no certainty except in the fact that I’ve been robbed
of all of it

Christ paid it all but he didn’t factor in the cost of me?

Somebody, please! My soul is said to burn eternally

Let me borrow your inequities and pretend to be better

See my sexuality somehow severed my ties to the savior so could
you do me a favor:

Touch your neighbor and ask him can he grace me with a bit of
his graces since Jesus couldn’t afford me and heaven struck homos
from its budget but adjusted it just to make room for you – the
virtuous and perfect insufficiency

But I wouldn’t mind seeing those streets of glory

Would you mind holding on to my purgatory just for a second so
I can peek at your promise?

See I’m so honest that I’d give your paradise back to you

Even though you’re so willing to snatch mine away from me

You’re that same thief in John 10:10 who comes to kill and
destroy – but somehow you’ve still carved out life abundantly

You are so high above me

Even with your gluttonous way of fucking me

Your fornication and adultery

Your lies from the pulpit

And your sodomy in secrecy

Preacher

Let me borrow your teachings

As you pray for my delivery

Not to your God

But still on your knees

Can I borrow the lies that excrete between your teeth so I can
misuse forgiveness and its power

So that I won’t cower at the idea of being forsaken

I know this is blatant and selfish of me to ask but since you sin

So much better than me

Can I borrow your iniquities?

Where’s my manners

And excuse my urgencies

As I can see

That you clearly are not done with them yet

Criminally Black

The preface of my purgatory bore me black and stacked all the
odds against me

No jury to await an impending judgment

Because my complexion already rendered me guilty

Sentenced to death by legalized hate crimes

Metaphorical lynchings of those criminally black in white
America

The land of the free ain’t so free for a black man in white
America

Concentration camps didn’t begin in Germany

They took their blueprint from white America trying to cancel
out this black album and

Without a reasonable doubt they now use our penal system

Systematic injustices

To implement our slavery

And as successors to our lineage

We’re all guilty as American gangsters

And they have unfinished business with the dynasty

Black people:

America promises nothing

40 acres and a mule

And we’ve yet to receive

Nothing

Have Medgar Evers and Rodney King taught us nothing?

Emmett Till’s murderers got away scot-free

Time served was absolutely nothing

But yet Michael Vick does a two-year stint

Because in comparison to a pit

Black life is worth

Absolutely nothing

We are the hunted

Endangered species in this wild jungle we call our home

But we’re not even welcome here

We’re not even wanted but

If my skin were lighter maybe I’d understand why Dorothy
clicked her heels

And said

There’s no place like home

Dethrone the idea that we’re on equal playing fields

No this is a slaughter

But it’s somehow legal

To take the life of skin darker

So we can’t exactly call them robbers

They’re monsters of this

Judicial gang called America

And being black is the treason

Killing niggaz back to back it’s open season

When being black is a crime

Punishments are acts of

Stand your ground murders

Or enslavements by extensive stints of jail time

So if you ever find yourself seventeen with Arizona Tea

A tall being in a hoodie with skittles

Just don’t be black

Because history has taught us

It’s that which makes us

Criminal

Kevin Wiggins is the 2019 winner of the DC Poet Project, an open-to-all poetry competition created by the non-profit Day Eight to surface extraordinary poets. Wiggins was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland and performs as The Mysfit – a spoken word artist, storyteller, and playwright. His work stares adversity in the face and is unapologetic for the Black LGBTQ community with intensity, rage, compassion, and love. His debut collection of poetry, Port of Exit, is available for purchase on Amazon here. Amy Woolard wrote about Port of Exit, “These poems, and this poet, are a gospel.”


Image by Eric T Gunther, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Two Poems by Laura McCarty

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The Home We Will Remember

I am born in the black hills of eastern Kentucky

to a young woman from the Gulf Coast of Texas

who sews matching dresses for her three daughters

and sings at church to the kind of God that requires

service Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,

Thursday, Friday, and the occasional Saturday.

She weeds clover out from under her

orange blossoms, watches her pregnant neighbor

eat paint chips from her window sill

and listens to Rachmaninoff. Appalachia’s blue ash

and accordions are not my mother

who grew up picking cotton, a penny a pound.

She begs my father to leave. He doesn’t.

For a while. In a tan VW bug

with a diaper pail swishing in the back,

ammonia wafting, my mother drives us away

from the Ashland hills to the home

we will remember, where alligators live

in the swamp near the public swimming pool,

the garbage truck will save us from a four-foot flood,

and my sister will collect tarantulas with broken legs.

We will hide in bathtubs from tornadoes

and water our house in droughts

to keep from losing the foundation.

My sisters and I were birthed in the hollers

but our bodies know

the salt marshes, big sky, and green lizards.

We belong to our mother’s land,

its tortillas and fried catfish,

its beaches and its air.


The Song

This morning my love and I wake up in Lenin Park

in a bed of banana leaves. Skinny black chickens peck

at the crumbs we’ve left from our bánh mì.

A woman pumps her sugar cane wheel. We drink

the sweet juice and call it breakfast. My love

joins the shoeshine boys in their game

knocking Coke cans over. He throws his black dress shoe

into their heap of yellow plastic sandals and lets them win.

We walk to the Red River’s brown water. He flags down

the woman with the motorboat and loads our bicycle. We float

away from the city to the village where his mother lives.

The boatwoman, she paddles, navigates us past water

buffaloes blowing bubbles. When we arrive downstream,

we unload our bike. I sit on the rack. He carries me

through rice fields. We weave on rutted paths.

His mother greets us in her rubber boots,

a bandana over her head. Have you eaten yet? she asks.

Before we answer, she says, let’s start with the dead.

His five-year-old brother blew up in a landmine yesterday

while digging for gold she buried during the war.

She tells us this as if she’s reading the newspaper.

His mother has forgotten how to mourn.

The clouds separate and rain barrels catch my grief.

She mixes coal powder with water, shapes it

to look like cow dung, slaps it to the wall for drying,

and sings Mùa Thu Cho Em.


Laura P. McCarty’s creative work has appeared in The Rumpus, Lunch Ticket, descant, Jelly Bucket, the St. Petersburg Review, among other publications, including a family anthology of poetry My Mother, My Daughter, My Sister, My Self. She was a finalist for the 2020 D.C. Poet Project and a finalist for the 2016 Diana Woods Memorial Award in non-fiction. She earned a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Texas, Austin, and her MFA from American University. Her debut book of poetry, Just One Swallow, was published in 2020 by Day Eight. Maryland Poet Laureate Grace Cavalieri described Just One Swallow, “A credit to the narrative tradition and has no superior. Her debut book is astonishing reading.”


Image by Rafael Rodrigues Camargo – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59893673.


Author image by GBG Photography.

Two Poems by Mecca Verdell

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My little sister is beautiful.

She has our father’s eyes, brown.
Her mother’s skin—light, blinding.

Something in her skin draws me
and I look like a confused scribble,
a Black mask, in comparison.

I’ve never felt like this before.
She is so blinding I can’t even see her
as my little sister, just competition.

She looks like the women my dad left mom for;
I remember her crying at how beautiful they were.
Will my daddy leave me for a new daughter?
I could leave my body for hers.

She looks like the girls the world prefers.
She looks like the revised version of me.
I used to follow the edits, rubbing my flesh with
lemons, or my mother’s chemical peels.

I must understand my role is to be Big Sister.
I can never tell her this, keep this darkness at bay.

Even when this darkness is in my eyes, my skin,
when it’s all around me, we never know what it is,
but our bodies do.

My skin always burning at the sight of her light,
I could be her shadow. Always watching her back,
but always behind.

I must protect her from myself.
Even when her mom teaches her to hate me,
and the world teaches her to hate me,
I love her with my eyes open, even when it hurts.

Even when she’s all blinding,
even when she’s all beautiful.

Thrift Shop

It feels like every Black house runs
a thrift shop, with the ways we trade trauma
like old clothing. In our house, we are bursting
at the seams cuz all the bags we carry.

I still have the pajamas I was molested in.
And no matter how many times they are washed,
they will never be clean enough to give up
like I did.

I told my cousin I didn’t wanna go in the closet.
Not only did I see his skeletons, I became one.
Every caress on my breasts felt like a hanger
being pushed through my chest.

I told my mom that this shirt was too big for me to handle,
that these hand-me-downs got too much space
for curious kissing cousins to hand-you-up bad memories.

All she did was take my shirt to be washed,
to be baptized, to be pressed and prayed.
She gave me another one to cover up in
but even she knows trauma is one size fits all.

See my mom knows abuse like the back of her dress.
I wish she would’ve told me what that looked like
before my cousins put the same dress on me.

We still know how to laugh.
They make fun of my height,
of how I will never grow out of old clothes
owned by my mother and her mother.

And my father forgets every time I tell him.
He can’t believe he didn’t save me
but leaves me in a pile of healing
that I have to make my responsibility.
How do you fold a memory?

Tell me: if every Black house runs a thrift shop, why aren’t we
Giving anything away, to be burned like a plague?
I want to make love and therapy a flame thrower,
Watch these pajamas twist and curl over the embers
like sleepless nights I’ve had.

These clothes will never find their way on my child.
I will never prepare them to be a sheep in my clothing.
God, make me a salvation army the second hands lay on them.
I pray they never live in a thrift shop.

Mecca Verdell is an author, actress, teaching artist and poet. She first gained national attention after winning Brave New Voices, an international youth poetry slam. Since then Mecca has been traveling the country performing, teaching and building upon the intersection of activism and art. She is a voice for Black women everywhere. Verdell won Day Eight’s annual DC Poet Project competition in 2020 and her book, Things to Unlearn, is forthcoming. Malik Crumpler wrote, “Mecca Verdell’s Things to Unlearn is a memorable unbinding of insights enriched with allegorical documentation of contemporary American’s wear on the soul. Beautifully tragic confessions of living with trauma flow effortlessly into humorous coded moments with family and friends.”

Image by ParentingPatch – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22192169

Three Poems by Chloe Yelena Miller

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Mid-Thirties

Toddler, pigtails loosening,
hides behind her mother’s legs,
two tiny hands around one adult knee.
Mother leans down,
whispers in her daughter’s ear.
Child smiles,
tilts her head to one side,
knee-grip loosens.

I, too, know what I would say to a shy child,

given the chance.

Mothers

My mother’s mother
gone, an aunt
in the kitchen
rearranging the cupboard.
Lineage of women
and their cupboards.

My grandmother’s Christmas tree pin,
one aunt’s tea cups,
another aunt’s wristwatch,
my mother’s ceramic boxes,
and what will I leave?

To whom?

Searching
eight weeks old

For years, I looked
for you around corners, between
small hours of morning.

And now, here you are in my arms,
limbs sodden with sleep.

You weigh less awake,
head bobbing, as you push your legs
against my lap, hands against my chest,
to look behind me,
out the window –
towards the sunshine.

 

Chloe Yelena Miller is a writer based in Washington, D.C. She teaches writing at the University of Maryland Global Campus and Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C., as well as privately. Her debut book, Viable, is forthcoming in 2021 from Lily Poetry Review Books. She blogs at chloeyelenamiller.com and tweets at @ChloeYMiller.



Image by Moyan Brenn from Italy – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40605004