Ode to a Lost Brother

by Kolawole Samuel Adebayo

Before Boko Haram guns sank holes in his skull,
He was a lively boy, he was a sprinter, he was his high school’s champion.

Before he became the reason for familial grief,
He was the origin of my mother’s smiles.
I cannot say “our mother” because Bashir is dead.

He is now dust,
Grasses have grown from his body.

And to use the pronoun “our” 
Is to make my mother revisit the first phase of her grief.
The dead things do not come alive again in this city

Filled with bomblasts and gunshots.
I remember,

I remember your last words;
I can see them as if in a vision,
Written boldly on my mind’s walls:

“Save me, Bareed! Save me, Bareed! I am dying”;
But I did not look backwards because I was running,

Running from those who separate the soul from its body;
Because when fire burns us all,
We do not save others before ourselves.

I do not write with tears anymore
Because salt water is no elixir—
Powerless to cause resurrection.

I still grief;
Grief never truly goes away,

But I have learned to live peacefully
With the memory of a dead brother.
And I am blessing his gone soul with this poem.

Lightness Has Never Been Our Concern, But Today We Are the Opposite of Heavy

by Lauren Licona

we’ve spent all morning
staring at the water stain on
your ceiling, until it grows into a 
homeland we have no name for but “here”.

i mean today, i live without 
knowledge of my borders. i learn to unline myself.
we are no longer someone’s stateless daughters. 
i have forty-nine cents to my name & 
i cannot be whittled down any further.

in the sun, we unravel ourselves 
full-bodied. peel off our clothes like 
citrus rinds. i toss shame onto 
the pool deck with my underwear.
there is a giggle bursting from my lips &
it is un-modest, saltating over the fence 
that separates us from neighbors & other gazes. 
“shhh…” you say, but summer has made us 
restless & our laughter is already 
ninety degrees & rising.

we are proud graceless in this southern heat, 
wearing nothing but our humid airs.
i arch my breasts in the water. i wring myself of decorum. 
we are brown, woman, & unsorry. we are 
whole in all our too much. let the mosquitoes
bite on this amongst themselves.

this is a tender that does 
not sting or swell into abashment.
intimacy means: have you ever been 
naked like this? have you
ever seen a bareness so ample?
have you loved & been loved
with all your scabby knees &
unposed acreage?

the afternoon bears witness 
to our ungainly & cracks a smile.
june & our youth are already half gone.
& we have never been more brief 
& beautiful.

AIN’T WE LUCKY WE GOT ‘EM, GOOD TIMES

by Rodrick Minor

On a cherryplanked floor in Durham

I twerk my soul

         into the weekend

I sweat out my devils over

the crooner’s voice   An exorcism in the wee hours 

Hips gyrate allusions of Jazz June

in a beehive of

celestial beings  Fingers pranced in air   

      as if the Holy Ghost grasp last week’s despair

Utopia     is a prayer often flawed yet when perfect

  everything is invincible here

  Dance my blackness and sins

in this hole in the wall and I make sweet love

Feverishly until I’m christened in a sea of survivors

   and the banners

             sway

          in the rafters

like a manifesto

Tonight I do not feel

    grotesque

      suicidal

           poor

          Am not the blackblue pulse scratchin

               for a throb, my existence

Press my smile towards the light fixtures as

              God

             is kissing anew me into next week

              Watch me moonwalk in heaven

for a moment

                Watch me

                           illuminate