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where I went while you were dying


this poem is                                                                                (about when your mother

collapses in front of you)

the emergency plan you don’t have when the emergency


not knowing your mother’s or sister’s or sister’s

blood type.



is                                                                                  (about your mother

telling you she is dying and then       ____________)

in lieu of health insurance.

anxiety over social worker called

height weight charts. or

is                                                                                        (what your mother’s

face looked like without oxygen)

the story of your mother saving your newborn life. or

waiting to find out if you’ve returned the favor.


this poem                                                                                     (is about prying your

mother’s teeth apart)

wonders whether you did all you could to return the favor.

says it will let you know. whether you did.



this poem is                                                              (this is not a poem. about her saying

she was dying)

hope that grinds you down.

neither here nor there.

cannot remain present.

not a gift.

will not firm no or yes.

passes hours without blinking its eyes.

without waking up.

does not know how to leave.

a horrible bedside manner.

cold hands and bad breath.


this poem is                                                                                (this is not a poem. about her pitching into your      arms and _________)


the stuff your mother is made of.

nothing you recognize.

what’s under skin deep.




an octopus escapes the fishing net: in which my daughter becomes cephalopod


in this life, where you must be both

predator and delicacy, rend

for yourself the tenderest bits.


enter a world, daughter

where you may drink brine and not be



lose remorse in the hunt for that which feeds

you. be sure

there are eight passions

for each arm’s embrace,

in case your dreams are injured

or cut short.


by all means, keep yourself

whole, even as you adapt with grace,


honey love. my

sinuous structure

pure musculature                               and give;


infinite flex and reshaping, do not

be confined to any that would contain you.


be gentle relentless

manipulation; hang on, love,

or disappear       in the confusion of your melanin


clouding the display; how they love

to watch you squirm                        and ooze;

be not object

entertainment,                                      remember how

to pry open exits                                 remember



learn both lurk                   and listen;

eyes open to color of danger

of safety


do not forget that tucked up

in the unfurling of your

pretty petticoat                                   of a body:


you are thought

and plot. beak

and brain. predator

and delicacy.                         Feed.




your nephew gives your daughter a toy gun for her birthday 

and you imagine retaliation

you imagine riddled;

you gift her a story of dead brown skin

and the child who once inhabited it:


your nephew, pale and safe,

is worried; says the story

of the dead brown thing is scary

how the cop just ________

how the kid just ________.

your daughter agrees, refuses to play

even inside, even where she is _____.


you realize maturation means presents

come with an edge, sharp or

bitter. she’s big now. it’s time to watch

out for giggles ridden with gunshots.



An award-winning writer and performer, Amber Flame is also a singer for multiple musical projects. Flame’s original work is published and recorded in many diverse arenas, including Def Jam Poetry, Winter Tangerine, The Dialogist, Split This Rock, Jack Straw, Black Heart Magazine, and forthcoming from Sundress Publications, Redivider and more. Her one-woman play, Hands Above the Covers: Hairy Palms & Other Nightmares of a Church Kid, was mounted under the auspices of a CityArtist grant through the City of Seattle’s Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs. Since moving to the Bay Area, Flame works as a teaching artist and runs the Oakland Slam as slammaster. while performing daily feats of Black girl magic. She performs regularly on musical, literary, and cabaret stages, and works as an activist and organizer for a diverse number of queer and POC communities. Amber Flame is one magic trick away from growing her unicorn horn.

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Fox Frazier-Foley is author of two prize-winning poetry collections, EXODUS IN X MINOR (Sundress Publications, 2014) and THE HYDROMANTIC HISTORIES (Bright Hill Press, 2015). She is currently editing an anthology of contemporary American political poetry, titled POLITICAL PUNCH (Sundress Publications, 2016) and an anthology of critical and lyrical writing about aesthetics, titled AMONG MARGINS (Ricochet Editions, 2016). Fox is Founding EIC of Agape Editions, and co-creator of the Tough Gal Tarot.

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