Desperately Seeking My Name is Not Susan
I’ve been meaning
to re-answer your ad
for love, Love.
Another way to look at it is to taste it.
Consume seven pineapples in a sitting
and wait for the acid to take your tongue.
Truth is, I’ve had too many
beers to care about meaning, too much
red wine to know the difference
between man and sliver. Hell, I’m no Madonna.
Look, all you really need
to know is if Mississippi is the opening
of a thousand drying river beds.
‘Cause the sun’s been promising
to return, and when it does
some woman in Michigan will shiver
and wait to feed you the blacks of her desperate eyes.
She is not me.
When you are gone, I will call out to a shadow
that is you. I will sing the lonesome girl’s prayer with new
lyrics. Say, I’ll be better off without you in the end.
Qiana Towns earned a MFA from Bowling Green State University, and a MA from Central Michigan University where she served as poetry editor for the online literary journal Temenos. Her work has appeared in Milk Money, and other literary journals. She is a Cave Canem fellow and Editor for Reverie: Midwest African American Literature.
wig confessional/ the bedroom
Bedtime (I says my name, hoping he will call it out)
it is just me (touch me like that velvet zodiac woman)
covered in collapsible silence (like the gal I once was)
until dawn (singing in church)
she clings to me (praying for honor)
like moisture in the desert (satin red)
on her seed coat. ( even vestiges of clouds hold rain)
Then she replaces me (but you gotta pull it from the sky)
every time the UPS man arrives (sing it, whistle with your lips, dance)
or when down Patton Ave to catch night. (lift up the tawny clouds, find a rhythm)
She stuffs me in the back of boxes (push them back)
I gasp and rebuff (use your hands)
any compliments— I thought (not beyond that)
about her hiding swollen pockets (remain there in the quiet)
of gray that envelope her (there is a gal there waiting)
place that sucked him (dying to be rained on)
in and released him. (be patient)
Like the blues (please patience)
I need a little steam heat (the body is water)
is what you play as you (the body ain’t no stone)
wait until he comes. (don’t leave)
He lifts up from the scent, (it’s lonely)
colostomy bag opening. (please)
He puts on his pants (hold me)
Barely touches the ashy hip (sweet)
Vaseline smooth. (dewy trip)
You lie there. (he hands the towel)
I, shifted over, see myself (I wash)
Sin in the mirror. (looking)
I don’t like what I’ve become (baby-bloated body)
what has become of us. (painfully still)
I don’t nap (but he doesn’t see or know)
when you need me; (this can’t be love)
Beauty never sleeps (not this way)
Colena Corbett lives between North and South Carolina. She has studied poetry at the Split Rock Arts Foundation at the University of Minnesota, The Hurston-Wright Foundation at American University, the Kentucky Women Writers’ Conference, and the Callaloo Writers’ Workshop at Brown University. Her work has been published in Obsidian III, Folio Journal and elsewhere. She is completing her MFA at the University of South Carolina.
Meanwhile, a Sanford Wife Burns Bacon
for Shellie Zimmerman
When he called home from the station begging a clean change of clothes
her nurse’s sense perked to danger but she kept cool. Not until
she got close enough to smell his adrenaline protect us stink
to see his wounds slinking down the back of his head like tribal marks
I followed him nose in a fresh torque, did she freak out. Her training
didn’t prepare her for the organs’ slow slip at seeing her new kin
seem so close slammed me on the concrete to killed, eyes widened
with war, words few and fidgety. Once home, they sat wrapped
hoodie up in the tender quiet of his safety while she calmed, reflecting:
matrimony intact. His explanation—breakneck whirlwind of suspicious,
self-defense, stakes: my life or his—was an equation she couldn’t compute
though she absorbed the faulty math, young wedding vows
bursting from the heart’s chambers, worming north, infecting her brain
with a chant: Believe him. I have to believe him. Believe him. I have to
zakia henderson-brown has received fellowships and scholarships from the Cave Canem Foundation, Callaloo Journal, and the Fine Arts Work Center. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Torch, Reverie, Burner Magazine, Beloit Poetry Journal, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, and the anthology Why I Am Not a Painter (Argos: 2011). She currently works as the Outreach Coordinator for The New Jim Crow at The New Press. zakia is a proud Brooklyn native and loyalist.