Originally appearing in Flypaper Poetry Issue VII.
Emma Bolden is the author of House Is An Enigma (SEMo Press, 2018), medi(t)ations (Noctuary Press, 2016) and Maleficae (GenPop Books, 2013). The recipient of a 2017 NEA Fellowship, she serves as Associate Editor-in-Chief for Tupelo Quarterly. Emma Bolden’s poetry and prose has appeared (or will soon appear) in such journals as the Black Warrior Review, Puerto del Sol, Shenandoah, New Madrid, the Mississippi Review, TriQuarterly, Story Quarterly, The Pinch, Waccamaw, The Rumpus, Prairie Schooner, Conduit, the Indiana Review, the Greensboro Review, Redivider, Verse, Feminist Studies, The Journal, Guernica, and Copper Nickel. Bolden has been featured on Poetry Daily and in Verse Daily’s Web Weekly series, and her work was chosen for inclusion in Best Small Fictions 2015, Best American Poetry 2015, and The Norton Introduction to Literature (13th Edition).
What Women's Work Is
A fist in the blender. A hook of hunger
handing out free dinners to a swarm of fins.
A hunger without a hook, without a fish.
The bones of a fish whose flesh finned off
in the mouth of a black cat. A black cat’s back.
My own back turned or against the wall: no
other options. My eighty cents to his dollar. My human
to his resources. My heart blessed but God knows
why she didn’t know she shouldn’t have spoken out
of her place. My first place is his last place, lit yellow as a sign.
Dead end. My yellow belly cowarded, quiet. My good
girl. My silence wild in the mouth I’m paid to keep shut.
Originally appearing in Flypaper Poetry Issue V.
Kwame Opoku-Duku is a Ghanaian-American poet and fiction writer. He is the author of The Unbnd Verses (Glass Poetry Press, 2018), and his work is featured in The Virginia Quarterly Review, The Kenyon Review, BOMB, The Shallow Ends, The Literary Review, Bettering American Poetry, and other publications. Kwame lives in New York City, where he is a teaching artist, and along with Karisma Price, a founding member of the Unbnd Collective. Kwame is an associate poetry editor for BOAAT Journal, and supported by his residency with the Human Impacts Institute, he curates the reading series Dear Ocean.
ii. dance moves
the old heads say
the world is burning,
milly rock in
the streets, bodies engulfed
by the glow of their
blackness, no fucks
given, ain’t got time
in these streets.
and it’s true, really.
the world is burning.
at its core we’d evaporate
like an orgasm in
the night sky,
have our souls flown
to heaven by
God’s benevolent birds.
i used to be a youngin.
i used to wild
wilder than the wildest.
i’ve watched young
men of color
like a dime store preacher,
scrutinize the suits
of other preachers,
envy the humility of
those more favored.
i am so scared i want
to die with my eyes open.
i never turn my back
on anybody, never
trust without power.
the devil preys
in liminal spaces,
uses pebbles instead
slick, like he’s the only
one who could
really know God,
who could really
and you’ll say it’s
i say, lord, take everything
but my dance moves.
i submit myself
to your will.
a pashmina in
the crisp new york
air. i’ll lay myself
and pray for
Originally appearing in Flypaper Poetry Issue V.
Chelsea Dingman’s first book, Thaw, was chosen by Allison Joseph to win the National Poetry Series (University of Georgia Press, 2017). Her second poetry collection, Through a Small Ghost, won The Georgia Poetry Prize and is forthcoming from the University of Georgia Press (February 2020). She is also the author of the chapbook What Bodies Have I Moved (Madhouse Press, 2018). Her work is forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, The Iowa Review, and Triquarterly, among others. Visit her website: chelseadingman.com
Keep thinking of the dead babies the dead
babies the dead so like the babies at the ends
of our fingers the babies that will grow
to leave too fast if they live long
enough the babies that mothers once held inside
like secrets they promised to keep
safe—keep thinking that no one is safe
if not the babies if not the near-visible
bones we grow to outlast us keep thinking
nothing lasts while the sun sinks below
the late winter horizon the hours of daylight
getting longer but only by seconds
the bones grown away from us like the babies
so close to being the only evidence of angels
the babies that moved through the world
just yesterday & now move in the dark
beyond the windows beyond the glass
lake of memory keep thinking
there are reasons for everything
but do not find a single reason for a bullet
to enter a baby like a wind that opens
a door it can’t close keep thinking
we’d do anything to deadbolt the doors
to shut out the wind to put breaths back
in their bodies to give them a new history
a new exit strategy a world where hate is not
a bullet where dead babies aren’t snowflakes
fallen to rest under our feet where the babies that live
at our fingertips are what we hold instead
of what we could be holding
when to hold them is never enough is never
enough is never enough
Originally appearing in Flypaper Poetry Issue I
Devin Kelly earned his MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and is the author of two collaborative chapbooks as well as two collections of poetry, Blood on Blood (Unknown Press), and In This Quiet Church of Night, I Say Amen (Civil Coping Mechanisms). His work has been published or is forthcoming in The Guardian, LitHub, Catapult, and more. He is a founding English teacher at Comp Sci High School in the Bronx, and has previously taught at Bronx Community College and The City College of New York. He is the founder and co-host of the Dead Rabbits Reading Series and currently lives in Harlem. He also enjoys extremely sharp cheddar cheese melted atop a medium rare burger.
POEM FOR MY FRIEND MATT WHO AT THIS MOMENT
IS RUNNING 300 MILES ACROSS TENNESSEE
The names of towns sound kind enough:
Sugar Tree, Pleasantville, Pine View.
Once, while running, you turned to me
& said don’t worry so much about dying –
your brother had been diagnosed
with cancer & I didn’t know. You said
let’s roll & the road became frictionless,
the air beneath a wing, a pillow firmed
before dreaming. What is running
good for? All our lives, old fathers
say stay, work, don’t budge, bear
your own burden. But you know
two people can carry one another
into infinity. How I hope this is
what infinity is: the carrying multiplied
until it has no number or time, only
a motion so constant it is imperceptible.
That day, the miles were a blur
of miles. You broke away & I chased you
with a grin, the rain caught in my beard,
what was once a marathon no longer,
only the unfound word for both love & rain.
How I felt like a bear. How I want to say
there is a cure for everything, but how
I can’t. People tire & people die. Tonight,
while I sleep, you will be shuffling
slowly along Highway Sixty-Four
in the dark, carrying what small load
you have left upon your back. For all my life
I have yet to understand what to make
of all my life. I grow scared & anxious with
what I stand to lose & haven’t yet held
in my arms. My first reaction to pain
is instinctive. I crawl within myself,
make of my body a den. I stop, all
shiver & hide, forgetting that there is
nothing to lose after that last, ultimate
loss. I dream my own brother’s death
& wake two inches above the bed
in that last moment of falling. So
we rise. So we go on. So each stride
of yours is twice as long as mine but how
we have learned to cover this distance
at the same time. I’ll stay up late tonight,
track your progress as I would a plane
arcing over the pollution above Manhattan.
Wasn’t that fun, you said. We had just finished,
the salt of our bodies a desert of white sand
upon our skin. I have run far enough that I can
say anything. It was, I said. It was, it was, it was.
Originally appearing in Flypaper Poetry Issue IX
(the bio below is from poets.org):
D. A. Powell was born in Albany, Georgia, on May 16, 1963. He attended Sonoma State University, where he received his bachelor's degree in 1991, and his master's in 1993. He received his MFA degree from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in 1996.
Powell is the author of the trilogy of books Tea (Wesleyan University Press, 1998), Lunch (Wesleyan University Press, 2000), and Cocktails (Graywolf Press, 2004)—which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His poetry collection Chronic (Graywolf Press, 2009) received the Kingsley Tufts Award and was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. His most recent books are Repast: Tea, Lunch, Cocktails (Graywolf Press, 2014) and Useless Landscape, or a Guide for Boys: Poems (Graywolf Press, 2012).
when away he
would call every day
and when he didn't
he was knocking
else's back gate
oh, but he was hung
like a trojan horse
with no trojan