my Black August poems

every Black August I engage in collective practice with many people in the work of abolition and particularly remembering and lifting up political prisoners. I write letters and poems to those still behind bars, and write haikus with my BOLD family.

these are not great poems, but I appreciate the haiku form for pushing me to get to the essence of what I’m thinking.

this year most of the poems in some way relate to prompts from M Archive, Alexis Pauline Gumbs latest spiritual must-read text. the prompts were developed by Spirit House.

enjoy.

1.
cells so full of us
burst open, dear and wild, Black
liberated life
????

2. remember shackles
remember finding magic
these fingers know spells

these hands held the rape
they recall tapping poison
they recall birth mess

remember black bars
gripped in fingers finding sun
reaching for freedom

remember child cheeks
these hands raised up a Black world
these fingers know spells
????
.

3. Detroit Summer youth:
– hard shells that break into smiles
– Black brilliance walking
????

.

4. in her drank and men
in her laughter and babies
grandma brown got free

in her loneliness
unglamorous uniform
she grew too weary

????
(prompt from M Archive, joys and pains in my dna)

.

5. breathing thru this wall
out over fire-dry land
out to the Black sea

all that exists now
back to that cold beginning
beyond future flame

into your broken heart
to the very edge of life…
and then we exhale

????
prompt from M Archive (what collective breathing and love makes possible)

6. beloved precious
innocent unbroken child
needing everything

two streams flowing clear
miracle and breathless awe
enough, once, enough

????
(prompt, M Archive, who you are on first breath)

7. our reparations
need abolition, love song,
the debt so massive

not just our labor
not just money, but Black lives
spent in fields, cages

freedom, nothing less
nothing alive imprisoned
that is our North star

fight not for dollars
but for land, for years, for breath
for bone deep freedom

????
M Archive prompt, what words have not been spoken, are left unsaid

8. bye bob bye bob bye
evil don’t prosper too long
Kayla fights for mike

we win these rigged games
because we fight together
Black back to Black back

???
????

9. anyanwu lessons
I quiet myself enough
to hear bones, fault lines

hear trauma calling
out from my hip, dropping masks
listen on purpose

today Mike Brown waves
ripple through my pain center
touching all my grief

I feel everything
this is how I spend my life
feeling surrender

I practice recall
reclaiming scarred memory
uncoil my sacrum

I practice breathing
be here, right now, regardless
alive, of my time

I practice seeing
beyond the time horizon
shaping the future

I practice quiet
learn when I choose how to be
reclaim agency

practice not knowing
change is all. and miracle.
turn and face your life.

????
(prompt, M Archive on what are you practicing. calling on Octavia Butler’s beloved healer Anyanwu for inspiration.)

10. swallowed the rage and
made it something beautiful
you loved it, not me

now i interrupt
demand true abolition
throughout our movements

not to be righteous –
to get free, all of us free
we must see the bars

we must see our hands
we must follow our dollars
we must love our rage

????

11. sifting through shadows
I find lives I did not live
scars I never bled

massive weight to pull
the years growing back to land
years of blades and wound

centuries mothered
through the impossible pain:
visionary love

we always know home
know we lost, know we seeking
sifting through shadows

????
prompt from M Archive

12. bodies melt into
one mass universe scale ‘yes!’
this is a greeting

‘suck this breast darling
grab onto something solid’
(remember delight)

laughter moves my flesh –
that earthquakeish movement, these
tectonic mood shifts

I can carry it
when I plant my feet earth sighs
saying ‘yes come home’

lovers do marvel
say ‘no, stay naked, feel sun’
unlearn skinny love

children dive into
these arms, this bosom, they know
they can rest deep here

a road to freedom
is held in her fat black palms
when she touches you

????

prompt M Archive (write about the love of a fat black woman)

13. mind knows black brilliance
hands, divine work of pleasure
soma, our oneness

my skin reads the room
my gut feels the storm coming
knows if we survive

my tongue knows your taste
my spine knows undulation,
the music that moves

feet know to open
heart knows release, ritual
body knows to live

my body knows how
to live survive dream give love
and let go, let go

????

m archive prompt: what the body knows

14. always been freedom
dialectical Blackness
spiraling upwards

????

prompt from M Archive

15. woven in my skin
longing, belonging, and loss
still in your rhythm

????

m archive prompt on relationship to Africa

16. we already dead
we lived before, we let go
we chose to return

we not tied to you
but we love all around you:
say yes to what is

when you can’t hold us
we’re in your blood, under skin,
your sound memory

finished with the fear
the small longings, broken hearts
we are left with Black

????
M Archive, on the dead who are with us, while grieving Aretha

24. I kissed the ocean
lost myself in languages
I will never know

unlocked my Blackness
from suffering, from smallness
from expectation

found my skin wider
world scale in undulation
beyond any wall

freedom is quiet
many paths will bring you home
wander further now

here and now is brief
travel back, correct the harm
then, go everywhere

???? (back in land of signals and data, been practicing in other ways for a bit.)

27. ask the question, pray,
tears flowing, dripping, crashing.
hush: I know nothing

quiet politics
until you can hear your heart
learn your own rhythm

in that still pulsing
let your knowing fall away
listen for fire

????

28. we lock ourselves up
the prison concept spills bars
we call shackles love

teach each other ‘nope.’
limits, office hours, greed,
singular beliefs

live in old footprints
circling worn paths throughout time
caught in righteousness

judging each new inch
punishing each stumbled step
we create the walls

freedom is a way
to protect the part we play
in evolution

freedom is a path
from one heart to another
on a long dark night

????

31. we may look so wild
we crying with our hands up
frustration and praise

raging over change
feeling the differences
more than the oneness

we dream together
but the path is long, labor
lasts through the black night

what is emerging
is too new to bear our weight
caught the old trauma

but so beautiful
a movement of breathe and scale
we intentional

flawed midwives, mothers
raise up miracles daily
hands scarred and lovefull

flawed humans, dreamers
rededicate our whole selves
to revolution

????

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