black joy

Today I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that relies on repetition. It can be repetition of a phrase, or just a word.

i opened the box to my black joy
it spilled out it covered my fingers
i wiped my tears away
i streaked my face with this smudge
this shade this shadow
this sweet dust
this star space
this shimmering surreal sidewalk
on a new york night

i had been dancing in my black joy
body rolling against strangers
who were all so shocked i was glee
ecstacy, was unbroken
was in my power
was magic
was spinning a golden thread
from my left hip
off that rooftop in brooklyn

long before i learned to cultivate black joy
i found myself feeling whole
because something showed through
the fog and the Secret
the life death life death in my heel
the held breath
the faux goddess
the running and running and running –
i showed through

i got gathered into black joy
got delivered got spent
got lifted up and plunged deep down
got left with
gifted and offered
got caught by
and filled up to overflowing with
got spilled over my own edges
with black joy

6 ways to see tonight

Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that looks at the same thing from various points of view. The most famous poem of this type is probably Wallace Stevens’ “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”. You don’t need to have thirteen ways of looking at something – just a few will do!

one missile is a devastation. what are we?

learning that under the armor, everyone (can this be true?) is a beloved.

(celebrate, my dream is in the hands of my loved ones…plant that feeling under the others.)

there’s a black writerwoman named shonda and she has learned how to take my breath away.

nothing keeps away the memories when you’re ready you’ll remember what happened to (all) the children, you’ll ask why do we hurt little ones?

in nine days, no one with a backbone will pay their taxes.


In honor of Mary Oliver’s work, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that is based in the natural world: it could be about a particular plant, animal, or a particular landscape. But it should be about a slice of the natural world that you have personally experienced and optimally, one that you have experienced often. Try to incorporate specific details while also stating why you find the chosen place or plant/animal meaningful.

the first time we howled
the moon was a sliver
a cup of light poised to pour
a stardust fascinator of gold
on the blue black

we were life moving through the forest
stepping on small branches which snapped with our weight
maple cracks sharp, oak cracks wet
magnolia cracks like fire
we sought the soft needles of pine

the moon was not bright enough
to cast truth on the borders
to say here, not here, there
all we could hear was the drum of fear
almost there, almost there

we were three miles free before we came to the endless river moving slow
the sun rising to pull pink steam off the
glistening path
us hunched on the rocks with fingers sliding into river

it’s so cold we gasp, and then we laugh
we’re so free we gasp
and then
we laugh

home going

Now for our prompt (optional, as always). One of the most popular British works of classical music is Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations. The “enigma” of the title is widely believed to be a hidden melody that is not actually played, but which is tucked somehow into the composition through counterpoint. Today I’d like you to take some inspiration from Elgar and write a poem with a secret – in other words, a poem with a word or idea or line that it isn’t expressing directly. The poem should function as a sort of riddle, but not necessarily a riddle of the “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” variety. You could choose a word, for example, “yellow,” and make everything in the poem something yellow, but never actually allude to their color. Or perhaps you could closely describe a famous physical location or person without ever mentioning what or who it actually is.

i was going home

from the store, pockets heavy
crossing the street i was eighty feet tall
a boy full of breath looking for a good time
a near-man who barely knew of kissing

pew pew pew
i was protecting everyone from robbers
with my plastic
and my wild american imagination
i was almost there

i was fear free flagrant woman
tobacco smoke in the car to balance my mind
i had a long day, my lover held my throat up for kisses before night came

to be honest i didn’t love the song
i just loved the vibration in the seat of the car, the walls, the rolled down windows shivering in rhythm
waiting for the tank to fill
to feel the wind move through our youth

i crashed the car in the night
shook up, surrounded by people in big houses, i chose the closest one
later i sent a thank you note for the moments in the light,
the use of the phone to call my momma

when i was a girl i would curl up next to grandma
so safe, i’d sleep like a cat in the sun
in the blue tones of TV light
on our hushed black street

i thought i was home
but i was going

elegy for masks

write an elegy – a poem that mourns or honors someone dead or something gone by. And I’d like to ask you to center the elegy on an unusual fact about the person or thing being mourned.

the whole time we been here we needed
another face to face the place we in
a sweet face to drift us through sour hunger
an honest face to cover the lie of ignorance
a mother face to gather up someone else’s child
while leaving our own wailing in the lean-to
a stoic face when something is taken from nothing, and for no reason
behind the faces we could breathe
the wet hot close stink air of life up against the edge of what a white world could handle

now our naked face can only say what is
everywhere we go our eyes seek the truth and bright up the moldy edges and unveil that we are not less than ourselves and not less than anyone else and our freedom has swollen us up, shaped us into a multitude of god’s face
the mask drips salt and water
into the dirt


how to love supreme

write a poem inspired by, or in the form of, a recipe! It can be a recipe for something real, like your grandmother’s lemon chiffon cake, or for something imaginary, like a love potion or a spell.

1 shackle, pile up like flower petal:
round her toe and her ankle
bare feet wounded by the earth
which doesn’t know how to hush with escape
which can’t imagine containment

idea(s) pulled from the eye:
of a beauty inverted from your own
of darkness wrapped up with danger
of hair that spread like virus
of sugar coated supremacy

1 barbed wire, unraveled from a heart:
opening the blood path to sky
soft confused touch on bruised flesh
that tried her whole life to be small
but she massive instead, even her heart

take these things under the next full moon
lay them flat on the naked soil
use one match per freedom – light it up
dance in the smoke until it thick all on you
and then dance even the smoke away

napowrimo: love notes to black liberation

this is my third year (i think) of doing national poetry writing month (napowrimo). looking forward to it. the first time was random, the second time i did a sci fi queer love story. this month my work will be various love notes to black liberation. i’ll follow the prompts they offer if they feel right.

prompt: write a Kay-Ryan-esque poem: short, tight lines, rhymes interwoven throughout, maybe an animal or two, and, if you can manage to stuff it in, a sharp little philosophical conclusion.

but i promised
more than i spoke my own name
shameless and blame free
to god, to artemis
to fred, to elouise:
if i see my whole face
my real face
i will love it, honest

i missed it
more than the sun rose
than the waves smashed in
shaping shells, cracking bones
than the sleep crept over me
foggy sun, day is done
it was t/here all along
i was taught to fear it
sheer terror when alone in it

my whole life
the whole night
was watching me
was pitch black
was star sprung
waiting to see
me see her