Session One Anthology
MENTOR: KAVEH AKBAR
The Night My Father Was Robbed
I ran downstairs with a hammer & turned on every light.
I said I hate this country & spat on the ground where I was born.
It isn’t this country the Black cop said, writing down the facts
of theft. Back then I didn’t know History’s names. I couldn’t
drop knowledge bombs. I didn’t know Osage burned
around the corner where I was bred & breastfed.
Everybody with the last name Africa was bombed
by the first Black mayor. Complex. & I didn’t know Goode
or Rizzo or my own father’s youth, soaked in red & wringing.
The Amharic word for Terror rhymes the English “shiver.”
Fear evokes movement, even if it’s just a solitary tremble,
quiet shifts back & forth. I look behind me
& name Ethiopia the promised land.
I still relay its myths, nod along to dead prophecies.
I read half a halfverse about Rastas & thought,
if someone calls a country heaven it must be so.
Who first called the country I was born in paradise?
Who first referred to America as a dreamscape?
Who said, I’m lucky to be here galloping over all this vast blood?
I trot across the bones of people stolen & people stolen from.
Every heaven kills its citizens when they don’t sing.
Alarms cross at the forearms & scream.
My mouth tears meat from bone,
gleams wet over flesh & kisses in hunger.
My lips quiet so they won’t cry out.
My father asks what I have there,
in his country. His question is
an answer in itself. A wound heals off-hinge.
I pour all my money into the ocean to sit
still. Gallons of red trundle under earth & I don’t move.
Hiwot Adilow is an Ethiopian-american poet and singer-songwriter from Philadelphia. She first began performing as a member of the Philly Youth Poetry Movement and is a former participant of the Brave New Voices International Poetry Festival. Her poetry has been featured on CNN’s Black In America, NPR’s Tell Me More, and Wisconsin Public Television. You can also find her work in Wusgood.black, Winter Tangerine Review, Nepantla, The Offing, and Duende Literary. Hiwot is a 2016 Callaloo Poetry Fellow and a member of the First Wave Hip-Hop and Urban Arts Learning Community at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studies Anthropology and African Studies.
portrait of his fist
like a bottle of wine
his instinct was
to carry me by the neck
too familiar with the way
skin peeled clean
under the simple want
of his pink fingernails
how many nights did I lose
to his flask’s cold lip
before he split mine
down the middle
chapped skin attempting
to separate from the rest
what’s inside we both wondered
how deep will this cut
the glass of me
how long will I wait
before I pry
if it takes a prayer
then god let me shatter
let him bleed
Emma Rebholz is currently an undergraduate Writing, Literature, and Publishing major at Emerson College. Like their favorite cat mug, they can be described as having "excellent design, delicate details, exquisite shapes, and pleasant feelings." Their poetry has been recently published or is forthcoming in FreezeRay, Souvenir, and Maps for Teeth. They probably want to be your friend.
moon like a hot-fogged mirror / you palmed a glass of wine / we had both been afraid of the dark / so we
sat in it now in mock repentance / your glass empties and fills with shadows / earlier you’d taken fistfuls
of salt water/ to drink and become sick with thirst / we vomited our offering to the sea / the waves / sacred
instruments that they are / religion / no religion / still worshipping something / you slip off your clothes /
and crawl into cold water / i listened for your anklet / in the waves while you sang / i dig a hole for fire /
you are parading naked with a crown / quiet-eyed horses / prowl to the shore / waves feed the sand /
mouthful / after / blue mouthful
Jordan Jace is a junior at Williams College.
POEM WITHOUT A FATHER
In the heat
of the sidewalk worms
pray for rain clack
dry like curls of hair
in the shower
above them I watched
afternoon bend to night
my brother wore
a cow skull like a helmet
biked crop circles
around the driveway
I wrapped myself
in polka dot sheets
slashed with eyeholes
the moon a cigarette
burn on my arm
the tragedy is
I did it myself
I howled at the burndark
my brother never
came back inside
his skeleton is a cow
skeleton that clatters
worms are dying
all around his bike
which riderless still
circles the driveway
I covered myself
in animal names
I nailed a list
of men who robbed me
to the bathroom wall
they are all named worm
I can’t wait for them to die
I ran all night
in a nightgown of bones
while the women smoked
and danced in the shower
Brad Trumpfheller is an undergraduate student at Emerson College. Their poetry is forthcoming from Gigantic Sequins, Muzzle, Indiana Review, and elsewhere.
from “Snow Black”; after Safia Elhillo, Frank Ocean, and Cecily Parks
once Beaux spun me so fast the tiles melted caramel to match
their eyes I could steep in their cologne my body bobbing
in dusk or in moonshine where we snatched cherries that burst
to pulp syrup spilling easy as summer gnat blood on our fingers
sleep slotted us together I dreamt their face in pigweed and rye
all features erased I’d wake to their attempts to halve their husk
with their eyes closed they gasped as if already sliced I stilled their arms
while they twitched I eased them back to goosebumps flaring in our hair
every touch singed sometimes waves ran me through spin cycle
my throat alive with salt the room an airtight mason jar I crashed
against glass jolted awake screamed a curl of a girl wincing in bed
I opened to sunrise their face was shaky ink settling into groove
what could we be if not trapped in trances what would they be if not mine
I held séance in the shower asked a former teacher to rid this hurricane
from my bones she said make bathwaves til you shrivel step out rebloom but I couldn’t
soak Beaux’s chest watch fears twist in their hands too cherries are skunked now
taste of a wrong dress in full length mirror water finally balks I stay torched
Nix Thérèse is a sonically-driven, compassionate poet from New Orleans. They serve as Associate Digital Editor for the Fairy Tale Review, Contributing Editor for The Wilds' Literary Guide through Platypus Press, and Advisor for Winter Tangerine's intensive online workshops. Before graduating from Emerson College, they were honored with Distinction in Poetry by the Writing, Literature, and Publishing department. Their latest project, "Snow Black", has earned them support from VONA/Voices and the Women's Voices mentorship program. This retelling of "Snow White" is set in southern Louisiana and prioritizes racial tension, gender exploration, and the processes of trauma. They enjoy stories rich as their lipstick.
LANDSCAPE WITH WINTER AND LOT'S WIFE
for Diane Seuss
this is supposed to hurt no one cares about context honor my
discretion part of me is all gold bathe me to find out
which part I’m yours to polish to gut
how do I accept that this is the only
soul I’ll ever own do you think
it would help if I woke up earlier if I started
drinking again name one unravaged
wonder name one way to exit this
world without leaving a mess Lot’s wife
was actually named “Lot’s wife” some
birds fall to the earth and burst
into snow in some light snow looks
a lot like salt though snow dis-
appears in a way salt does not
as a rule weather is to be
trusted the worst
that can happen
can happen at any time
try adding more rooms
to your house three rooms
nine rooms a savior
in your home is worth
two in the bush submit
to your own safety
submit to your own
sometimes the brightness here makes
my ears pop you can’t walk
away now you are covered
in so much snow
Kaveh Akbar's poems appear recently or soon in The New Yorker, Poetry, APR, Ploughshares, PBS NewsHour, and elsewhere. His debut full-length collection, Calling a Wolf a Wolf, will be published by Alice James Books in Fall 2017; he is also the author of the chapbook Portrait of the Alcoholic. A recipient of the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation and the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, Kaveh was born in Tehran, Iran, and currently lives and teaches in Florida.