Kinfolks: a journal of black expression - Volume 1 / Issue 1

Page 1


a journal of black expression

Cover Photo: Makeda Sandford Design & Layout: Eve L. Ewing

January 2014 Volume 1, Issue 1

kinfolks a journal of black expression Volume 1, Issue 1 Joshua Bennett Founding Editor & Poetry Editor Eve L. Ewing Managing Editor & Visual Arts Editor Jerriod Avant Poetry Editor & Photography Editor Desiree Bailey Fiction Editor Aziza Barnes Poetry Editor Sean “Mega� DesVignes Poetry Editor Safia Elhillo Poetry Editor Nate Marshall Poetry Editor Lauren Yates Poetry Editor Meredyth Grange Assistant Managing Editor

Kinfolks: a journal of black expression is dedicated to thinking about blackness in its infinite permutations by publishing the work of established and emerging black artists. The journal’s ethos is centered around the notion that black creative life and the cultures of the African Diaspora provide us with models of collectivity, commonality, and kinship that have been and will be central to the story of our world.

table of

contents [cover] The Ripe and Ruin MAKEDA SANDFORD [2] the density of nouns felt MAKALANI BANDELE [3] & my mother notices someone else’s blood on my hands DANEZ SMITH [4] 1944 [5] If My Late Grandmother Were Gertrude Stein AIREA D. MATTHEWS [7] the audacity of a woman GIZELLE S [8] Bessie Mae ALBERT WALTON [9] Jimmy is Funny SASHA BANKS [11] Blind Boone’s rage TYEHIMBA JESS

[13] My Parents (King & Queen of Broken Hearts) ROB GIBSUN [15] The Projectionist {novel excerpt} JESSE DYLAN MCCARTHY [25] At the Temple in the Sea - Waterloo, Trinidad DARIA-ANN MARTINEAU [26] Woman INDIA PEREZ-URBANO [27] A Can of Murray’s Pomade, 1990 - Present CORTNEY LAMAR CHARLESTON [28] The Speech that went too long 20 years after the Riots EVITA CASTINE [29] Another Clearing of the Land: Epitaph for Hadiya Pendleton TARA BETTS [31] Auntie (the one who loved) EVITA M. CASTINE [33] Contributor Biographies

makalani bandele

the density of nouns felt for People, Places and Things*

it happens more in the black church cuz that's what they come there to do. paroxysms of brushstrokes of blue, idol hands are ideas angelic in wing on a thin ride. have you ever been, have you ever been? here's to wishing a muthafucka would. she pulled his gradual hair, and damn it felt unpredictable. his eyes in her blouse. her blouse going to the territory. aplomb and their imprimatur. the gamut. in the same directions in different ways. vines sprout on his forehead, greg ward has left the building buck足 nasty. structure gives way to listening and you know this, structure gives way and we love this, structure gives way, so we play, play till structure gives way, but there is a structure till there is that there isn't, and time (makes cages, which are only as musical as their doors are wide open). don't just listen, listen to the listening.

*A Chicago Jazz quartet led by drummer Mike Reed. Their music is a combination of hard bop and free improvisation. It skillfully balances inside and outside traditions, past antecedents and current innovations. 2

Danez Smith

& my mother notices someone else’s blood on my hands ‘is that paint?’ she asked of the slender red swirls making my knuckles pretty. I said no hoping she wouldn’t dig into my hands’ war-marked glamor. Sunshine all over my fist (no I did not uppercut the sky, pull back a mess of hot, bright bones), I struck a light skinned boy with chamomile eyes who tried to steal my wallet out my FUBU jeans folded on the side of our crumbling court. blood stains my ring finger, marries me to each cut on his face & the purple, pregnant swell of his body. ‘What did you eat?’ & I wanted to tell her I ate a boy’s pride covered in ranch & hot sauce or I gobbled my own laugh, deep for the first time while he fell to the ground or how I ran, greedy for my own sweet life when Sunshine went to tell his brothers, our neighborhood Goliaths who pined for pain, not names. I knew my name was not David. I didn’t speak a word to my mom, just walked past her, praying she said nothing as I’m sure a man had done to her before. I didn’t go to the court for two weeks. When I did, no one spoke of my victory or cowardice, we just hooped. That’s all we wanted to be there for. 3

Airea D. Matthews

1944 Autumn of that year, six miles west of Ripley, a funnel waited to twist. A little girl unplaited her pickaninny pulled nappy back into a pigtail then stopped, licked her index finger, held it up to the wind: god’s going north. Her sister, sitting across in the horse-drawn wagon, headed to Nut Bush, said: Anna Mae, it’s southblow. Watch how the wind moves the cow-itch vine— down and down. God’s hothead mad, down breath moves sinner-south to the devil where hell-whores go. Now this happens to be the same year the Nazis annihilated Polish resistance in Warsaw. Stalin celebrated 10 Red-Axis wins. England dug out bombrubble again. A scientist named Avery proved DNA an inheritance and Einstein declared: God does not play dice. Little Anna Mae, knowing none of this, replied: I don’t know what god you mean, I meant me. I meant up. All the while pointing to a star, she would later learn is named Polaris.


Airea D. Matthews

If My Late Grandmother Were Gertrude Stein I. Southern Migration Leech. Broke speech. Leaf ain’t pruning pot. Lay. Lye. Lie. Hair straight off. Arrowed branch and horse joint. Elbow ash. Row fish. Row dog. Slow-milk pig. Blue-water sister. Hogs like willow. Weep crow. Weep cow. Sow bug. Soul narrow. Inchway. Inches away. Over the bridge. Back that way. Fur. Fir needles in coal. Black hole. Black out. Black feet. Blame. Long way still. Not there. There. Here. Same. II. Feed The Saw Old Crow. Liquor. Drink. Drunk. Girdle. Grits. Grit. Tea. Grit tea. Tea git. Get shaved. Shook. Shucked. Shit. Flour. Flower. Lard and swallow. Hardedge chew. Chipped tooth bite. Tool chip. Bite. Bloat. Bloat. Bloat. Blight seat. Blight sit tea. Be light city. Down town dim. Slight dark. Old Arc. New Arc. New Ark. New work. Newark. Lark-fed. Corned bread. Bedfeather back. Sunday-shack church fat. Greased gloved. Dust-rubbed. Love cheap-heeled shoes. Window seat. Mirror eye. Window. I. Window. Window. When though. When though. Wind blow. November. December. No cinder. No slumber. No summer. Branch. Branched. Blanched. Fried. Freed. Fly. Want. What. Want. What. Graves want. III. Miscegenation Good. Smooth. Curly-haired baby. Baby rock-a-bye. My baby. Mama rock-a-bye that baby. Wrestle the earth, baby. No dirt. No. Dirt-shine. Shine. Shine-neck. Porcelain. Tin. Tarnish. Powder milk. Pout her. Milk. Powder-silk inheritance. Front the washtub. Top the bed. Bin. Leaky numbers run in. Run in. Run on. Red fevers hold your palm. Sweat it out. Hot. Hot. Heat the rest. Pretty melt that wax. Wide flower. Ellis-Island daddy. O, Daddy’s bar. Banned. Mongrel hum. Come. Come now. Little bones bend. Old crack. Creak. Crank. Crick. Curly-Q. Fuck. Them. Then fuck them. You hear me. Walk through good-haired baby. Half of you. Belong. 5

IV. Gertrude Stein Who. Bills mount. Picasso. Who. Matisse. Who. Mortgage. No currency canvass. Pay brushes. Stroke. Stroke. Bridge. Brittle. Blend. 10 miles daybreak. 10 miles they break. They broke. No brick. Widgets in the envelope. No railroad green. Agriculture. Pea snap. Earth under nails. Spine and stilt woman. Roach-kill heel woman. Roaches in the crawl. Woman, creep. Keep 5th grade. Every where. Wear every where. We’re every. Where. Any. How. Sacrifice and hammer. Sacrifice the hammer. Never. Ax and hatchet make callous. Hard hand. Prison-pen privilege. Prison. Privilege pinned. Bar-thorn pinned. Pine cross. Crown. Weight. Wait. Iron is harder. Chicken fat can is full of spark. Spark kill. Ore. Sparkle. Or. Spark cull. Spark. Cull. Hoe. Heave. Heave-holy. Heavy. Heavy. Heavy lights genius. That is that Gertrude. Who.


Gizelle S

the audacity of a woman Post-Emancipation Jamaica, 1860 please, sir, let my husband be a man like you. i hold him hand in agreement, and I hold my mouth in obedience when him say, “is so,” ever since we stop steal nights ‘cause you free up our days. we stood in front of you, yes you, Sir, me in me head wrap green like harvest season underneath God own sun, and my husband with him shoes shine black black, like sunday morning roast breadfruit and hot cerasse tea. remember him, Sir? you heard your reflection in him rich half a gold-tooth inched in the corner of him mouth that speak English good good almost like you, and you almost smile, Sir, until you look up from your white-paper desk and get vex again so you look down quick quick then shove us through the door with papers for him to be man and me to be wife, to know me place and keep it right beside him every sunday, where God know him face better than Matthew 6:24 and the bible leaf it print on and know how him voice sweet like when the spirit just just touch down like Doctor Bird first song out the cage. Sir, God can vouch for him. don’t God only listen to free man? a free man is a real man, ripe to be an Englishman, an unindentured man please, Sir. let my husband be a man. 7

Bessie Mae

Albert Walton

Sasha Banks

Jimmy is Funny Jimmy is funny. Jimmy is funny and all the girls laugh like rattled chains. And you are twelve and laughing at Jimmy, hoping God will be sweet. Let you be the sweat sticking to the shadow of his red hair. Meagan whips each ribbon of blonde over her shoulder. Susie’s disappear behind her ear. The cornrows stitched to your scalp say girl, you just ain’t that lucky. Suddenly, your body is a cathedral of no, shouting at the joints. This is the day you are found by your body. This is the day its black stops hunting you. You, the skeleton on the playground, laughing at white boys without her skin on. Jimmy wears khaki shorts. Every day. Your brother made bloody jigsaw of a white boy’s jaw. Jimmy eats peanut butter and jelly with the crust cut off. You know all the words to Cop Killer. Jimmy tells the one about the crow that flew into the country club. Your grandmother’s whole body was swallowed to a whisper named “mammy” that drowned in the spit of white babies. But Jimmy is love licked all clean of 6th grade silly. You are still laughing. You pray for your name in his mouth. 9

“Look, Jimmy. This blood looks just like yours, and so what if it screams just a little bit louder. This brown is a small thorn, but this love is all the mercy.� Jimmy tells the one about the crow that flew into the country club. You are not the song he is singing. You are the shadow poured into the white space. His eyes blue-eyed blade you; whittle you down to frat boy small talk, Jaeger shots from now. They are still laughing. Your body has tricked you into giving it weight. Jimmy tells the one about the crow that flew into the country club. No one touches it. No one wants to wash their hands twice. And Jimmy is funny. Jimmy is so so funny.


Tyehimba Jess

Blind Boone’s rage Can a blind man kill and walk away? Can he find the jugular and slide a blade through the dark, through the vein - and then escape? That’s what I’d ask myself in the thick of those days after I’d run away from home to make my mark with a would-be manager. I’d trod his roads for weeks but instead of money, he’d speak of sudden fees I owed. How my debts had grown and signed my folks into debt that they’d find themselves sued into ruin if I didn’t grind those piano keys like his trained monkey. This went on night after night, while in the day I’d be confined to locked rooms. Nobody’d listen to a ten year old’s plea for freedom. He’d tell them I was in his charge- and a little slow... and soon enough I began to know my mother’s slavery - note by note, song by song. He took the one thing I truly owned and smothered it with hate till every finger I lifted for music bore the weight of shackles and chains. And so, I started to wonder... about making a blade. How to break a glass clumsily and smuggle secretly one long, slick shard. How to wait for the dead of night to cut him hard and dead. Yes, my friend. I’m sorry to say that I felt this the only way I was going to win myself back again. 11

I’d gotten low enough to start planning the spill and the strike - to prepare myself perhaps for prison... so it was a damn lucky thing when my stepfather finally tracked me down in the midst of my labor, claimed me for kin in his iron clench and hauled me over his heaving shoulder, stomping through the saloon’s battered door. I swear it now and I swore it then I’ll never slave my music for no man again. I ain’t bendin over no piano like a plow on a sharecropper’s piece. I ain’t no beast bent to push ivory keys. I’ll be free as I play or I won’t play at all - I’ll just play the notes inside my skull alone in the dark where they roam around loose. ‘Cause playing like a slave, I’ll just step myself straight into a hangman’s noose.


My Parents (King & Queen of Broken Hearts)

Rob Gibsun

Jesse Dylan McCarthy

The Projectionist {novel excerpt}

Jonah frowned, looking out from his perch in the projector’s

booth. He was screening the week’s new documentary picture, All that’s Quiet is Kept: The Forgotten Genius of Phineas Newborn Jr. The show was up now, but he remained respectfully cautious; if the film snagged, if it were caught feeding into the projector at the wrong angle, it could snap. In the wrong place it could nick off a snippet of his finger clean as a razor. In the projecting booth the walls were yellowed with the blast of xenon bulbs and peeling studio era posters, with the heat shadows of Jean Gabin and Greta Garbo, and Humphrey Bogart and Barbara Stanwyck, and their alluring eyes and trench coats and cigarettes could not quite conceal the grey smears of ash and hot coffee stains, or the presence of some unseemly substance made of sweat and mechanical heat and blood. Carefully, he turned the knob by his left hand as he looked in the viewfinder, pulling the focus in. The unsuitable parts of slushiness turned a more perfect black and silver before his eye. He was looking into the prime grain of a man’s skin about his neck, the plumed sheen of his tuxedo sleeve, a pair of starched cuffs, a black tie. The young projectionistin-training looked up. Someone was staring back at him over the shadowy rows. The fusty velvet of the seat-tops caught a part of the projecting light. In the darkness below they had the aspect of an infernal river. On the other side of that river was the face of a man, his smooth chestnut brown skin set behind the black frame of his thick horn-rimmed glasses. A very fine trace of sweat glistened on his 15

brow. Under the man’s face the film titles appeared. It was Phineas. The musician gazed down upon his instrument. His hands awaited an impulse from the mind.

Just then Jean-Luc stopped by to check the feed on the pro-

jector. He looked haggard, almost homeless; perhaps he hadn’t slept in months. He snapped some technical questions and, without waiting for Jonah’s answers, turned to mutter something to himself as he patted his rail-thin body down in search of tobacco. He was already making his way out again with an air of considerable disgust, when he casually asked Jonah about the film, if he knew anything about le grand jazzman. Without hesitating Jonah lied. Jean-Luc was an uneasy presence and there was an element of calculating convenience to this, but it was also a reflex. Jonah always told a lie or invented a fiction if anyone asked him something he didn’t know about black culture. No one dared to call him on it. They were white. Jean-Luc invited him to come down to the lobby for a drink once the picture was up. He considered it, but then something did snag, an intimation that turning his back on this jazzman Phineas (who in truth he knew nothing about and had never heard of), was somehow intolerable. He explained to Jean-Luc that he wanted to keep a close eye on the feed, which, it was true, had always been somewhat finicky. Jean-Luc appeared lightly pinched, or simply baffled—Jonah couldn’t tell. He left courteously and yet abruptly, as if it was he who had in that instant suddenly noticed some fabulous detail in his life that had previously been overlooked, leaving him precariously exposed.

Jonah trained his eyes on the screen where Phineas now sat

at his piano playing. From time to time the camera would cut away to focus only on the hands, and massive black fingers would fill the 16

screen, rising and falling on the ivories like the neck lengths of racing stallions. The invisible voice-over, speaking with a thin but rather high-pitched Italian accent, was describing a dark, tumultuous period in the life of Phineas Newborn Jr. The murky images were supposed to represent the musician in a climaxing series of clichés, revealing him unraveling, prey to ugly inebriation and mental breakdown. The photographs were taken in a string of gloomy bars or taverns. New York. Memphis. Philadelphia. In these sequences there was no music, and the only sound in the theater was the flutter of the projector itself, a light cough from an indeterminate corner of the room, and the trickling voice-over of the Italian, reading off a script in a sound studio somewhere in Rome… Nei suoi ultimi anni, gira la vita del pianista a l’inferno senza fine… The events in the life of Phineas were turning for the worse: divorce, hospitalization, domestic abuse. The clichés of a man heading into the abyss. The nadir of the life (the climax of any documentary) came in the winter of 1974. Phineas, attempting to return to a wife (a lover, a mistress, a whore?) in yet another drunken stupor, was brutally mugged in the streets of Memphis. Stomped, left for dead in the gutter with six broken fingers. Breaking a pianist’s fingers is like breaking a horse’s legs. The movie ended with an interview. It was an eerie coda, but it gave Phineas the last word, which seemed just and tactful. The pianist spoke and Jonah listened. The dark box of the theater was full of a soft-spoken presence. The voice was high but lush, country granular, honeyed, Southern. Meester Newborn, you have many fans here in Europe, if you could tell us about your first European Tour, what did you think of it? 17

Well, I always did dream of arriving one day in a city, some

place far away from America, some place where nobody would know my name, and I wouldn’t know nobody else, and I could walk to my own liking, and every street and every corner and every window would indicate where to go along to next, the whole thing unfolding like a picture painted on a fan, like one of them fans you find in New Orleans that hides a coy smile, and then swings. When I recollect those days what I think of is how fast everything happened at that time in my life—like I was no more than a little flea caught up in some mighty circus. That’s how I think on it now, you see. But you just can’t imagine the feeling for a young man like me, what it was to make that trip, where I was coming from. But yes, I remember arriving in Europe. I can see it clear as yesterday. Train rolled in, and when I walked out of the station, under those great big old iron works and smoky glass, boy I knew I had arrived in Paris. I had made it, and with a recording contract to my name…And over there... it was as if everything was a step up…The women all dressed so nice… Nobody asking me my business like I had none…no colored water fountains…And when I got out of there and started down the boulevard…I really felt so blessed to be alive that I became quite emotional and I had to stop and take it all in…But you know, I think maybe it’s always like that when you arrive for the first time in a city…I like to think it’s like hearing Jelly Roll and the Red Hot Peppers playing Kansas City Stomp for the first time, like a new experience of music. You can almost hear the brassy avenues trumpeting, the particular melodies of little side-streets, the crescendo as the window of a bus swings you across the river—and you see this great big cathedral, right before your own eyes—and then you’re off again out 18

into bright shallows, trees and all them little lovely sidewalk cafes. I mean I can’t think of any city without thinking of music. And a new city is an opportunity to change your ear. It comes to me that way; I’ll catch the light in the trees more, or a strange sensation of clean coolness by my head and it’s a tune, it’s music in the air. And when I get to feeling that way, it’s like I could walk forever, even though it’s far from true, even though maybe I feel unusually tired and weary from traveling, even though nothing quite makes sense yet at all. Still, there is a sort of—a sort of giddy sensation, like when you was a little boy and you gone wandering out too far on a summer’s evening and then you hear your mother’s voice calling and you say, yeah mama, and look back, and then look forward one last time. Could you tell us Meester Newborn, what year was this? That was nineteen fifty-eight. And you were on tour for the new album?

I had just released The Rainbow and the people at RCA

wanted me to do a European tour to promote the album abroad. I remember our first stop was in London, then we had a night in Stockholm. The next stop was Paris. I put on a fresh jacket and tie that I had kept in my suitcase for that night only. We had a gig at a club in Saint Germain. And I remember thinking to myself, Phineas, if they pay you even half what they promised, you still done alright, you done good; I was draped up and down, man, I mean sharp—Billy Eckstein on a dime, I tell you what—I walked down them streets like 19

they was lighting matchsticks at my heels. Felt like a young Sammy Davis cruising through a cocktail lounge. You had a difficult relationship with your father, no? Could you tell us maybe some things about it?

My father was a musician. But my father used to say: you got

to walk the valley by yourself. Yes, every man for himself. That’s how he liked to say it. I truly believe he hated the idea of me getting into music like he did. But I never had it in me to give something up if I liked it, and I loved playing music. Loved it from the day I was born. I say I got my stubbornness from him. Sure, between us it wasn’t always easy, you know. But it wasn’t in him to back down, to give up, to settle, and wasn’t in me neither. You could say it was in our nature. He was the one who told me, you just remember boy, none of your forefathers never jumped off no slave ship. He was a tough man. Had to be. Like the baddest, saddest, craziest, most dastardly ones, born down in Georgia. Wasn’t a day in my life there wasn’t some old man stomping or hollering with beer and whiskey come tramping through our living room with my father after a night at the juke or some place like that. And they come in laughing hard, drinking hard, the way we do in the South, riffing on some cat that had done it, or some woman they seen. And oh my mother would cuss em out, and beat them till they were out on our porch and then all the same they would keep on hollerin and I always made like my eyes were shut and I was fast sleep, but truth is I could hear all the talk through the walls, you know, and to me that was better than transistor radio, better than anything I ever heard – and sometimes after a long story 20

they would get to singing and moaning an old blues, or a jug band tune, or just a sloppy twang and a howling wolf, or a sleepy string lost in the dark, and that’s how it came to me, just like it did to Robert Johnson at the crossroads, just like it did to Jelly Roll in the pearly barrooms of New Orleans, just like it did to so many of us: I put my two little hands together and I prayed; I asked the Lord, if He would only let me, I was going to be the greatest piano player Memphis and the whole world had ever seen. What about your influences-- other pianists you looked up to?

How much time you got? James Johnson, Jelly Roll, Tatum,

Red Garland, Bud Powell…Duke Ellington…Monk of course. The great Ahmad Jamal. Well, not too many others, I suppose. You know, probably only three other pianists ever played like I could, I mean in terms of playing ability, though I never knew a man who could play Bach with more soul than Bud. But I would say, in terms of ability, I most admired Art Tatum. The only smart thing I ever heard a critic say—and this was a white critic, he said, when you listen to Art you feel like an ornithologist who stumbles across a sky full of kingfishers. But you got to remember, Art was blind. He was blind from birth, I believe. Man never saw the keys black or white, never saw a sheet of music, just sat down and played, but man, he crossed the piano like planks on a railway track, and as naturally as you or I button a shirt… I mean he never had to find the notes, it was like they were there for him all the time, like he could see them all at once, like a flock of pigeons scattering the way they do in a long circle, sailing around and then landing all together again on the same place, a loop in time. Art 21

could really play…I mean play in a way you couldn’t touch. By that I mean that I, as a musician, couldn’t touch, and I tell you what—no man can or ever will. But in terms of playing the melodic phrase accurately, with what I would call, poetic precision, there was a time at my peak when nobody could do two octaves apart what I could. Let me tell you a story about Art, though. One and time a couple of European cats come to watch him play in the Village. Now one of these individuals in particular was Vladimir Horowitz. After they watch Art play for an hour Vladimir says to his buddies, if this Negro here ever learns how to play serious music we all be in trouble… ain’t that something? This fat blind sweating Negro playing for twelve people in a bar downtown, the greatest threat to the white man’s serious music. Art Tatum at the Vanguard. One can only imagine Vladimir’s confusion when the horsemen turned out to be four foppish boys from Liverpool; but this was still the fifties, when the European mentality was intact, so they stood against the wall watching and said to themselves, man, if these American Negroes ever get it together, the tender white hide of Europe will surely get a whipping. At least they got that right. You mentioned some other legends of jazz piano…what about yourself, what would you say was unique about your style?

Let me play you a little something. You hear that? Billy

Strayhorn. You know why it sounds that way? It’s because the keys are ready. It’s because I bring kindness to the hammers as they fall. I command them to love. That’s why the sound you hear is so spirited, so green. That what you hear there is a sound that says that freedom 22

is now, each note twinkling like the North Star. When I’m sitting here at the piano it’s like I’m sitting in my house, no matter where I am. I’m sitting in our living room in Whiteville, Tennessee, and I can hear my mother in the kitchen, and the locomotives of the L&N moaning on the line, and the fish fry from the muddy banks of the Hatchie and the music I make then is like a mirror of our house, a house of glass it feels like, standing on a slope that goes down past the cotton fields to the river. And when I hit the keys I see the eyes of my mother and I hear my father’s voice and the leaves are flying, and the rocks are rolling and the sound that comes then is the right sound. And the rocks and the leaves roll straight through my house, but every pane of glass is still whole. *

The lights came up. He placed the reels back in their cases.

He checked the equipment in silence, and handed the booth over to Jean-Luc for the next shift. He felt a pressing need to walk alone. To walk nowhere in particular, but to allow his consciousness to trickle back slowly through the hourglass. Phineas had troubled him. People had warned him that after graduating from college there would be great peril at hand. Sirens on the rocks, the mind wandering, and one could get knocked off course, fall behind, lose all the hard-fought gains that a college education had provided, particularly (although he felt it didn’t need to be repeated endlessly as it was) for “a minority student.” One had to advance and advance decisively. This attitude, firmly adopted by his kin, held a very dim view of the kind of reasoning whereby an internship as a projectionist’s assistant in an art-house movie theater in Paris was a reasonable post-graduate term of employment. The suspicion was that he was avoiding something, 23

delaying truth, reckoning. Was he waiting for something? Certainly, it was easier to watch movies. It was easier to watch life than to be in life. At work he sat in the dark watching; at home he watched his friends’ lives from afar, as their personalities proliferated, morphing at an ever increasing frame rate, as if they intended to create their own virtual film reels through posted strings of pictures online. Now everyone’s life was a movie.

It was late in the afternoon. A sweep of sunlight glinted off

the windows of the top floors along the rue Christine like a case of knives. Jonah thought of home, of Manhattan, its frosty silhouette. He was still running his brain against the fog that the film had deposited in his mind. Recently, he had become unusually sensitive to sunlight-no doubt a work-related maladjustment, which had the additional effect, perhaps due to some chemical imbalance, of making him greatly reluctant to communicate. He listened to his own paces on the pavement, looking up from time to time to follow the designs of the sunlight along the rooftops. He was young, alive in the spring of the new century. He thought of heading for l’Atalante, the bar where the art students flocked after classes and Madame Eliette the patronne still pulled the demis down two at a time with her ancient hands: a place of weak drafts and shallow commitments. But Jonah’s mind rebelled at that idea too. He was uncertain now, driven by a collision of unhappy schemes. Commitment was, in fact, very much on his mind. Returning to New York would require confronting certain deliberately unanswered questions. He thought he heard a piano playing. But it was only a waiter storing his silverware. He followed the irregular tracery of the sun along the sidewalk.


Daria-Ann Martineau

At the Temple in the Sea* Waterloo, Trinidad Cane fields lay unclaimed, overgrown. Politics still won’t allow them to be owned. On oildrums you built this—alcove or enclave? Neither is quite correct. What is the Hindi word for sublet? Whose territory is the sea? Who has the room? Devotion parts a path sliced clean: a machete through the grass— snagging root fast as a mangrove. A mudskipper’s thick eyes appear above the low tide— tiny stepping stones. Stray dogs have gathered close to this mandir but cannot cross. I must remove my shoes here, though I am removed by barred windows: a waterfall between this place of redemption and me. Did you, Sadhu, figure yourself prophet?


Padlocks protect the murtis from the vandals (profitless act). But who was it that sought to behead these gods? A cutlass is a weapon, therefore a tool. I see, then, how true devotion outlived a life’s work. I see how the faith survived the fields. The Waterloo temple was built by Siewdass Sadhu, an indentured laborer who came to Trinidad in 1907. Sadhu was not permitted to build on land. *


India Perez-Urbano

Cortney Lamar Charleston

A Can of Murray’s Pomade, 1990 - Present Like any strong trait of mine, it belonged to him first. A single orange can sitting in the top drawer under the bathroom sink (on his side), next to a set of Andis trimmers because we cannot use razors like they can, he later said. Every week, as I dressed to impress the lipstick of church matriarchs onto my cheek, he would take grease to palm, rub it well into my scalp like a moral. A good man. Brushing my hair with a stern brush. Necessarily coarse for the course, of course. I came back for a short time, post-graduation. Little brother wearing shirts with no collars, she said. I found the can in “his” bathroom, the couple on its emblem more packaged than I ever recalled. Filed under: things known all too well. And after scanning the house, it seemed the other artifacts had been excavated completely. Boxed and moved. Trashed.


But the can came with me when I left: a shadow created by a son. I even use it on occasion; can still feel those hands molding, trying to make something handsome out of me.

The Speech that went too long - 20 years after the Riots Evita M. Castine


Tara Betts

Another Clearing of the Land: Epitaph for Hadiya Pendleton The bullet went through the air past the trees. Then the bus stop at the corner was simply another cordoned crime scene surrounded completely but opened, the body splayed thrown on gray stone that cupped blood in its grooves. Who was she? One in school, & two not, & all Black South Side teens with nothing in common but a pained echo for a future; Descendants of migrants & hustlers & . . . . One recalled as an honor student, softly saying slogans against gunfire in her city that goes on popping at street lights of suffused glass & screeching getaways in what is not quite pursuit. What I hate, what I will forever hate, is how she fades with every day from numbness, from an empathy undone, not bound to anyone, the swift, ruthless slap casual like someone swiping a bus pass, for this is what Death wanted: to watch among the young, the living, taking the unopened bulb 29

that insisted on being much bigger, while on land where that thief, Poverty, had not yet trampled down her growth, the boys behind guns tamped their lives heavily to prune the years cut down, And the mother in a dark winter coat trimmed with tears a few inches through is the compiler of little else besides empty scrapbooks, Her only proof & evidence, from an eclipsed song. They have too many years left of that before repetition starts to weed them out, another without price or liability, another beyond tragic significance.


Auntie - the one who loved

Evita M. Castine



makalani bandele is a Louisville, KY native. A member of

the Affrilachian Poets, he has been awarded fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and Cave Canem Foundation. He is a 2012 and 2013 Pushcart prize nominee. Hellfightin’, published by Willow Books in 2011, is his first full-length book of poems.

Sasha Banks is a poet and educator from Ohio, by way of

Alaska, by way of Germany, by way of California. She lives in Ft. Worth, TX, teaching writing workshops for elementary and university level students. She studied creative writing at Texas Wesleyan University, graduating in 2012. She has spoken for Arun Gandhi, and was a Golden Poem Award winner and performer at the 2013 National Poetry Slam. Her work has been published in The Austin International Poetry Anthology and was awarded publication in Alight. She is a 2013 Button Poetry Chapbook Prize finalist.

Tara Betts is the author of Arc & Hue and the libretto THE GREATEST!: A Tribute to Muhammad Ali. Tara is a Ph.D. candidate in English/Creative Writing at SUNY Binghamton University. Her work appears in numerous journals and anthologies. Learn more at Evita M. Castine is a writer, director, actor, photographer and

Emmy award-winning producer. Her first-year film at the University of Southern California School of Cinema, “Saudade,” has played at several film festivals including the ActNow Foundation’s New Voices in Black Cinema at BAM Cinematak in Brooklyn, NY, the Art Institute of Chicago, and in the 20-year retrospective of African-American Short Films at the S.E. Manley Film Festival in Hollywood, CA. She is currently in production as director of the film “Only Light,” examining the issue of international human sex trafficking. 33

Cortney Lamar Charleston is a young artist currently residing in Jersey City, NJ. He is a basketball stat reciting, mac & cheese eating, sweet tea drinking, D’Angelo lip-syncing brother with a soft inflection and fear of heights. A University of Pennsylvania graduate and alumnus of its esteemed Excelano Project performance poetry collective, he uses verse to explore the hallways in his mind walked least often and, occasionally, to get his grown-man sexy on. Rob Gibsun started from [Slam] Nahuatl, now he’s here: a visual artist, performance poet and Virginia Commonwealth University alumnus hopscotching between Richmond, VA and Washington, DC. He is an Aquarius, a TEDxRVA speaker, a College Unions Poetry Slam finalist, a Southern Fried Poetry Slam champion and a lover of kiwifruits. Rob has released one chapbook, titled Of A Sunken Relationship. He is creating. Right now. Djembe drums. Fade to black. Tyehimba Jess is the author of leadbelly, a winner of the 2004

National Poetry Series. A Cave Canem Fellow, he received a 2004 Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, was a 2004-2005 Winter Fellow at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and won a 2006 Whiting Award. He exhibited his poetry at the 2011 TedX Nashville Conference. He is Assistant Professor of English at College of Staten Island. John William “Blind” Boone (1864 - 1927) went on to become a highly acclaimed ragtime virtuoso.

Daria-Ann Martineau was born and raised in Maraval, Trinidad and Tobago. After studying Speech and Hearing Science at The George Washington University in DC, she saw there were more interesting ways to understand language. She is now an MFA Candidate and a Goldwater Hospital Fellow in NYU’s Creative Writing (Poetry) program. Special thanks to the instructors and peers who helped edit this piece and to the editors at Kinfolks for their support. Airea D. Matthews is a Cave Canem and Callaloo fellow and is currently a Zell Postgraduate Poetry Fellow at the University of Michigan where she earned her MFA. Her poetry is forthcoming or has appeared in The Missouri Review, The Baffler, Indiana Review, WSQ and Muzzle. She resides in Detroit with her formidable genetic army and is currently at work on her first full-length poetry collection. 34

Jesse McCarthy was born in Los Angeles in 1983 and raised

abroad in Paris, France. He graduated from Amherst College in 2006 and taught high school English in Brooklyn before entering the doctoral program in English at Princeton University in 2011. He lives in Harlem.

India Perez-Urbano is a Dominican-Trinidadian from Nyack, NY and an undergraduate studying Sociology at Harvard University.

Gizelle S was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. She spends

most of her waking, writing hours in conversation with whichever literary minds will listen. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Blackberry: A magazine and Sinister Wisdom. She lives alone in Seattle, WA with her books. She does not own a cat.

Makeda Sandford is a nineteen-year-old student from Asheville, North Carolina studying photojournalism. She is a freelance photographer, specializing in fashion, conceptual and documentary photography. Her work has been recognized by Au Courant Magazine, RAWArtist, and SparkCon, and she has worked under three professional wedding photographers in North Carolina. Makeda stands 5’2’’ but with a big presence, allowing her work to speak on its own. Danez Smith is a Cave Canem Fellow from St. Paul, MN. His

full-length collection, [insert] Boy, will be published in 2014 by YesYes Books. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry, Ploughshares, Devil’s Lake, The Cortland Review, Anti-, & elsewhere. He writes and lives in Oakland, CA.

Albert Walton sprouted in Texas and blossomed in Los Angeles. His formal training and degrees are in drawing and design from Otis Art Institute. Albert’s career work has been in visual communication, producing graphics and special visual effects for movies and television. Walton currently paints, writes and teaches in Los Angeles. He is a certified instructor and 30 year practitioner of Tai Chi Chuan and author of UNEVEN MUSIC, Selected Poems.


Visit our website to find out how you can attend our monthly poetry reading series or submit to Issue 2, coming in April 2014. You can also read our Kinfolks Family Tree blog series, in which we celebrate Black History Month by honoring some of the creators who inspire us the most.

So, what can you hope for in the world but to try to learn more about it before you disappear? Amiri Baraka October 7, 1934 – January 9, 2014

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