CaKe a journal of poetry and art
CaKe is produced by the students and faculty of Florida A&M University. We invite submissions of poetry, fiction, drama, art, non-fiction, and reviews September through December. All submissions must be sent via email attachment to email@example.com. Our online component Slices can be found at haveasliceofcakepoetry.blogspot.com. All submissions are considered for both print and online publication. Copyright ÂŠ 2013 by Florida A&M University. All rights are returned to the author upon publication.
Cover Art: Cameron Askew
Editor Breauna Roach
Poetry Readers Miciotto Johnson Uche Ononuju Breauna Roach Elizabeth Tomlinson
Fiction Readers Aaron Lancaster Lauren McDade
Submissions Manager Cameron Askew
Layout and Design Cameron Askew Lauren McDade
Faculty Advisors Kristine Snodgrass Dr. Kendra Nicole Bryant Dr. Lamar Garnes
Special thanks to Dr. Yakini B. Kemp, Chair Department of English and Modern Languages
Contents Part 1: Sugar....................................................................................... 1 Sugar.................................................................. Anitra Ellison Surprise in Me L. Denise Taylor ................................................. 3 Sweet Sin L. Denise Taylor ......................................................... 4 Men McQuisha Smith ................................................................. 5 She McQuisha Smith .................................................................. 6 Lost in Translation Lauren McDade ........................................... 7 Rising Sun Cameron Askew ...................................................... 11 Dear Love Marcus Bourgeois ................................................... 12 That of Love Nathiel Williams .................................................. 13 A Southern Belle of the Kitchen Aid Variety Tarolyn Granthum 14 Part 2: Eggs ...................................................................................... 18 Untitled Amanda Stephens ...................................................... 19 Humpty Hearts Lauren McDade .............................................. 20 Crow Up Call Allen Qing Yuan .................................................. 22 “In the Clouds” Barry Archie II ................................................. 23 Trust and Fairy Tales Danielle Sutton ....................................... 26 Le Havre Sunrise (Ekphrastic Poem) Miciotto Johnson II .......... 29 Untitled Dr. Lamar Garnes ........................................................ 30 The Runaway Storm pt. 1 L. Denise Taylor ............................... 31 A Writer is Born on FAMU’s Campus: An Interview with Author, Tananarive Due ........................................................................ 33 The Runaway Storm pt. 2 L. Denise Taylor ............................... 37 The Tiny Grandma Michael Hettich ......................................... 39 Our Business Here Benjamin Arda Doty ................................... 41 Luna McQuisha Smith .............................................................. 47
Every 28 McQuisha Smith ........................................................ 48 Part 3: Unsweetened Cocoa .............................................................. 50 War. Denis Tavares.................................................................. 51 Elements of Transition[ing] LeVander Thomas ........................ 52 B.C. Breauna Roach .................................................................. 54 “Black” In Me Deanna Jones .................................................... 56 The Complexion of Struggle Lorrin Rucker ................................ 58 A Dream of Salvation Lorrin Rucker .......................................... 59 What’s in a Name Hailey Ray ................................................... 60 Beauty Mark Anitra Ellison ...................................................... 64 Probing Religion Mitchelle Ray-Williams ................................. 65 Truth and the Fall of Humanity Joseph Navarro ....................... 67 A Pledge for the New American Millennium Joseph Navarro ... 68 Person of Eternity Joseph Navarro .......................................... 69 Wage Slavery Blues Joseph Navarro ........................................ 70 Wallace and Fredo Joseph Navarro ......................................... 73 Green With… L. Denise Taylor ................................................. 77 The Abyss Nathiel Williams ..................................................... 79 You Wonder Why? Ruth Sawh.................................................. 80 Part 4: Flour ..................................................................................... 84 Pretty Anitra Ellison ................................................................. 85 Love T.L. Orange ...................................................................... 86 A flower for your lapel ............................................................. 88 Women Chereey Strong .......................................................... 91 Artistically Beautiful Chereey Strong ....................................... 92 The Withered Flower Chereey Strong ...................................... 93
I Changming Yuan .................................................................... 94 Natural Confrontations Changming Yuan ................................ 95 Black and White Lily Pads Dr. Lamar Garnes ............................. 96 Antelope Michael Hettich ........................................................ 97 Fall before the Queen Clare Mobley ........................................ 98 Keep On Strugglin’ (Viewpoints of the natural thinking of Bigger) Cayla Buck ................................................................. 101 One Love, One Poem. Michael T. Y. Harris .............................. 102 Imperfections Nathiel Williams ............................................. 103 "Journey to the Blues" Mitchelle Ray-Williams ...................... 104 "Letter to the Woman Activist" Inspired by Gil Scott-Heron Mitchelle Ray-Williams ........................................................... 106 Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin Philip C. Kolin ......................... 108 Emmett Till's Sister Philip C. Kolin........................................... 109 Endurance Yaminah Mujahid-Lambert .................................. 111 Rememb(H)er – For Nazarie Keila Dumas .............................. 116 Part 5: 360° .................................................................................... 119 The Fire Michael Hettich ....................................................... 120 Dark Dreams Cameron Askew ............................................... 122 DARKNESS Malcolm Dwayne McFarlane ................................ 127 The First and the Last Malcolm Dwayne McFarlane ............... 128 Apocalyptic Malcolm McFarlane............................................ 129 Vibrating Changming Yuan .................................................... 131 In the Forests of the Night Allen Qing Yuan .......................... 132 Nature's Cell Allen Qing Yuan ................................................ 133 Wandering, I Wonder Allen Qing Yuan .................................. 135 Wintry Stanzas Changming Yuan ........................................... 136
Fence and Snow Pamela Kaiser .............................................. 138 Smooth Lady Skin and Thunderstorms Sucio DBM Magik ....... 139 Heliocentric Breauna Roach ................................................... 140 Florentine Machine Cameron Askew ..................................... 141 Contributors .................................................................................... 145 CaKe ............................................................................................... 153
Part 1: Sugar
2 | Ellison
Sugar Anitra Ellison Too many compliments will kill you kindness will rob you of your last breath like drinking sweet tea from the Deep South Don't confuse confection with affection its presence is cloying and lingers like venom You're too sweet sounds like fighting words, the saccharine making you long for the bitterness of life
Surprise in Me L. Denise Taylor Trapped...like an animal...trained to be in love...wanting freedom from him...emotion...it all screams to be released from the chains which hold me. His desire is clear to be the only one for me to be...his Angel of mercy. Between...the many before him, the many before me. The rush when he's holding me, the fire of his lips, his touch...kills me inside, to know that for once...unannounced, as a shock his heart for me opened up. In drunken haze or misty intimacy...true feelings came to light and trapped me...my Angel of darkness, my kiss, my lust, my emotion...all trapped in his eyes, true love by surprise...
4 |T a y l o r
Sweet Sin L. Denise Taylor Your eyes hold the sweetest sin of all When we’re together, the world stands still To hard, so hard to control myself You are fire…and ice Your body strong, your mind strong, your heart, Everything But, always a but, a pause Your feelings are fragile You try to hide them In ways you succeed... But I know how you feel Something inside me makes me hold on Makes me believe you’ll come back to me When I look in your eyes and you in mine I see your soul I feel your fear I hear your pleas for help Yet every time I reach out to touch U shrink back, Knock away my love Use my body for pleasure and release The greatest sin of all Is me finding peace In your cruel sanctuary
S m i t h |5
Men McQuisha Smith Honorable Mention, FAMU Writers Contest they are always working or going somewhere a reminder of our fathers or the lack thereof what a sight they are iâ€™ve become mindful of my distance because in the gall of their stride plays a song that I am all too familiar with iâ€™ve belted this balled in the highs of their embrace and iâ€™ve groaned the same song in their melancholic absence a chilling withdrawal that leaves women wedged in insecurities wondering why they sent common sense stumbling back home into the mouths of their mothers
6|S m i t h
She McQuisha Smith sometimes i wonder where she is going i can only go by the trail of glitter she leaves my reflection resembles the diamonds that sit on the crescent curves of her smile sweet beauty of the night onyx has immersed itself into her skin she shows her bare minerals arrogantly happiness rolling off of her every step where is she going hours after twilight? does she take flight? explode into stars? or dance in the hereafter with our ancestors in a celestial wildfire? does she dream bit of wisdom that grows from the lips of our mothers? what is it like in her dream world?
M c D a d e |7
Lost in Translation Lauren McDade Apartment 506 of the Marie Blanche apartment building was flooded with light. It may have been small by American standards, but that only meant that every strategically placed window allowed light into at least two rooms. The apartment's single bedroom was the only dark space in the unit. It was illuminated by a single bar of light that fell through the gap of the drawn curtains. A heater was on in the corner and the air was nearly stifling, thick with the scent of warm bodies. Neither of the room's occupants moved to turn it off, though. Wren Saunders and Li Hai lay motionless in the room's lone twin bed, seemingly oblivious to the hour. Wren was covered in a light sheen of sweat, her cotton camisole clinging to her skin. Hai, on the hand, was cool to the touch as always, his skin raised by goosebumps. He cradled her in his arms, nose nestled in her damp hair. His breathing was even, but Wren imagined she could feel his heart thundering against her back through the walls of his chest. "Trop chaud?" he asked quietly. His accented French had been difficult to understand when they'd first met, but after four months of listening to the strange lilt his Chinese upbringing had given his speech, it sounded right. "Non," she said quietly. When he tried to get up anyway, she grabbed his hand before he could fully remove it from her waist. He moved back into position and was once again motionless. "Je ne veux pas entendre tu claquer des dents," she explained. "Le son est horrible." More than that though, she hated it when Hai was cold. He was like the sun to her: somehow, without her ever realizing it, her life had begun revolving around him, around her cold, distant sun. Suns, she felt, should be as warm as one could possibly make them. He was silent, a reaction she'd expected but loathed all the same. So much of their communication was lost in unspoken words, but with their less than perfect grasp of French, his limited knowledge of English, and her lack of any sort of background in Chinese, there was very little to help bridge the chasm. It was infuriating when she had so much to say. Sirens blared in the distance. "Ton vol est Ă quelle heure?" she asked. "A quinze heure."
8| M c D a d e She looked at the clock on the night stand. 11:37. "Cutting it a little close, don't you think?" The murmured words were meant to sound chastising, but even she could hear the pleasure in her tone. She knew Hai had, too. That was something that transcended the gap, even if he didn't catch her meaning. "Quoi?" She thought that she heard a smile in his voice, but didn't bother rolling over to face him. She knew from experience that his face would be blank and impassive, like the moon instead of the sun that he was. "Est-ce que tu vas être en retard?" She felt him shrug. "Non. J'ai déjà fait mes valises." Of course he had. Hai was after all the responsible sort. It would have been very out of character if he hadn't already packed. Even still, hearing him say it made it feel real. "Mais," he added, "le taxi va m'aller chercher à mon dortoir à quatorze heures, alors je dois retourner chez moi bientôt." Wren's heart sank. Hearing him say he was leaving soon hurt even more than hearing him say he'd already packed. But then, of course it did. "Alors, vas-y. Il ne sert rien de rater ton avion." Part of her hoped he'd say that he didn't care if he missed his plane, that he wanted to say with her, but he didn't. He said nothing. Instead, he disentwined his limbs from hers and stood, stretching. She turned then to watch him. Even in the dimness, she could see his long, lean limbs flex and then relax, his slender fingers run through his tousled jet black hair, and his slanted brown eyes take her in. She felt oddly exposed under his gaze as if he could see all her flaws, both without and within. She looked away, feeling awkward and ordinary. "Douches-toi avec moi?" he asked at length, indicating the bathroom. Wren smiled, but shook her head. As beautiful as Hai was beneath a jet of water with crystalline beads clinging to his skin and eyelashes, she didn't think she'd be able to refrain from crying if she saw that scene now. That, however, she did not know how to say in French, so she instead said simply, "Non. Pas chaque fois." She couldn’t tell how he felt about her answer. He simply nodded and headed toward the bathroom.
M c D a d e |9 When he had gone, she sighed and sat up, pulling her knees beneath her chin, listening to the sound of Paris blaring outside her window. It had been an assault on her small-town ears when she'd first arrived, a cacophony of the likes she'd never heard before. Now, however, she found that there was a method to the madness, a rhythm so to speak. It made her heart want to sing and dance, preferably in a duet. She couldn't believe she hadn't noticed before. She wondered how she'd feel in two months when it was her turn to return to her home country, but couldn’t even hazard a guess. She was certain, though, that whatever feelings assailed her, she would not be as in control of them as Hai was of his. He said he wasn't excited to return home, that he was indifferent, but that seemed so unlikely after four years. It wasn't that France had become his home—he'd made that clear. His only explanation for his apathy was that it had been a long time since he'd seen China, and as far as Wren was concerned, that explained nothing at all. She wondered if he felt the same about leaving her: coldly disinterested. She shivered despite the warmth. "Tu as froid?" She jumped as Hai suddenly appeared behind her and enveloped her in his arms. He smelled like soap and shampoo, and his skin was now warm and damp like hers. "Non," she said. "Pas vraiment." She hesitated, wondering for a moment if she really wanted an answer to the questions she'd been considering. Of course, if she didn't ask, they'd probably haunt her for the rest of her life. She turned to face him. "Penses-tu que tu retourneras un jour? Ou que tu iras aux Etas-Unis?" Will I ever see you again? He opened and closed his mouth a few times, seeming to struggle in his search for words. Apparently, nothing came to him because he decided on a simple "non." There was more, though; it was evident in his eyes, but she couldn’t decipher the feelings, and he couldn’t put them into words. She bit her lip and looked away, tears of sadness and frustration stinging her eyes. "Eh bien," she said softly. "Et… est-ce que je te manquerai quand tu es parti?" Because I know I'll miss you. She risked a glance at his face and saw that he seemed to be struggling for words again. Again, he let simplicity suffice. "Oui," he said.
10 | M c D a d e She looked up at him and smiled, tears spilling onto her cheeks. He looked profoundly taken aback, and she couldn’t help but laugh at his surprise. "Désol—" Before the apology was out of her mouth, he'd lifted her face to meet his and kissed her hard. It was passionate, urgent, and warm, everything a sun should be, everything his demeanor was not. When he pulled away, they were both a little breathless. "Oui," he said again. "N'importe quoi." He added something in Chinese then, something she didn't understand but that left her heart aching regardless. "Tu- Tu dois partir," she managed to say. "Oui." He studied her for a moment longer before moving away. One step. Two steps. Until he was next to the door. He hesitated a moment longer before saying, "Au revoir, Wren." Then he was gone. The apartment seemed deafeningly quiet as Wren drew the covers around her. Suddenly, inexplicably, she was freezing.
Rising Sun Cameron Askew
12|B o u r g e o i s
Dear Love Marcus Bourgeois To the Cheerios that still occupies my heart, I have met you, known you, lost you, but could never forget you. I have held you, embraced you, and tasted you. I have spent many nights hearing your heart call my name. I have learned from you what I can only learn from Cereal. You have found a way to move on. Unfortunately I have not. I broke your heart in the blink of an eye and now you break mine slowly and painfully. I heard you are feeding someone elseâ€™s heart now. If you only knew how much I dream about it being mine and you coming home to me every night. My life has been constant encounters with forgettable people. I was still in love with you when I told you I wasnâ€™t. I am still in love with you now. I have tried to forget you and just move on but when I go to sleep at night my dreams will not let me. You were my one. You were true love. Love has not touched my heart again since you. Nothing compares to you my beloved Cheerios. I have come across fruity pebbles, honey combs, cocoa puffs, and frosted flakes. But none of those could ever reach my heart like you did. I thought I knew love then but now I am sure we are well acquainted. I had to learn the hard way that love is a gift and nothing is guaranteed. I thought one day we would find each other again with the same feelings in our hearts but I know that someone else has taken yours. I will just be a fading memory to you, as you move on through life. Enjoy your new found love as we once enjoyed ours. I will continue to dream and maybe one day we can run into each other with the same feeling in our hearts. Forever yours, Cheerios Lover
W i l l i a m s | 13
That of Love Nathiel Williams A constant passion for love and the dismay of hate My heart is that of a cove And I’m addicted to our physical connection everyday Your supple lips and bodacious thighs Our current affair first starts With the greeting of our eyes Amazed by your skin and insane by the warmth of your touch When it comes to you I’ve never experience something as such Your love to me is compared to that of wind Or air And when you’re too far by touch I still feel you as if you’re right there
14 |G r a n t h u m
A Southern Belle of the Kitchen Aid Variety Tarolyn Granthum Honorable Mention, FAMU Writers Contest All my life I was raised around cooks and bakers. Not necessarily with any technical culinary training from the Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute, but cookers and bakers in their own right. Family, friends, neighbors, and church goers alike, I grew up hearing about their talents in the kitchen and how I need to try their tantalizing sweet potato pies, mouthwatering coconut crĂ¨me pies, and delectable bread puddings whenever I got a chance to attend a function or gathering where those dishes would be featured. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would become one of those people being admired for my skills in the kitchen; all I ever heard about were elderly women being bragged on for their talents. To me, baking means more than what can be explained in words. My first memories and desires of wanting to bake started with me tagging along with my grandmother in her kitchen, which developed my love for baking; and to this day, I love baking and find comfort in the simplicity of it never forgetting the roots of it all. Baking from scratch is not for everyone, but it is not rocket science either. It takes time, patience, and the simple ability to read and count properly. Ever since I was a little girl, I have always loved being in the kitchen. The sweat aroma of vanilla extract and ripened bananas takes me back to being 5 years old and trying to learn everything I could learn about baking and getting in my grandmotherâ€™s way while she prepared to bake for a special event such as Christmas, Easter, Church functions, weddings, funerals, and so on. My fondest childhood memories are being next to her as she put all her ingredients into her Kitchen Aid mixer and me asking her a million and one questions. She never said I was in the way, but I knew I was because flour was all over my face from being too close to the mixer. She would tell me stories of what her Big Mama and mother use to do while baking and how technology has made it easier to bake. She told me she wished she could beat egg whites into meringue by hand like her mother could. It amazed her because she could not imagine doing it without a mixer. She told me my great grandmother was amazing. I never got tired of hearing her stories of our ancestors and their love for baking. Gooey chocolate cookies, moist white layer cakes, garden fresh key lime pies, or whatever you could think of, she makes. I have always thought of
G r a n t h u m | 15 my grandmother as a superhero whenever she is in the kitchen; her apron is her cape, equipped with her tools to bake any and every baked good possible; with the sweet smell of victory coming from her oven. Those memories influence me a lot now that I am an adult and I bake on my own. She is the main reason I love being in the kitchen and I am thankful that she instilled in me her passion for baking. She bought me my first set of pans, cookware, cake mixer, and my very own Southern Living cook book. She is the baker that I aspire to be. Hopefully one day when I have children and grandchildren of my own, I will pass on her passion to them. To me, baking is much more than having something sweet to snack on when your sweet tooth aches, it is a second home for me. I bake no matter what mood I am in; everything feels right when I am in the kitchen. I remember baking my first pound cake from scratch at the age 15. My family church anniversary celebration was that following Sunday and my grandmother volunteered to bake a pound cake for the event as she normally does; but in actuality, she volunteered me! I was so scared of baking that cake all by myself and then on top of that it was going to be served to people I knew. My grandmother’s sour cream based pound cake is a hard cake to duplicate because it is magical; the moistness of the cake and the flavor she is able to capture is incredible. I had a minor panic attack because I didn’t ever think I could bake like my grandmother but she reassured me of myself and my capabilities. She reminded me that I had been watching her bake most of my life and that I was her little apprentice, so all I needed to do was follow the recipe and have confidence in myself because she had confidence in me. That day I baked my first pound cake all by myself and it changed me forever. My pound cake was a success and my grandmother was so proud. Everyone in the congregation was giving her compliments on how great the pound cake was but she made sure to tell everyone that I baked the cake, not her. From that moment on, I loved baking on my own merit and I have been in love ever since. Baking from scratch seems to be a lost art with today’s instant life style demand. Baking cookies, pies, cakes, brownies and other delicious treats from a box is forbidden in my grandmother’s house, and I have grown accustomed to that rule. Baking from the box as I like to call it takes away the passion of baking to me. When you have to sit the butter out to let it warm up to room temperature before baking with it, sifting out the dry ingredients and measuring what you need, and
16 |G r a n t h u m learning the proper techniques to mix the ingredients in the mixer, makes you appreciate the baking experience more. Learning simple things like that vanilla extract is sweet to the smell but bitter to the taste and that a red velvet cake is technically two tablespoons away from being a red chocolate cake. Time, love, and affection go into making a great cake or any baked good to be honest. Plus the items baked from the box do not taste as good as homemade baked goods and are not as fun to bake either. As I have entered into adulthood, I have learned to appreciate the little things so much more. Baking is a stress reliever, a topic of discussion, and tender moment to share with my family and friends. I try my absolute best whenever I take the time out to bake because it was instilled in me to be the best at what you love no matter what that love is. As my grandmother gets older and her body is not as strong as it used to be, I find such joy when she feels well enough to do what she loves most. I admire her so much for giving me the love to bake and I hope to be as great a mother and grandmother as she is to me and my family. Baking seems to be in our DNA because my younger cousins love to be bake as well. Even the boys fight with me about who gets to help grandma bake the cookies and cakes for the holidays. Plus, it is nothing like finding recipes and making them your own and sharing them. My grandmother says she has learned a thing or two from me, and I am quite proud of that. All in all, baking means much more to me than a simple pound cake or sweet potato pie; it is a natural love that will never change.
Part 2: Eggs
S t e p h e n s | 19
Untitled Amanda Stephens
20 | McDade
Humpty Hearts Lauren McDade Unflatteringly like that of a day-old egg, My shell is hardly that, The thin, rigid layer built To contain not protect. It doesnâ€™t look like much, The pale exterior dotted With dirt and imperfections. Both of us are frail Rather than delicate Like the glass ones sold in stores. No reasonable person Would ever make gifts of us. But she was not a reasonable person. Her brains were scrambled, Fried in oxytocin, And entrusting me to him Seemed brilliant at the time. So she gave and he accepted With all the innocent enthusiasm Of a child accepting an Easter egg. He handled me carefully With warm fingers and a smile, And though I knew I was neither Pretty nor strong, I began to entertain a new thought: Maybe I didnâ€™t have to be. But interest wanes, Novelty fades, And those careful fingers grow clumsy, The way lips grow indiscriminate, And moods grow mercurial. I become acutely aware Of my precarious position, But she is still
M c D a d e | 21 Scrambled, still Fried, still Far gone And will not take me back. And then it’s too I slip on sweaty palms and feel Betrayed but unsurprised When he fails to catch me Before my crown strikes The ground and my Thin, Ugly Shell S h a t t s.
She screams, Bled-Scram and scorched As I bleed (that’s not yolk) from Gashes and cracks, But he notices neither. He wipes his palms and walks away, A child dusting off a long day’s dirt. No horses appear. No men come. All that remain are sticky shell Pieces and the smell Of something burned.
22 | Y u a n
Crow Up Call Allen Qing Yuan “Caw!” beckoned the crow “Aw!” shrieked the baby boy the courier of omens flashed warnings, like a shrouded light house, but did the beacon burn brightly enough? Before the boy slipped through the grasps of the call, the crow informed him “Childhood is but the infancy of life” “Aw!” replied the infant the crow silently soared away, the boy not yet ready to “caw”
A r c h i e | 23
“In the Clouds” Barry Archie II Honorable Mention, FAMU Writers Contest Far and flung away from the front of Ms. Henderson’s 2 nd grade class, tucked away in a corner of books and Legos pushed against the wood grain portable walls, lay my mind as the teacher explained today’s prompt for our practice standardized writing test . Although, my hand gripped the large blue number 2 pencils they gave the boys in the class, along with the pink ones they gave the girls that were somehow supposed to make writing thrilling, or at the least attentionholding. I was not even one atom of interested in going over the importance of cursive. It seemed to make writing pretentious, as it gave it this aesthetic quality beyond the words themselves and what they meant, and I never understood that. When I read Sendak or Seuss, or when my parents read the paper or the comics to me, even when my aunts would ask me to read everything from ingredients lists to billboards and street signs, it was never about the font or the way the words were arranged it was about the message they conveyed; not how many frills and loops they contained. When will I need this in real life? A second-grader aware of a real world was never quite the caliber of kid picked first, second, or third for kickball. I made the majority of my friends cracking jokes and exhibited a juvenile rendition of sarcasm, so I avoided the selection process altogether and trailed around the hopscotch slab of concrete in the middle of the playground. My head rose past the kindergarten building, past the awnings of C.A. Jenkins elementary school, and past the rays of the sun into the nearest white cloud. Gleaming with brilliance as if its insides were bursting with silver light, I stared at the cavernous shape it formed. It reminded me of my aunt’s tattered green suede couch the way it hung in the wind. I peered into the billows of its marshmallow surface and felt, that if I tried hard enough, I could stretch them all inside out with my hands. Far flung and away underneath a cherry tree la\y my thoughts, as I bent down, kneeled over and shrugged myself down into the coolest miniature ditch someone could feel on a steamy Floridian may afternoon. Neither the wetness of the dew of the grass, nor the beads of sweat on my brow could deter me as I lay in my own senses and pictured myself in the city of clouds, a whimsically made kingdom laid down through 1,000 acres of colored marble. It was as light as the
24 | A r c h i e gravity of the moon, with each impact making a hollow bounce that resonated yards away. This cloud kingdom was a city of grandeur, with a crisp linen scent wafting through the air. I walked towards what I assumed to be a marketplace, where large drums and xylophones blared from miles away, and a cool wind tapped my shoulder. I shuddered and opened my eyes to see my magical cirrus cloud had dissipated in the fog of my daydreams and new clouds slept in the bright cerulean sky. Hidden colors only I knew zigged and zagged through the black of my inner eyelids. I flipped through them like a three dimensional phone book, inspecting each one with the concentration and meticulousness of a quality auditor and I began to feel words. Words that I remembered from all of those newspapers and textbooks that had been read to me by my family and all of those signs and billboards I saw. I was brimming with phrases that popped out at me when I attempted to read my mother’s novels, pieces of words I didn’t fully know how to pronounce or even spell but I knew what they meant. Curious like many children are naturally, I would keep these words and phrases locked in the back of my mind, and if I were ever stationary enough, write them down, because as far as I was concerned language was life’s biggest mystery. The benefit of idolizing older people’s age and the freedom that comes with it is the ability to come off slightly more mature than you actually are. That idea transferred itself into the small poems and short stories I would write on the school bus or in my room to the background noise of my loud family discussing whatever happened that day at work or school, or in this case, tests made to measure and gauge the long-term intelligence of 7-year olds. The cloud kingdom mamboed through my mind as I wrote a descriptive essay with a free writing prompt. Giving all of those images, textures and smells to the page I wrote with my half-drawn cursive sprawled across the perfectly cut mead wide-ruled paper. I tried to paint with my words and for the first time ever, I pictured myself being one of the adults that did this all the time, during the day. You know, for money. I wrote and I painted and I gave until the little red timer pushed the 0 line and rang with its shrilling intimidation. The next day, I arrived to C.A. Jenkins with a renewed vigor, for no longer was I a normal 7 year old, I was a future writer. I even begged my sister to give me her worn copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, so I could see what this whole being an author thing really entailed. I read the words, struggling with words whose length and amount of
A r c h i e | 25 syllables were unfamiliar, but I was persistent, and I fell asleep with that little lavender novel in my arms. I strolled into Ms. Hendersonâ€™s class and retrieved my paper from the stack on the corner of her desk and walked to my assigned seat with confidence. Stately, I turned the paper over to face a sea of red dancing across my words. On a scale from 1 to 6, 6 being the highest, I received a 2, citing that my essay never found a central topic. I was filled was ambivalence for the honesty and bluntness of the comments and far and flung away lay my mind for the next hour.
26 | S u t t o n
Trust and Fairy Tales Danielle Sutton Honorable Mention, FAMU Writers Contest Trust is a funny thing. From birth we immediately trust our parents. Actually, there is a psychological reason behind that that I find absolutely fascinating as to why we trust our parents so completely at such a young age. Then again, I am a psychology major so of course I find it fascinating. It comes down to basically having bonded with our parents â€“ particularly the mother â€“ from the very beginning. There is no other comparable relationship where the trust is so instantaneous and without any effort. Most forms of trust, even between family members, are learned. Gradually we grow to understand that our family and those persons that we choose to have close personal relationships with can be trusted. There are different kinds of trust though. I trust my sister not to kill me in my sleep, but I do not always trust her with my secrets. My best friend and roommate, Diamond (yes that is her real name) is my number one confidant when it comes to school, work, and my relationship with my boyfriend. Even the very unfortunate incident that befell me almost a year ago is old news to her. She has my trust with those secrets but she does not know them all, not the one I will probably take to my grave. I trust my mother explicitly. She earned that trust. There is no one on par with my mother when it comes to me trusting them. I know that one day I will find someone that I trust like that. Someone out there will earn that same kind of explicit trust that was so effortlessly bestowed upon my mother. I thought I had found him. I say him because the only person I think could ever earn that is the man that I am supposed to spend the rest of my life with, the man God chose for me. I thought we had found each other. And I trust(ed) him. I gave him something beautiful, special, one of a kind. You get my drift. And I love(d) him. And he betrayed me. He took my trust and used it against me. In his eyes, my trusting him meant that I would just swallow whatever story was fed to
S u t t o n | 27 me because it came from him. He had earned my trust so that made him exempt from me ever thinking the worst of him. He thought that my trust was a shield, warding off any negative thoughts about him. Anything that would paint him in a bad light was impervious to this shield of trust he was shrouded in. I could not think badly of him, per say, because I trust him. He used my trust – this belief that he would never hurt me like that – and fractured my heart. He did not break it. While I believe in soul mates, destiny, and fate, I do not believe in broken hearts. A person can hurt you. A person can break you. They cannot break your heart. He broke my trust. Perhaps it is temporary. I am allowing him an opportunity to earn that trust back. It will not be the same. If I should think to trust him again, it will not be as explicitly as before. I could trust him with paying the bills or remembering that it is his turn to pick up our son from basketball practice on Wednesdays. I doubt I will ever trust him to not hurt me like that again. I am not bitter. I blame myself. I am twenty-one years old and believing in fairy tales. I sit here typing this paper and crying while listening to Mumford and Sons – because I have just been through something that has changed my entire life, my expectations for the future and how I will conduct myself from now on, so angst-filled folk music is needed right now – and I still believe in this fairy tale life. No, it is not Cinderella. I was never raised to believe in a Prince Charming coming to rescue me. That story is just as ridiculous in 2013 as it was when I was a child. Married with two or three children living in a nice two-story house with a white picket fence and dog – it is straight out of the pages of Ward and June Cleaver. Yet, it is my fairy tale. It is not what I am used to. My family does not have a history of stable relationships and loving marriages - loud conversations and
28 | S u t t o n multiple partners is more our speed. We are too passionate; my grandmother blamed the Irish in us. Funny how what little Irish blood we have left in us is always blamed when our temperaments are called into play. I am getting off topic. What it boils down to is that my trust was broken. Unlike breaking a heart, broken trust is possible. Like a person, Trust is tangible. You can see the trust between couples in love or best friends. You can almost touch it. Perhaps it is soft and cuddly because it is new and it has not been strained by problems and arguments. Sometimes it is rough, spiky, hard to touch and look at because it has been rent and repaired so many times and yet you marvel at it because it is still there, still standing. This trust that was a part of my relationshipâ€Ś..right now I would say it is in traction. It needs recuperation and time. It needs to be pampered and cared for so that it can heal and be close to whole. It knows it will never be the same. That ship has passed, sunk and is at the bottom of the ocean right now, chilling with the Titanic. And for the moment, the fairy tale is looking more Grimm Brothers than Walt Disney. But I have faith that the trust will be back if it is meant to be. I have hope that my fairy tale will come out with a happy ending. The beauty of trust and fairytales is that they can change â€“ for better or worse. I may not be able to repair my trust with this man. My fairy tale may play out without him. But it will play out. And that is something I can trust. Explicitly.
J o h n s o n | 29
Le Havre Sunrise (Ekphrastic Poem) Miciotto Johnson II Second Place, FAMU Writers Contest The seabirdsâ€™ call arrests me back to the living. From my bed I rise, eyes blurred with sleep like the fog that conceals Le Havre outside. The harbor out my window lies in dormancy; holding off until the early magic hours cease. Sailors sail for the docks to welcome day. Sun greets murky water with the kiss of dawn, coating the sky with mighty streaks of fire. Meanwhile the harbor is gently brought to life, as the sea begins to wax and wane like candlelight. The masts come leisurely into view as fog subsides. The breeze picks up, to welcome me to morning It tells me a new beginning is ready to unfold Iâ€™m under the impression I am caught in the middle.
30 | Garnes
Untitled Dr. Lamar Garnes
T a y l o r | 31
The Runaway Storm pt. 1 L. Denise Taylor When I was born I thought I had it all but the sun A stormy day that’s when my life was begun In a blink of an eye, I was thrown to the world Already something was wrong For not a sound, nor a tear came out of me Even as my little brother (name freeze) Popped out screaming for mercy I believe For life after that was hell’s own fate That I hated for him, younger on not He was the passive one, he wished for a better place He could have reached the sunBut as for me, mighty God didn’t see no need To place his hand over my deteriorating family You see, my mom was only 15 How can a baby raise two babies on her own With no help she couldn’t feed her home, so She turned to the streets, prayed for the streets to keep her We never intended for the streets to steal her She started off strong in the game, It beat her down, another ebony diamond in its crown She became a prize, the beginning of my demise My life fading fast by the age of five I realized the main goal was to survive Stay alive from the hungering pains, The hailstorm of shame being pounded on us The world laughed at us, pointed us out like we were a show We tried livin’ like regular kids, but It’s hard when your mom’s a hoe When I was six, I finally got that she’s gone Her mind was no longer hers, there was no more right or wrong Our lives weren’t on terms, We tried to make the best in the mix In those days he remained nameless yet sacred, That keeps me thinkin’ back to the day we were born How different we were… how different we are
32 | T a y l o r Our love was torn By some police forms and a casket He was a rock, calm, cool and collected While I ran I was the Runaway Storm
A n I n t e r v i e w w i t h T a n a n a r i v e D u e | 33 A Writer is Born on FAMUâ€™s Campus: An Interview with Author, Tananarive Due Tananarive Due (pronounced Tuh-nah-nah-reeve) is an NAACP Image Award winner and an American Book Award-winning author of more than seven books, with genres as diverse a supernatural thrillers to a civil rights memoir. Due was born in Tallahassee, Florida at the Florida A&M University hospital. She is the oldest of three daughters of civil rights activist Patricia Stephens Due and civil rights lawyer John D. Due Jr. Due is currently the Cosby Chair in the Humanities Department at Spelman College. She is also a mother and a wife, who still makes time to further develop her writing craft. In addition to her personal life and full-time job, Due has managed to become a staple in literature, particularly in speculative fiction. Black supporters of speculative fiction--i.e. science fiction, fantasy and horror--have been familiar with her work since the mid-nineties. Tananarive Dueâ€™s more popular works include The Between (1995), My Soul to Keep (1997), and The Living Blood (2001). Below is an interview with Tananarive Due (TD) by FAMU English student, Ashley Tisdale (AT). *
Why do you write?
Writing has consistently proven to be my best outlet for my emotions and imagination. I also enjoy playing piano and keyboards, but I've never found a way to express myself as directly through music as I have through words and stories.
I think I felt a bit sheltered when I was young, and I still have a naive streak, so science fiction and horror give me a lens through which to write about my deepest fears or concerns for society without being steeped too much in the real world,
34 | A n I n t e r v i e w w i t h T a n a n a r i v e D u e which feels more overwhelming to me. The writing I do is a form of escapism, but it also helps us see issues from the real world in a new light. AT:
Who were major influences on your writing?
I read a great deal as a child. I loved Judy Blume, the Nancy Drew mysteries, Little House on the Prairie, Encyclopedia Brown and stories of that ilk. As I grew older, I read ROOTS by Alex Haley, which had a profound impact on me and encouraged me not only to learn about my own family history and do a school project on it, but also to start writing a novel about a young African girl who suffers the Middle Passage. By the time I was in college, my two favorite writers were Toni Morrison and Stephen King. Later, science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler became an influence too.
How did your time at FAMU shape your writing?
I was born in the FAMU hospital, but I actually didn't attend FAMU for college. I studied journalism at Northwestern University and then completed my postgraduate English degree at the University of Leeds in England.
In many of your older interviews, the topic of race comes up. What has changed most in your audience and publisherâ€™s acceptance of Black people involved with science fiction?
I live in Atlanta, which has a very large community of black supporters of speculative fiction--i.e. science fiction, fantasy and horror. There's an annual comic book convention called OnyxCon that draws a fairly large crowd, and the academic community here is very enthusiastic about the genre. It's no coincidence that I met my husband, Steven Barnes, in Atlanta at a black speculative fiction conference at Clark Atlanta University. I began publishing when the black commercial fiction trend was just underway, on the heels of Terry McMillan, so my publishing experience was very different than writers like Octavia Butler who came before me and had
A n I n t e r v i e w w i t h T a n a n a r i v e D u e | 35 to constantly explain why they were writing speculative fiction instead of taking part in "the struggle." Nowadays, readers and publishers have a better understanding of the diversity in black literature and that "the struggle" can take many forms. I think it's important for children of color to see themselves projected into the future, or acting as heroes and heroines on an epic level. AT:
What was it like soliciting your first book, â€œThe Between,â€? to publishers?
It was bit of a Cinderella experience; I think I only submitted it to three places, maybe four, before my agent sold it. (And some of those submissions were to agents, not publishers.) Once I found an agent, the book sold in about two weeks. Again, though, that was because of the success of Terry McMillan and the search for the next "big" commercial novel.
How did you deal with initial rejection?
Dealing with rejection is one of a writer's most important tools. Fear of rejection has crippled countless careers before they even begin. I was very lucky to have a high school English teacher, Mrs. Estaver, who told me, "In order to be a writer, you have to wallpaper your wall with rejection slips." It was useful advice, and it made my little trickle of initial rejections feel more like stones on a path than a significant event that would "make" or "break" me as a writer.
Does your writing invite a more diversified audience?
I have always written about black protagonists, but each novel is populated by characters from many different ethnic backgrounds. I don't believe we have reached the point where white readers will customarily pick up books by authors who seem exotic, but horror and science fiction readers of all backgrounds have embraced me. I'm just much more likely to be discovered by black readers, most of them female, and that is true for most black writers.
36 | A n I n t e r v i e w w i t h T a n a n a r i v e D u e AT:
What is your writing process like? Do you have a favorite time of day or place to write in?
Now that I'm the Cosby Chair in the Humanities at Spelman College and have a full-time job again, I have to write when I can--often after my son is in bed at night. When I wrote fulltime, I enjoyed writing in the mornings the most. I do love that feeling of being caught up in the currents of a new project, but I often have to use a musical soundtrack to drop myself into "flow' state because I have many things on my mind.
How can the notion that sci-fi isnâ€™t a genre that Black people enjoy be changed?
More and more readers and writers are recognizing that black writers and characters have a place in speculative fiction. All it would take is one or two very popular films starring black characters to help solidify that notion. More young writers and readers also need to be exposed to the work of Octavia E. Butler, since she has the power to open up readers' imaginations so broadly.
Are there any projects you are currently working on that fans should be on the lookout for?
I am working on short stories (one of which I hope to turn into my next solo novel idea), a screenplay for MY SOUL TO KEEP (it has been in and out of film development for years), and a screenplay for a short film based on the zombie story "Danger Word" I co-authored with my husband, Steven Barnes. (It later became a part of our new YA zombie novel series, DEVIL'S WAKE and DANGER WORD.)
T a y l o r | 37
The Runaway Storm pt. 2 L. Denise Taylor Whispers in the shadows (so it seems) A voice calls my name (it’s not a dream) I curl up in a ball (my protection) And try to stop the change (too late) My eyes snap open (a blend of shades) Black for hate (gray for pain) A swirl of red, gold, and blues (an emotion deep as every hue) Defined muscles etch in my skin (reminder of my past forever within) I stand up and face the man who sinned He struck me down with his fist Kicked my chest…(he stomped and laughed) Well who’s laughin’ now? (you punk ass bitch) I’m back on my feet, (no tears in my eyes) My blade in my hand (and a cold smile) You back up slow (like a coward, you spit in my face) I move like lightning (like a bolt straight to your waist) You scream and drop to your knees I stand over you in ruthless hate For the record, I felt no guilt inside (as I sliced and diced his male pride) That very organ that caused me so much pain Filled me with rage, (uncontrolled) Tears poured like rain It sodomized my twin brother (right before my eyes) I witnessed his screams, pleas, and cries Now you’re screaming, pleading and crying You showed him no mercy…(Lord knows I didn’t want to) I knelt beside your pitiful state (and whispered voice filled with hate) “I’m not like you, I’ll never be you.” I rose and threw my blade at your feet (pain and rage, my emotions, the heat) And walked away without looking back (if you got up, I’d never know) For from a rooftop above, I saw a single dove My freedom, my release (from my agonizing past) The darkness is lifted from the shadow you cast Now I can move on…(live my life)
38 | T a y l o r Not curled in a ballâ€Ś(but proud and strong)
H e t t i c h | 39
The Tiny Grandma Michael Hettich I call it the highway to the unconscious... --Ken Price. I woke up covered in baby powder, sneezing and wondering why the air conditioner was turned to near-freezing. The tile floor around my bed was dusted in powder, with traces of footsteps left by a barefoot person with delicate feet, and a large-pawed dog. I was naked; my body felt taut and well-rested. Even with the air-conditioner churning loudly, I could hear crows and blue jays calling out in annoyance, just outside the window. When I got up, I noticed I was taller than Iâ€™d been before: I almost hit the doorframe with my forehead as I left the cold room and walked into the main house, calling out to whoever might be home. In the living room, feathers covered the furniture, from burst pillows that lay limply on the floor. The whirring ceiling fan blew those feathers here and there like fake dancing snow in a Christmas window display. There was a radio playing softly inside one of the closets: I could hear a familiar voice conducting an interview with a man who kept interrupting himself mid-sentence to sing out like a fake-operatic baritone. In the kitchen there were apples and cheese on the counter, a half-empty bottle of white wine, still cold, and out on the screen porch a huge spider web stretched across a figure in a chair. She was wearing a bathing suit, smiling up at me. The tips of her fingers were smoking like incense-scented cigarettes and her belly button glistened with a jewel. Out in the grass, happy children ran back and forth through the sprinkler, laughing like we had done ourselves as kids. The air was potent with the smell of grilling hamburgers and just-cut grass. Dandelion seeds blew here and there, like fine white hair of some tiny grandmaâ€”a woman the size of a mouse or a squirrel. They flew up in the breeze as the children stopped laughing and watched me walk out there to join them. Sand. He learned to walk so that every step he took made him less substantial, more nearly transparent. Sometimes, strolling with his wife in the evening, he paled into a ghost; and when he walked to the grocery store he was often invisible as air by the time he arrived. Then he could
40 | H e t t i c h gather his groceries without paying, since his touch made things invisible too. And what else could he do? He lay down invisible each night and grew slowly opaque toward morning. When he slept late some weekends he woke clogged by the weight of his sleeping, and he had to walk in place for a while before he could get dressed. He dreamed he could become a breeze someday by taking a long hike in the mountains he loved, so heâ€™d blow off into places he couldnâ€™t have anticipated, staying awake the whole time. One summer morning, at the beach with his family, he found himself melting away into the water. So he called to his wife as a wave broke through him and she waded out and gathered him up in a bucket. Then she poured him out along the sand. Slowly she gathered and patted the sand until he found himself again, a body burning pink, full of tides and brine and made out of sand now, each grain of which had once been a boulder, older than anything else in the world. He loved the way she patted and molded his body, the seaweed she gathered and draped across his head. He loved the way she sang so softly as she worked, as though she was singing only to him, and he tried to sing along with her. But he could only whisper.
D o t y | 41
Our Business Here Benjamin Arda Doty Until midnight on Tuesday, I work late at a tourism company called Pamukkale Travel off Alemdar Street where the tram line runs. We are hemmed in between the Authentic Ottoman Cuisine Restaurant and a souvenir store. The name of our business means “white cotton,” after the whiteness of the calcium deposits that have collected under the ruins of the city of Hieropolis at Pamukkale, but it is only a name. On my desk is a package from Maren, my girlfriend. It is a box of Turkish sweets. On a note taped to the box are the words: For my sweetest treat. I don’t know whether I should open the box and eat the candy or put it in the drawer or the trash can where I will never have to look at it. Our business, generally speaking, is to furnish the tourist, primarily European, with a reflection of their expectations about our country, belly dancers to flying carpets to exotic experiences where West is supposed to meet East. We say things are handmade or genuine to give them a feel of authenticity, a real touch of the way of life here, but some tourists ask all sorts of interesting and amusing questions. The silliest things they ask us regard whether or not we actually sit on the floor to eat meals or, when there is no shame in the asking, if we eat only with our left hands because we use the right hand for wiping our asses. Most foreigners, however, don’t ask us these types of questions. We sit in chairs at a table with a knife and fork. We don’t squat and use our hands. There are no camels. You only have to go to Levent, Nişantaşı or Bağdat to see IMF money flowing through the streets and the flashy progress you find in any other country. Yet some things are true. We are mostly men in this business, and only yesterday, Maren asked me why Turkish men run everything here in Sirkici, which most of the tourists pass through between Eminönü and Sultanahmet. She said it was barbaric even, a holdover from the days when the sultan had an intricate system of concubines in the Harem. I smirked when she said all these things. You see how many women go to universities here. You see them in many jobs, and even though it is, perhaps, nothing like she is used to in Vienna, which is the most perfect city in the Europe, there is unrecognized progress here, even though the covered women capture the attention of foreigners.
42 | D o t y Maren is like this. She is smart and boisterous. She raises her voice in indignation about every injustice in the world. I always let her talk about this or that—politics, clothing and Turkology, her course of study at the university. I prefer to stay quiet and listen and nod, even though, sometimes, I think, Maren is only giving speeches. Maren, though, is the sweetest girl in the world. “I know this sounds crazy, but I love you,” she had said when we were walking along the road between Ortaköy and Beşiktaş. I kissed her hands and lips. I had no idea what to do with all that power, and love. Her cheeks flushed red. The possibility flashing in that one moment; anything could be possible if she believed it. For my sweetest treat, she had written. The box goes in the trash can. You’ll learn this about me. Maren is ready to go back to Vienna on Tuesday. Our relationship is three months old. I don’t know what I’m getting involved in, but I should because Maren has not been the first. I even, sometimes, feel guilty for pursuing a foreign girl. Yet she is an adult. She has her international friends from the language school, and on Tuesday, she is with them. Some of them may even be men who flirt with her: cold-hearted Russian boys, runny-nosed Brits and who knows. I work each day of every week. It is almost a luxury to see whom I can. Orhan waits by the open glass door. A light drizzle falls outside. I can see everything because our front façade is one entire window on which we have tours posted. He smokes a cigarette. All the men and woman, young and old, who pass by the glass door, wear dark blue, black and gray coats, and I wonder if those colors are a mood that we have. Even the Ferhat Göçer over the radio is sad. “Holy shit,” says Orhan, who starts to take a few steps and lowers his hand with the cigarette. “What is it?” I ask from the desk I’m seated at, spying on the male friends Maren has on-line and wondering which of them have had or would like to have sex with her. I am supposed to be printing out a three-day flyer for excursions to Ephesus and Pamukkale. I don’t know what to do with my jealousy. Orhan doesn’t answer me. There’s commotion in the street. He walks from the door, and the other men standing in front of their shops and offices run too.
D o t y | 43 Even though I am not very good with words and descriptions, I picture this later: a woman in her fifties, dressed in drab colors of brown, green and black, a floral black-and-white scarf over her head, her body so round, as doughy as all the bread she eats with everything else over so many years, making a mistake. There is a man as well, a little older, her husband. He wears a cabbie hat. He is stout, and the cuticles of his fingers have always been marred with grease since he first entered his manual occupation. His stature is that of his wife’s. His moustache is black and gray, the moustache all the men of a certain generation and class wear. He is, or was, perhaps, a car mechanic or machinist of some kind. Life is complicated: he doesn’t understand why all his work and faith have amounted to so little, whatever there is little of. He doesn’t wear a wedding ring, and this is important because he is married, even though he kneads prayer beads when he’s anxious and considers himself a devoted husband. He does not like the mistake; more than that he is filled with so much anxiety and desperation and contempt that the one mistake cripples the one last hope he had of getting everything right. It is madness, and he makes of his wife a victim. Orhan describes everything he sees later, but even we are fuzzy on the details. A crowd of men gathers when I arrive. One of the waiters of a restaurant that specializes in the making of gözleme, a man of almost the same age as the other man in the cabbie hat, is pointing a finger and yelling at him. Two other men are holding the man in the cabbie hat back by his arms. They pull on his dirty black wool coat. The eyes of the man in the cabbie hat are wide and brimming with fire, and he protests all that is taking place. You would think he had a scuffle with the waiter until you notice the mass of drab colors on the wet concrete, which is his wife. Orhan and others try to raise her to her feet. She is crying, and through her tears, she invokes the name of God as if in lamentation because she has to go home with her husband, and this is only what he does in public. Rightfully, someone calls the police. Tourists passing by watch. Everyone watches.
44 | D o t y An hour later, the street is almost as it was before, the same number of people walking past our travel office with no memory of a woman hit by her husband in public. Orhan at the door smoking, me, this time, joining him. “What a cocksocker,” says Orhan. “What a maniac.” Orhan describes how the man held his fist in the air and dropped it over the back of the wife, as if in the motion of stabbing her with something invisible and sharp in his hand. “What were they fighting about?” I ask. “The laundry, money?” He pauses. “I don’t know. Does it matter?” “No.” Yet I want to know what the reason is. I want to find some rational tipping point, even though nothing really justifies that behavior by the old man in the cabbie cap against his wife. Nobody here is perfect. Nobody anywhere is. I tell Maren what happened. It is a random thing. I could talk about the mongrel dog with its ear tagged that raises half of its hind quarters to urinate on a public trash can, the front page stories of the newspaper, anything at all, but I’m sure there is some reason I mention this particular event. She must leave me to go back to the clean streets of Vienna, and, maybe, this should be the end of us. I don’t know who I’m kidding, except myself. I enjoy Maren very much, but I don’t think I love her. It wouldn’t be impossible, however, to fall into the façade of love and, maybe, one day, be the foreigner in her country. Maren, in her mighty justice, offers to marry me, even if it is only to give me another chance. I complain all the time about there being no other opportunity here. We sit at a café in the heart of Beyoglu, close to the end of one of the busiest streets of the city. Her host family lives a metro ride away. “85% of Turkish men cheat on their wives and 40% are physically abused by their husbands,” I say, as if to put the event into perspective, from facts I have read in a newspaper. “But you’re not like that,” she says. “Thank God, you’re not.”
D o t y | 45 “Nobody knows what they were talking about, but nobody’s beyond an ass-kicking,” I say, jokingly, even though this is nothing to joke about with Maren or probably any woman. “You can’t be serious.” My hands in the pockets of my jacket, I raise my shoulders. “An ass-kicking is one thing. I’m not talking about putting someone in the hospital.” Maren becomes upset, more than I expect her to. “We can’t know,” I say. “We don’t know what their argument was over. I’m just kidding anyway. Okay, it was a bad joke.” I look away toward the many people walking on my streets. Maren says nothing. A moment passes. She drinks her tea. “You have a lot of guy friends,” I say. “I don’t like it.” “They’re just friends. I have as many girlfriends as guy friends.” I flare my nostrils, as if I’m angry, even though I am nothing of the sort. I’m jealous. I’m sad. I think of what I am about to do. I take out my wallet and leave more than enough to settle the bill. “Where are you going?” Maren asks. “I’ll call you later,” I say, but I never call her. I’m an asshole for doing this. Two days pass. Maren comes to the office. I see her from my desk and stop watching a movie streaming into my computer. I rise and stare at her for a while. Neither one of us says anything to the other. I don’t think Maren knows what her first words to me should be. Orhan offer sher something to drink, but she declines. Instead of talking to her, I turn and go up the narrow staircase that leads to the second floor, which the owner uses for storage, all the things that don’t fit in his home. Maren follows me up. She won’t see this is useless. I sit down three stops from the top of the staircase. She leans on the rail. Maren is adorable. She is always that. She is puffy and tired around her aqua-marine blue eyes, which I can stil see in the dark of the stairwell. “Why won’t you talk to me?” she asks. “Maren, dear,” I say. “I wanted to end it clean. I don’t know how to end these things well.” “What’s going on? I thought you loved me. You said.”
46 | D o t y “Maybe, I did once, but now I don’t.” She sat down four steps below me, put her face in her hands and cried. I watched what it was like to have your heart broken. There was a void I was falling through with Maren. We dropped perpetually, and I didn’t know what to do, even though I had done this and wanted to change everything I could so she would stop. When the time comes for her to leave on a flight, she leaves. She comes, and she goes like everyone else. Vienna is a perfect city, and she should go there.
There are fantasies we have about others and ourselves. Maren from the most perfect city said she loved Istanbul. It is another Tuesday night, weeks later, after she has gone, and Orhan and I work together again. We see two miraculously beautiful blonds looking at the tours posted on our windows. Blondes are a rarity in this country, like a gold coin among a hundred pieces of silver. One is in a red jacket, the other in a white coat, which brightens against the drab colors off the streets, buildings and coats. Ferhat Göçer plays again because it is one of the few CDs in the office. The radio would be better. I rise before Orhan does to catch them before they walk away to have them in some conversation. The secret in this business is always how well you can smile and mean it. My smile is so scary, sometimes, that I question the sincerity of my own motives. Timing is the second ingredient. Sometimes, I wish that I did something that never put me in contact with foreigners and blondes and their currency. Yet everybody whose Euros and dollars give us the means to survive must know we’re happy; if they didn’t, how could they have a good time knowing that it might make us miserable or no more better for the time and things we sell them. There is tomorrow, but I don’t believe in that. All these tourists are here for a taste of the past, and when I start a conversation with these two girls, my smile for the briefest of moments painfully almost drops into the void of the present I have created for myself until one of them smiles in surprise.
Luna McQuisha Smith your light floods the celestial cosmos body sphered filled with a thickened glow reflecting the light of your sun us earthlings gawp and dream on you from every inch of this world You engage us in a wordless love affair witnessing our private contemplations listening to our wishes and prayers enjoying the company stemming from our need of solitude We accept your cresting shape that swells into your widening frame tenacious arrogantly brightening the vast darkness of the sky lighting the night hushing us to sleep with you glare pouring light through windows aloof to the envious stars that surround you
Every 28 McQuisha Smith First Place, FAMU Writers Contest I. the waters my mother taught me to wade carefully swallowed me whole grasping an inevitable fate while dreadful currents toss and turn me i somehow try to recall the lessons she greased and nursed my scalp with i wish i could be that little girl again before knowing the difference between what youâ€™re taught and what you know before hips spread and breasts curved before my body simulated a mock labor monthly i emerge like clockwork body swollen to capacity a preparation down to a science stretching twisting pulling contracting ripping enduring lighting and thundered pains just before the rain pours my levees breaking every hour a fiendish throb spurs me to self medicate ignoring the suggested doses II. i know why iâ€™m here orbiting like moon around earth and on every 28th i feel full and beautiful calm before the storm body starving for a sweet benediction
S m i t h | 49 its been made for willingly or not i become prepared
Part 3: Unsweetened Cocoa
T a v a r e s |51
War. Denis Tavares If you beat me with a diploma will it leave scars but not leave knowledge? If you hung me from a tree with hatred staring me in the eye at the last moments of my life does it make me a nigger? Castrate my manhood doesn’t make me less of a man if you know right. I am your history. You came from the seeds of my black mammy ovaries, with thick hair and skin that looked like oil. Every night I slip into your dreams reminding you why you hate me….I couldn’t be happier to be black. I taunt you with my hollow eyes, my masculinity, my persistent to not let you escape your history of being a nigger too. People try to erase a past but it happens to resurface when your back is against the wall. Repression of my peoples didn’t stop my kings and queens from flourishing, my pyramids a mockery of your lies, my gold with your blood. No matter how far you have taken me down racism street, I happen to turn that dirt road into a path of light. I can depend on my forefathers to guide me through troubles, what can yours do? Bring the evil sprits back from the massacre of my village, my mothers, my fathers, my sons and your daughters. Drink you into a depression and misery. You can’t escape my slimly smile, you help but to figure out my existence. I am your God. For you to turn and run, be scared of me. My skin is shooting a hollow tip of fright through your bones. Shake your core, just for you to get on your knees and beg why am I doing this to you. Did you question your parents why Black was wrong? Why was MY brother the victim of the ignorance of your past. Black lives on, it is on the inside of your eye lids, its the uncertainty in your shadow, the remittance of death.
52| T h o m a s
Elements of Transition[ing] LeVander Thomas First Place, FAMU Writers Contest I remember being a little girl, sitting between my mother’s knees; head bent forward in what must have been a silent prayer. She would plait my hair, and I would struggle not to whine in angst. This was our tri-weekly routine. After sitting for what felt like hours, I would squirm, squiggle, twist and wiggle, trying to revive my very numb derrière and appendages. “Hold still,” my mother would say. “I only have about four more to go.” And that number four became a beacon of hope for me. When she said “only four more,” I knew for a fact that trouble don’t last always. But, she braided so tightly! By the time she was finished, I could feel my heart beating in my scalp. But, my hair was always neat. My hair was always pretty. One day, my hair got to be too much for my mother. That long, curly, wavy, pretty, dark, brown hair had simply gotten too thick for her to tame. So, she did what every Black mother is supposed to do for her daughter. And at the age of eight, I received my first relaxer. At the age of eight, I lost the opportunity to grow into one of the most essential factors of my life: my identity. From my younger days to the present one, I have always loved playing in my grandmother’s hair. She is bi-racial, her mother Black and her father White. Her hair was so silky and smooth. I loved the fact that I could wrap her hair around a pencil just tightly enough and it would create a bouncy little curl. Her two daughters’, my mother’s and aunt’s, hair was the same. Thick and curly, waves galore. And I would wonder, Why isn’t my hair like theirs?.. How come a little bit more of my great-grandfather’s good genes could not trickle down into my own? An untitled poem by Lucille Clifton hit home for me. Two lines from it could summarize the way I felt about myself when I was 18: “…both nonwhite and woman/ what did I see to be except myself?” (56). Bam. There it was. I was Black woman; why was I sitting around daydreaming of being another? Some other color? I could dream and dream until the clouds turned to dust, but it would never change the fact that I could never be anyone but myself. What bothers me the most is the stigma of “going natural” not being for everyone. If someone is born with a certain look, then how can that look not be for them? This is partly the reason I enjoyed reading “The Rebel” by Mari E. Evans. I come from a small town, with
T h o m a s |53 small minded people who believe that, when it comes to hair, if it is not long and straight, then it is not beautiful; unless you are “mixed,” of course, and have curly hair. Though Evans’ poem may not directly relate to hair, what I admire about it is the tone. I can almost imagine her reciting it with a smirk and a side eye, as if she knows something that the “curiosity seekers” (6-7) do not. I had the same feeling the moment I decided to go natural. I wanted to rebel. People of that town told me that I should just stick to “perms.” I was much prettier that way. But, I knew something that they did not. I had been endarkened. Part of finding your identity is learning to love yourself the way you are and knowing that there is never a reason to apologize for it. Hiding behind chemically treated tresses stifles the light of what is inside of you. There is a poem by Rumi. It is untitled; however a title is not needed, for its content says enough: I’m tangled like the curls of my love’s hair like a snake encharmed, I turn and twist. what is this knot, this dizzy maze, this snare? all I know: if I’m not tangled here, I don’t exist. If I had not cut my hair, and freed myself of the “lyes” told by society, I would not be the confident, sometimes sassy self that I am today. Don’t you see? Every tangle, every curl, every nap, every kitchen is me. Were it not for locks that are sometimes just as defiant as I am, I would not exist. After searching for that young woman who I had never gotten the proper opportunity to meet, I finally found her. I found me. On the night of November 12, 2012, I cut my hair. Not long after the deed was done, I cried. Maybe from the drastic change I saw physically, maybe from the one I felt emotionally. But, even the prettiest flower cannot bloom without a little rain. The next morning, I looked into the mirror - no make-up, no jewelry, and hair in a kinky, curly, coiled afro. Nothing but the features God gave me. And in that moment, I saw that I was beauti[ful].
B.C. Breauna Roach Before culture was a word used only in reference to a foreign collective before Coney Island restaurants concealed barrels decorated concrete cities like chicken pox Joseph Kony was arming himself with children, to bring Christianity to the Congo (in the name of the Lord). While Blacks in the U.S. raise funds in their congregations for â€œforeign aidâ€?, raise their hands in the air and commend civil war (in the name of the Lord), raise their hands in complaint to conversation about the African in their African American, the flags of hypocrisy beckon from all sides, the ghostly hands of parents killed by their kidnapped children raise, curl into futile fists, unfold, but never concede, clasp together in eternal prayer for peace after revolution. Crimes against humanity are not always considered charitable issues(in the eyes of the church). The cynical refuse to be culpable for clarets spilled from Black bodies other than their own. They cannot recognize their own. Perspectives out of context, centered in cupidity, they are not in the habit of burrowing into the crux of cutaneous issues. So the images of blistered bronze boys on their own blocks being captured by the collar, commanded to belittle their brothers, coerced into constricting air from necks of the contrary, castrated, crushed and conquered
R o a c h |55 (in the name of the Lord) are barely bothersome to the Blacks in the blessed states of America. As long as bones are white on the outside, they will be blind to the skin from which they were cut.
56 | J o n e s
“Black” In Me Deanna Jones “Black” is something I’m not The essence of black is something I wish I could have. I know it’s in me But why can’t I understand it, see it, live it. I look a little harder But I still see nothing in me My mother understands it, feels it, lives it. What happened to me? I have the hoop earrings and the cutest J’s you will ever see, The eighties style with the Foxy Brown attitude. But I still see no black in me. So I go to my granny and ask, “Why, is there no black in me?” She looks at me and says, “Sweetie you got it all wrong, It’s not the style or attitude Or even the blood of a strong black woman passed down to you.” She says “Black is music, the sight of beautiful hues of brown intertwined in dance of proud majesty. Black is our communities raising children to achieve, work hard, and reach their goals despite obstacles. Black is the struggle from which our people came from: slavery, segregation. Black is the progress from that struggle: civil rights, Barack Obama. So being black is more than “J’s” you see. It’s the struggle of being all you can be. It’s the power within you and me. Black is the definition of boldness, love, appreciation, courage, and knowledge.”
J o n e s |57 My granny stops, looks at me and say’s “now you tell me if you can see the black in you?” Those wonderful words opened my eyes Now all I see is the “black” in me.
58| R u c k e r
The Complexion of Struggle Lorrin Rucker Sometimes I feel as if my skin is as dark as raven's feathers Sometimes I feel my roots are soiled in another life What does this high yellow girl know about the struggle they ask Do my hazel eyes not reflect the trials of my people Gene pools tainted at the hands of man Does my skin as bright as honey do not reflect the battle scars of my ancestors I hold my fist to Heaven just for my brothas and sistas of a darker flesh to tell me otherwise Tell me my chains are an illusion That with skin and eyes like this tainted with the pigment of oppression Tell me since when did struggle have a complexion
R u c k e r |59
A Dream of Salvation Lorrin Rucker A woman woke me from my sleep Telling me of the wonder of my future She told me that my pain would subside She told me that my tears would pave a path would lead me to angel named Peter I asked her if this meant that I would meet my Father That my sins would be forgiven? She told me that my burdens will lay to rest That my heart clouded with sorrow would be laid at the throne I awoke to find no woman My heart still filled with sin I awoke to find that salvation was nothing more than a dream
60 |R a y
What’s in a Name Hailey Ray First Place, FAMU Writers Contest The sun outside beamed through my window so bright it out shined my desk lamp. I loved sunny days but today not even the Sun could cheer me up as I pulled out a piece of paper and brand new pink pen and prepared to begin my rough draft for an essay on the topic I hated the most my name. My name is… Oh Great this pen is pink but it writes in blue, seriously? I feel so bamboozled! Here I am thinking I have a nice fruity little pink pen and all I have is a stupid blue ballpoint pen. Probably said it right on the package, Ugh I have got to start paying more attention. Jeez now I sound like my mother “Rosa Annabelle Parker you have to start paying more attention!” I hate the way she says my full name when she’s angry. I picked up my now blue ink pen and proceeded to talk about growing up Rosa Parker. My name is Rosa Annabelle Parker. Yes, I was named after Rosa Parks if that’s the question burning in the back of your mind. The question I’ve been asked over 500,000 times since probably before I was born and my mother came up with the hair brain idea to make me go through life named me after a civil rights icon. And it only gets worse in February. “Rosa sit on the front of the bus.” “Rosa you can’t sit back here take a stand for our rights.” Middle School was Hell. My mom says I should be honored to be named after the first lady of the Civil Rights movement, but it’s more annoying than anything. Especially with the last name Parker. It never fails every year as the teacher goes down the roll, gets to my name and says “Rosa Parker like Rosa Parks ha ha ha”, as the class all giggles along. I just politely smile and say yes, just call me Rose please. My mom hates that I insist on everyone calling me Rose but it just sounds so much better to me. Rose, so sweet and dainty, like the chick from the Titanic movie. Rosa sounds old and country. Rosa Annabelle is even worse, that’s what my grandma calls me, my unfortunate middle name was her doing, it was her moms name, her mom that was born in 1917. “Rosa Annabelle oooh Child every time I hear your name I think a sweet Momma! You look just like her you know mmmhm, got hr big brown eyes, and her sandy red hair ooooh yes child you do Rosa Annabelle.” I get that spill every time I visit my grandma; I try to avoid seeing my grandma. I know I sound like a grumpy goose but nobody knows how it
R a y |63 feels to have an old person name that just doesn’t fit in with mainstream society. You’ve got your Laurens and Lindsey’s, Ashley, Amber, Jasmine, nice normal names, or maybe even something exotic like Antoinette or Janella. but Rosa Parker just flops off the tongue pushing a pool of dust into the air because of how old it is. I mean a name is a very important thing, it your identity, your whole flipping life, and to be it really sucks to be Rosa. I don’t know maybe I’ll change it one day to something more fitting like Samantha or Jocelyn, because it’s just not fair that we can’t choose our names it’s just… “Ughhh” I groaned loudly. I stood up and stretched pretty peeved about the direction my essay was going in since it was something that haunted me my whole life. We had been given the assignment what’s in a name. We had to write about how we felt about our name what we would choose if we could have chosen our own name and how names effect how we go through life. But I realized it sounded more like a rant tan an essay so I figured I’d get back to it later. “Rosa!” my mom called out from the Kitchen “Come on its time to go ta Grandma Lynn” Oh great I thought to myself just who I don’t feel like seeing “Rosa Annabelle Oooh Child” I mimicked her voice in my head it kind of made me giggle. “Mom do I have to go!” I whined as I grabbed my things off the bed and stomped to the living room where my mom sat sipping coffee and jiggling her keys in her hand. “Rosa Annabelle Parker, how dare you even ask such a thing this is your grandmother my mother show some respect and fix that face” “Ughhh” I groaned as I walked to the car and prepared for the 2 hour drive to Orange Grove, Florida aka the middle of nowhere. I hated the drives to Orange Grove almost as much as I hated my name and today we were going to the August Festival a country little gathering with pie eating, chicken catching and get this bobbing for apples. Oh joy! When we pulled up in front of my grandma’s double wide trailer the only thing I could imagine was her voice saying “Oooh Rosa Annabelle” and I wasn’t ready but Luckily for me Grandma was still at church, something I was extremely happy we were too late to attend because church service at Grove’s First African Methodist Episcopal Church was an extreme hot bore. I begged my mom to let me walk to the store and get some chips while she waited for grandma on the patio and she said yes since Grandma Lynn was still at church.
62 |R a y The walk was long hot and boring a common theme for Orange Grove life. The dirt road was making my feet itch as the whirlwind of sand and small rocks floated above my sandals , so I drifted into some low grass along side me. It’s a shame when a town doesn’t even have sidewalks for every street “Hey girl” a country voice called in the distance I turned quickly to see where the voice was coming from to see a chunky white boy in overalls standing next to a pickup truck with a cigarette in one hand and a Natural Light beer in the other. “Get the hell off my daddy’s grass na gal.” The boy looked about 15 or 16 clearly not old enough to be smoking a cigarette or let alone drinking a beer. “Uh the names Rosa not Girl, and um aren’t you a little young to be drinking that, buzz of or I’ll call the cops” I said as I continued my walk through his “daddy’s Grass” it was the first time I had introduced my self as Rosa but it felt needed. “Uncle is the sheriff call um and tell um Bobby said Hi, now get your ass off my grass before your ass is grass na gal” as he let out a big greasy chuckle through his cigarette bud and walked closer to me “Get off my damn now gal” My eyes squinted and it felt like fire was rising over me no way was I going to let this boy talk to me like I was a child or item. “Look maybe if your little dirt road town had a side walk, I wouldn’t need to walk in yo daddy grass but there is no side walk!” I screamed the fire continued to rise in me “And I told you my name is Rosa Annabelle Parker named after Rosa Louise McCauley Parks first lady of the civil rights movement, so don’t you call me girl you call me Rosa or shut your mouth and say nothing at all” I was eyeball to eyeball with bobby now and I could see that he wasn’t so tough after all probably had a false since of bravado from the natural light that now was lowed in his hands. “And I don’t think yo daddy would mind me walking through his grass as much as he would you stealing his cigarettes and beer now would he?” Bobby squinted his eyes and through the empty beer an past me into a ditch. “Humph” he groaned “Whatever Rosa” rolled his eyes and walked away. A smile came over me as I watched him walk back into his trailer. It was the first time had ever really stood up for myself, the first time I had ever taken pride in my name. It felt good to let him know that I was Rosa Annabelle Parker and that’s the only thing I would answer to from now on. I had taken a stand for myself and my respect just like the women I was named after, First lady of the civil rights
R a y |63 movement Rosa Parks.
64 | E l l i s o n
Beauty Mark Anitra Ellison God decided I would be beautiful at 6 years old. My mother made this discovery in the bathroom as she took my face between her thumb and forefinger and exclaimed "You have a beauty mark!" This can't be a bad thing my 6 year old self thought. A well placed, overabundance of melanin that said "I'm prettier than you." But God said "All my children are beautiful. I just left my signature on you."
R a y - W i l l i a m s |65
Probing Religion Mitchelle Ray-Williams I don't think God is who I thought He was: I was painted a picture of a man, an ancient alabaster man, with long silver hair and ocean-blue eyes waiting for me at the gates. Maybe God never took the shape of man and we're not gods and goddesses depicted in his image, after all. Maybe instead, He's a force of energy, a twinkling hole in the dark. Maybe the son of God is more so the sun of God or maybe God is the sun all together— you know, the Sun that gives life, that takes life? How is it that I'm so ungrateful and blessed and others so thankful and cursed? Is God like a parent striking His children out of love? I suppose in some way we're all blessed and cursed or maybe luck does exist. The idea of dying used to frighten me. Not so much anymore when I'm more afraid of suffering with no hope or dying without ever obtaining the ultimate desire—peace. Then again, does it really matter? Are we not suffering in this hell on Earth without knowing what to expect after death? And aren't all dreams just pipe dreams— never really achieving anything— when you're stepping on the backs of the unfortunate, when crying or lying or killing your way to the top? Does it not matter that we hide behind phrases, I'm a hustler hustling all day everyday,
66 | R a y - W i l l i a m s I grind from sunup to sundown, when in actuality, we're just slaves slaving over materials, over people, over ideas that we can never hold on to forever? Forever is six feet into the dirt where the Sun doesn't shine. Maybe there is no God and we just need someone or something to place our faith in; some reassurance, some hope that everything is going to be OK. Or maybe we're just another round of test dummies waiting to go extinct like the ancient Greeks and Egyptiansâ€” maybe we're doing it all wrong, again, and God's just waiting for an era of people to just live in bliss and in love and in peace. So, Religion, tell me where your sources really derive from and how do we live without ever questioning God when we question everything else?
N a v a r r o |67
Truth and the Fall of Humanity Joseph Navarro The validation of a phrase, through the consistent relative outcome, of empirically found, experiences. The clichĂŠ, is thus defined. Ignorance, is bliss. The truth hurts. These are statements, phrases, words of wisdom, clichĂŠ. We deny the truth, we ignore the truth, we misunderstand the truth, we avoid the truth, we despise the truth, we repress the truth, why can we not all strive for the truth.
68| N a v a r r o
A Pledge for the New American Millennium Joseph Navarro I pledge allegiance to consumerism of the United States of America and to the massive shopping complex for which it stands, one nation under the In God We Trust on the Dollar bill, no returns, with fun and debt for all.
N a v a r r o |69
Person of Eternity Joseph Navarro I am a radical with a lot of causes The postmodern human of tomorrow The Dickensian with a shot of Conrad. I take morality with a grain of salt, Because I let the dead bury the dead, And I dance with the angels of tomorrow, They take me on a journey to the moon. Morality is a vice, they say play nice. Morality is a vice, they mean fall in line. On the moon, I dance with angels and aliens, We sing of humanity and its condition. Morality dictates race and gender. Little girls and little boys are born to hate, Because violence keeps us at each others throats. A fury of lustful rage keeps the earth blind, So we decide to descend. Morality is a vice, they say play nice. Morality is a vice, they mean fall in line. Demons await our spaceship of angels and aliens, We rendezvous in the spirit of 1969 and plan our next step. As we march forward we sing the ancient hymn 'Love never spared a sinner, Hate never cured a saint, Soon is the night of reckoning, Then let no heart be faint, Teach us to fly from shelter, Teach us to love the cold, Life's for the free and fearlessDeath's for the bought and sold!' Morality is a vice, they say play nice. Morality is a vice, they mean fall in line.
70| N a v a r r o
Wage Slavery Blues Joseph Navarro The lure of what we want, despite the reality of what we need. "I put a spell on you, because youâ€™re mine." Wage slaveryCreating an economic system inclusive to a select few "You better stop the things you do I aint lyin' No, I aint lyin'" We are all human beings. We are all capable, of murder, of grace, of hate, of forgiveness. "You know I can't stand it You're runnin' around You know better daddy I can't stand it cause you put me down" Nina Simone sang of a love, one so overpowering, life, destiny, fate, free will, all become entangled, in a triangle, of love. "I put a spell on you Because you're mine You're mine"
N a v a r r o |71 Capitalism is less forgiving. The rich and "HAVES", love with reckless abandon, money buys much security, economically and emotionally. The poor and the "HAVENOTS", have only love. A true love, untainted by the perpetual lust for more, for the most expensive, for the most comfortable, for the newest and coolest. "I love ya... I love you I love you I love you anyhow And I don't care if you don't want me I'm yours right now" Some drive BMW's to work some take the bus. Some vacation in the Hamptons for a break some enjoy a quiet evening on the porch. Some are driven by an ego Which asserts "I am the one!" Some understand the value of the statement, from the Sermon on the Mount "Blessed are the poor in spirit." Take your money, your big house, your fancy car, your paid vacations,
72| N a v a r r o your golf excursions, I am satisfied with love. Thank you Nina Simone "You hear me I put a spell on you Because yoooou're miiiiiiiiiine "
N a v a r r o |73
Wallace and Fredo Joseph Navarro There are bars, and then there are holes in the wall. A bar will have, at the minimum, one flat-screen television. This bar will carry several domestic beers on tap and maybe even a few bottled imports. A bar will carry at least a house white wine; heck, any man can pour two fingers of chardonnay in a rocks glass and call it whiskey. This particular hole in the wall has been home for some time now. It is within walking distance of my flat. I am fond of the lone analog television, cable routed through a VCR hookup, the classic tube forcing the image to jut out. The bartenders are three young friends who run an illegal tattoo studio in the back. Regulars include cokeheads enjoying a civil drink before the nightclub, junkies without any of the good stuff settling for legal junk, Mexican day laborers, and a few hipsters who enjoy the strict 20th century Indie-New-Wave-Punk soundtrack accompanied by the hourly tour of a local mariachi trio that gives life to the droll ambiance. Tonight I am torn between two spectacles within a society which craves the pageant. Earlier I learned that my creative writing professor has taken his life, and for the last hour I have had to listen this fucking guy behind me belittle his girlfriend at my beloved bar. I mean he will not shut up, calling her a whore at every pause in his tirade. The ball is small, but I always manage to catch my favorite booth. The one behind me is where the couple now sit. The words "whore” and “slut" accompany a series of lectures on how a woman should dress when she has a boyfriend. She does not say a word, at least none I can hear as her fathead boyfriend continues to rant directly behind my seat. I didn’t even see the guy’s face walking in, though I did enjoy her black dress and matching heels. Every once in a while, I can hear him take a long snort followed by "...none for you bitch." The mariachis, Hermonos de Sol, are playing Arsenio by Orchestra Harlow when the couple first walked in. I knew the guy was trouble when I heard a slur directed at the performance. I’ve never been in a fight before. At the same time, I am emotionally unbalanced right now. I know if he takes a swing at her I am going to lose my shit. I can barely keep my head together. I just finished a book by Haruki Murakami where one friend says to another "Never feel sorry for yourself. Only assholes do that..." The
74| N a v a r r o antisentimentality is rife and perfect for my current emotional malaise. All I can do is think about how I am just getting my own life back on track, finally doing well in school my third time around and how this loss is going to prevent me from moving forward. I am a conceited piece of shit. This man who served as a mentor, I cannot even give due respect towards. I sit drowning my sorrows in cheap beer while society continues to gesticulate. I was here for at least an hour or two before the couple walked in â€” sulking, while the bartender and the few patrons watched South Park at the opposite end. I seemed to be sitting in a void; everything seemed a millions miles away. Only the pain in my gut was real. This asshole brought me right back to reality the first time he kicked his girlfriend under the table. I could feel the vibrations through the booth. I quickly downed the two beers in front of me and made my way to the bar. "Two more," I motioned to Mike who grabbed two frosted mugs. "You alright tonight, Alfredo?" Mike is a large man from Jamaica with a faint patois accent to accompany his academic English. He only wears tattoos along his right arm and is never without a t-shirt with a Stokely Carmichael screen printed. After completing a Masterâ€™s in Civil Engineering at Cal-Poly, he opened this bar with Samantha and Wu Yin. The idea was to allow the bar to serve as a cover for their friendâ€™s-only tattoo studio. "Yeah, Mike, I just lost a close friend." "Awww, Fredo, this night is on me. You just take it easy and we'll take care of the rest." "You are too good to me, Mike." "Hang in there, bud." As I make my way back to the booth, I take a quick look in the direction of the couple. The boyfriend is jabbering away on his smartphone. I make eye contact with the young lady as she lifts her head after a quick bump from her purse. There is no emotion in these eyes, no feeling, just another lost soul playing a role. Hermanos de Sol enter once more and begin to play "La Cucharacha" in its entirety. I love this rendition because they talk about the tired cockroach smoking his ganj and relaxing. My parents used to sing the song as the family cured the marijuana crop. The douche behind me starts hissing and begins to get loud.
N a v a r r o |75 "Not these fucking Mexicans again? Shut the fuck up will ya, I am trying to enjoy a night with my girl." No one really hears his rant — perhaps it’s the performance or the fact that the South Park episode is one featuring Butters. I do here his girlfriend respond: "Jimmy, please quiet down; you are embarrassing me." The sound of a hand upon facial cheek flesh has a marquee pitch. No matter where you are in America, it is not hard to come upon an angry parent popping their offspring in the face for a transgression. Capital punishment is actively practiced at a state and federal level. Innocent and mentally handicapped individuals are executed yearly only adding to our nation’s overall murder rate. The sound of a drunk man hitting his defenseless girlfriend is of this theoretical pitch. Everyone in the bar heard the slap. I could see their eyes staring at the couple behind me, as I sit directly in their line of sight. I am not thinking of the other patrons or my personal loss; only the beautiful faces of my sisters and cousins dance across my conscious. The rage swells, my hands tremble while I quickly down the two beers. The young lady begins to cry and the guy says, "Shut up." Speaking into his phone: "Siri, call Tommy." I stand and wipe the foam from my mustache. Her sobbing is the only audible noise. I turn and grab the young mans gelled hair, pulling his head back to the booth. Turning to the young lady I say "Get up and pull the car around." She begins to say something. I don't hear it. The first time I slam his head upon the table before him, I feel a surge through my spine. The look of terror on his girlfriend’s face as I lift his head, preparing to strike once more, I will never forget. The next three movements would open his face like a faucet. I didn't say a word, and no one in the bar made a move, except for the girlfriend who had grabbed the keys from the table on her way out. Time stood still. His groans were not words but guttural sounds like that of a dying wildebeest. Finally, I feel Mike's large hand gently tug my shoulder. "Fredo, you should jet my man." Turning, I look within the eyes of my friend and see eternal compassion. My hand is still planted within the waxy hair of my victim. I can feel him sobbing through my palm. "Don't worry, no one saw a thing. Just lay low for a bit, maybe hit the beach. I will call you tomorrow." Quietly, I make my way to the door, nodding to Mike on my way out. As I slowly walk away from the hole in the wall, I can faintly
76| N a v a r r o hear Mike tossing the douche bag out as his girlfriend brings the car to a screeching halt.
T a y l o r |77
Green With… L. Denise Taylor To some, jealousy is an act of pure devotion and love To others, it’s a dark curse, alternate black world... An exhibition of the humiliation of someone’s isolation and desperation To be loved.... To be held.... Starts off as a simple glance A simple thought Then builds...it grows latches on to your heart Mind rejects you...body does the same As you sit and think of the pain The pain of being tried and denied Facing lies as your pride beats the feelings down So they hide deep inside Unknown Your spirit far gone Trapped within the jealousy full blown It’s now ok...to wish death on yourself Why not? As once said, it will NEVER be yours No matter how hard you fight for your health The prize ahead will never add to your wealth Scream to the world with your hate laden eyes Gone blind with envy of lives (not yours will never be lived) Finally has broken your pride Tho you may idolize, silently worshipping what you will never be Damn, you cry...
78 | T a y l o r Watching the world pass you by As you remain stuck in jealousy's snare You forget why you're there Caught in the bright lights, the glare of the game And again, caught deep in this unforgiven sin.... Sit and remind yourself, as the envy eats you away Forgotten promises, cold hard truth Reality sets in, Agonizing weight of defeat as your eyes close against the envy What isn't yours will never be... Indefinitely
W i l l i a m s | 79
The Abyss Nathiel Williams A heart that a constant beat could not satisfy The desire for bosoms and supple lips The want of every queenâ€™s attention and emotional attachment A lust for unwrapping every gift that god has pistoled to Every girl at birth As Adam my thirst quenches for a taste so warm and a touch so sweet Of a present day Eve Never content or satisfied by the touch. But will there ever be one with such a touch to put me at bay? This is the site of an Abyssâ€Ś.
80 | S a w h
You Wonder Why? Ruth Sawh For some mystical reason, an urge to reconnect with the house where I was born tugged at my insides, so I left my Tallahassee abode, boarded a plane, and landed in Trinidad. At the airport, I hailed a taxi to a remote destination I had called home for six years. Our Spanish-style house stood alone at the edge of a large tropical forest. It had no street address like most normal dwellings, and the postman never ventured that far on the foot-worn path. He always left our mail, what little we received, mainly from the tax collector, with our closest neighbor, a mile away from us. In fact, we lost friends because of where we lived. They always said we were too far removed—behind everyone’s back—including God’s. In Trinidad, if a person did not visit, eat, or sleep at a friend’s house, he or she was not a friend. I don’t know, however, whether I could have blamed potential visitors, because I too had experienced tremors in my stomach over the possible creatures that could come creeping, crawling, roaring, jumping out at me, especially in the thick black night after the last candle was blown out. Because I was so disturbed by horrible imaginations, uneventful nightly slumber was never easy. Every creak of the wooden floor of that monstrously old Spanish house was cause to send my heart racing. I dreamed of snakes that could force themselves through the jalousies, of tarantulas so black that I could not see them at night until they had wrapped their multitude of stinging hairs around my throat, of scorpions injecting their poisons into my eyes, of roaches in my mouth, of toads in my bed. The structure of the house lent to my fears. The attic was a world unto itself. It was inaccessibly high, and at night we would hear the bats on their way out. Early in the morning we would hear their thuds, fat, after a night of sucking people’s blood, we thought. Tarantulas reserved themselves for special appearances since they could not fly; ever so tauntingly, they crawled into my family’s presence through the sides of rotted wooden ceiling. We never visited the basement, because creatures that could not manage the heights of the attic or could not survive in the bushes, found their niches in our “underworld.” An occasional snake had been known to display its
S a w h | 81 depraved self, and three-inch roaches and spiders gained territorial rights in the dry, dusty areas. We lived in limbo between one hell and another. You wonder why Iâ€™m an insomniac? I know why.
Part 4: Flour
E l l i s o n | 85
Pretty Anitra Ellison It's a compliment that comes with consequences as it flows out the mouth drapes across her shoulders as a heavy cloak that must never come off even in the dead of summer. It was intended to dance across the wrists dangling like a delicate charm bracelet so why does it feel like cuffs? It can only be received with a smile even better with feigned surprise and a polite laugh But to receive it means to forfeit all speech, all her words from there on out must be an affirmation of her appearance It is her only contribution to the conversation no need for opinions or feelings Just shut up and look pretty
86 |O r a n g e
Love T.L. Orange Dancing brown toes play a song for red dirt, While seductive hips guide the motions of their long dashiki skirts. The hands that bang the Congo drums are appreciated by their guest; Who is the American Negro in a shirt and tie...essence cloaked by his Armani vest? Chants and screams of prancing African queens enhance the ritual. The spirits are awakened, now roaming free; sent to conquer a soul thatâ€™s blissful, shaking loose the demons so he can clearly see. They enter. Eyes roll back and the body vibrates, to a higher frequency than ever before. Fancy suits are set ablaze to burn self-hate. The western leaches exist no more. Hearts now pump blood filled with the joy above. So below is possessed by the harmony of pure love. Death to our old ways of selfinflicting wounds is the life given
O r a n g e | 87 to our creatorâ€™s reflection, new and improved.
88 |O r a n g e
A flower for your lapel T.L. Orange Each foot relaxed in the comfort of cushioned leather. Soles aimed at the elegance of a marvelous display of masculinity. One who would seem to bask in the satisfaction of worldly riches, but never seems to surpass his fitted britches. Fresh slacks and a belt that tighten the confidence of surefootedness sit sincerely over slick wit. But never to boast; he only coasts in the ambiance of grace. A coat that expresses delicate dominance bleeds the faรงade of the alpha male. Only one minor adjustment to the satin made material around his neck solidifies this masterpiece. And of course not to forget the feminine Rose Pedals of spirituality. There, now it is complete.
O r a n g e | 89
She Waits T.L. Orange A familiar tension accompanies the two for a ride to the store in his candy apple red corvette. They share a weary bond of past, present, and an unlikely future. Both mouths on mute, he turns the stereo knob to a common station. The radio waves of 103.5 The Beat ends the awkward silence like the stress relieving results from multiple pregnancy tests at their local clinic. Her mind tries not to swim too deep in a realm of “Where was he last night”. “He went to sleep earlier than usual”…“He never spend time with me like when we first started talk’n”. “I just know he cheat’n on me”. “I really deserve better than this”… “I’m sick of his mess”. Beginning to stress out, she brings her thoughts to a halt, raises her feet from the car floor to the seat, and shifts focus to her freshly painted soft purple toenails. On the left of her, concentrating on his driver seat duties, he tries to tune in to the rap lyrics of a local artist; but the fragrance of her one of a kind body spray (the one that gives him butterflies and sends chills down his spine) plays an arousing tune at the tip of his nostrils. Along with a fatal attraction, it binds him to a responsibility that he can’t quite figure out, or better yet, isn’t ready for. The answers to her unasked questions will never meet her ears. Only a critical analysis of why his massages fell out of love with her feet. How the daily compliments of her hair disintegrated into thin air. Why has their relationship turned weak...?
90 |O r a n g e Just as mother earth awaits the overdue compassion of a distracted mankind…so does she.
S t r o n g | 91
Women Chereey Strong This woman in me Sometimes I just canâ€™t see Is designed to swim the cool waters of success To let her confidence ride on the sun And let my self esteem lay humbly on the pedals Of the beautiful flowers in the field. I will look beyond her tribulations That keeps me in heated chains. This woman in me Will have her respect polished in gold And shining so bright so that everyone will see This woman in me Finds herself one step at time And will not be defined by anyone She listens to her own heart; she listens to her own instinct She has her own dreams that could possibly help other women through And she has designed her own style with her hair, clothing, and shoes. This woman in me Learns to take responsibility and pay the cost to her rebellions This woman in me Cannot worry what others think Because she will lose sight of her purpose This woman in me Knows how she pictures her future And she will need all the prayer, faith, education and supporters to get there safe.
92 | S t r o n g
Artistically Beautiful Chereey Strong My folks from long ago Grew from the depth of the sea Even though the sharp teeth of the sharks Promised a ripped and bloody flesh Fearlessly they rose, higher than the blue waves Their hearts were steady And they glistened like every color on a peacockâ€™s feather. Rhythmically, they played their instruments Bringing out every smile, and feet that walked over a mile to see the festivity Soulfully, they sang every word like it was the last Relaxing every heart, and soul that may have been lost and bruised Passionately, they penned their emotions on paper Expressing their mind, and enhancing imaginations Through the deep, low valleys Boldly, they spoke before a crowd And reminded them of the blessing of freedom The heartache that it will ease and the scars that it will heal Wholeheartedly, they looked to the root of their knowledge Gathered their tools and made themselves craftsman Their masterpiece holds a star, and is useful for our needs day by day Like the sounds of the golden trumpets Their voices echoes forever and ever And as I look down yonder I see that I carry a part of their peacock feathers.
S t r o n g | 93
The Withered Flower Chereey Strong Here I am A strange little flower In the middle of the wide field, all alone I must say that I am an outcast I don’t look like the other flowers They have the most fascinating beauty Their pedals are twins to the colors of the rainbow They are confident, their stems hold them high They are loved, they are praised But not me, my stem body is short If you visited our field you would barely notice me My pedals are an unusual color A golden brown with black dots When people come to visit our field They were in awe with those other pretty flowers The pretty flowers gathered together and posed proudly as their pictures were taken No one took a picture of me. One little boy did find me and said, “Momma why do that flower look dead?” It hurt me so bad I didn’t like being me Even our king Sun would share with them his blessings of light And Queen Rain would shower them with her love of kisses They didn’t see me as the average flower They didn’t see the point of me needing them. During the nights I would cry and talk to my mentor, Mrs. Oak Tree “Why are you crying like that child?” She asked “I just wished I was like those other pretty flowers. I hate being on the outside because it’s just too miserable for me. And they even laugh at me.” Honey you are a beautiful flower. You’re so special because you don’t look like them. You need to appreciate being different because I guarantee you that those other flowers will one day wish that they were just as smart and unique as you.”
94 |Y u a n
I Changming Yuan To begin with The hieroglyphical origin of My identity was simply no body But a common reed Bowing its head to the rising sun On the barren bank of the Nile Slim, tall, hollow-hearted Standing against tropical heat Until one day 'I' was used As a human symbol, an open vowel Referring to the speaker And since then I have become One of the most frequently spelt letters In the linguistic order of the day Always capitalized To embody my dignity Though I am nothing But a common reed That could have been made into a flute
Y u a n | 95
Natural Confrontations Changming Yuan 1/ Leaf Like a wounded soldier Firmly holding his position You are the only one Still hanging on there To blockade the invasion Of a whole cold season 2/ Crow A baby raven Popping up from nowhere Tries to Establish itself: one dark truth On the skeletal tree top Yawing fiercely Towards the sky, the wind, the buildings The fields and the entire afternoon All so fluffily white In jade-toned snow 3/ Cloud With a body so light Soft, short, never Even having a fixed shape You resist the strongest sun Of the entire universe Trying to shield all its rays Like arrows shot down Towards the earth
96 | G a r n e s
Black and White Lily Pads Dr. Lamar Garnes
H e t t i c h | 97
Antelope Michael Hettich Yesterday at dusk a black snake whipped through our kitchen, from beneath the refrigerator out the back door. Mice must have nested in our walls again, you said, as we watched it slide into the grass. But you went out then and lay on your back on the sidewalk to try to glimpse the first star of the evening so you could cast your wish for more. Of what? I wondered as I lay down beside you and listened to the wind, which seemed to blow vertically from the ground. A small bat zigzagged across the sky, reminding me of secrets I yearned to tell you, until I admitted I once loved a woman who could sing harmony with her own singing and grew perfect flowers beneath her clothes. She thought she was an antelope although sheâ€™d never seen such a creature outside the zoo, where they were kept with zebras in a landscape of fake trees, plastic rocks and cotton candy bushes. Sometimes sheâ€™d throw things at them--she called them offerings--raggedy underpants and worn-out running shoes. And one night, she joined them. I donâ€™t know where she found the fur. I let her stay in there, naked, with her pendulous breasts, hollow mouth, and eyes that saw nothing but grass and the quick movements of wild dogs behind those ersatz saplings. Our children pretended to be sparrows or pigeons as they carried messages back and forth between us. When the zoo closed for the evening and the animals went home, we both remembered people like us drinking cocktails on a back porch on some other planet. So we sat there and drank another cool gin and tonic and watched nothing happen as humans for a while.
98 | M o b l e y
Fall before the Queen Clare Mobley Second Place, FAMU Writers Contest The righteous rage of centuries past boils within me at his misguided words. Who does he think he is, this chauvinistic lion of a man? I refuse to flee in terror at his roar, as the incredible strength of my foremothers, those who came before me to pave the way and ensure that I have the liberties I enjoy today, envelops my trembling body and calms my shaken mind. Their strength reminds me that I can do anything that he can do. So, my dear and loving husband, I will learn to play this game called chess, and my victory will devour your pride, dethrone you from your ego, and return you to where you belong: not above me, cloaked in glory, but at my waiting side. Although I was raised in a house of devout chess aficionados, I never came close to acquiring even a semblance of interest in learning how to play the game. There were just too many pieces to keep track of and too many rules to remember. The intense strategizing and manipulative maneuvering that intrigued my family thoroughly discouraged me. As far as I was concerned, I did enough laborious thinking at school. I did not want to do it at home too, and besides, games are meant to be fun. For ten long years, I held on to this view, and I had every intention of holding on even longer. However, the words “Girls can’t play chess,” proceeding from my husband’s mouth, were a battle cry for me. Those four little words heralded the true beginning of my introduction into the world of chess, and those four belittling words heralded the beginning of my war on his flippant sexism. The first game proves to be the most difficult for me. I often feel a suffocating helplessness dragging me under into the abyss before my first breathless plunge into cold, murky waters. Serendipitously, heaven pours out its love for me this somnambulant Saturday morning. Its steady heartbeat thuds against my window pane, as the sleepy sun peaks out over the horizon in rare flashes of brilliance, teasing me with the unfulfilled promise of warmth, to only then retreat into the safety of another dreary cloud, heavy with moisture and dark with intent. Swaddled in my leopard print Snuggie, on my sleep-inducing living room sofa, legs akimbo and nerves entirely bent out of shape, I watch as my love, Joe, reverently lays down the chess board on the unblemished glass table and sets up the large, caramel wooden pieces
M o b l e y | 99 with sure, deliberate hands. I start doing the same with the mahogany set, making sure to mirror his positioning. With eyes full of laughter and mischief he asks, “So what exactly do you know about chess?” “Absolutely nothing,” I confess, utterly embarrassed to admit my weakness to him. “Except that the queen can move any number of spaces in any direction. The king can move in any direction too, but only one space at a time. So the king wears the crown, but the queen has all the real power.” He stares at me intently, warm amber eyes reaching out to read my soul like the open book it always is before him. The left corner of his mouth twitches into a brief, involuntary smile, but he does not rise to my bait. “What about the other pieces? How do they move?” he asks. I start with the forward march of the pawn and progress through the bishop’s diagonal dance, the knight’s L-shaped maneuvers, and the rook’s steady strut, surprising myself, but not him, with how much I already know. He explains to me that because he is white he gets to go first, and because I am black my fate is to always be on the defense. Chess is a funny game. Without hesitation he moves the pawn that is directly in front of his queen, advancing it two spaces forward, two spaces closer to me, and two spaces closer to my king. “Your move CB,” he asserts, confidence radiating from his brilliant smile. My mind goes into overload trying to analyze the intentions of his move and trying to decide how best to counter it with a move of my own. The minutes sneak by unnoticed, as I become entrapped in the sticky web of my own frantic scheming. I know that the chances of emerging victorious in this first match are nearly non-existent, but I refuse to be an easy win for him. After some prodding, I finally make a move. Taking a page out of his book, I move the pawn that is directly in front of my queen, advancing it two spaces forward and two spaces closer to his king. If the move was good enough for him, it should be good enough for me. Our game progresses much like the world around us: slowly and painfully. The tangible fear of losing my precious pieces to him
100 | M o b l e y manifests itself in my trembling hands, and it inhibits my ability to make quick, decisive moves. “Don’t be such a Libra. At some point you’re just going to have to let go,” he tells me, straddling the blurry line of mild irritation and full-fledged annoyance. Although letting go has never been a strength of mine, I realize the simple sagacity of Joe’s exasperated words and have no choice but to silence my pride, ignore my fears, and move boldly. I sacrifice my valiant bishop to his ruthless rook so that my noble knight can have a shot at immobilizing his helpless king. Our pieces prance around the checkered chess board, mine falling with no fanfare other than the anguished screaming in my own weary mind and the burning flame in his dancing eyes. “Checkmate,” he sighs with triumphant relief. Our subsequent games are much easier than the first since I continue to gain confidence in my reasoning and continue to learn the art of letting go of things that are beyond my scope of control. I have months, maybe even years, of playing chess to go before I will be able to win against my dearly beloved husband, the king of chess. Until then, I take solace in the fact that I am his queen, and there is substantial power in that.
B u c k | 101
Keep On Strugglin’ (Viewpoints of the natural thinking of Bigger) Cayla Buck I roll over an wake up Sun burnin’ my skin Lord ol’ Lord why must tomorrow Be here already The day’s troubles are yet to be awaken By the dawn of my presence Seein’ ain’t always believin’ Yet the one look at the clouds Tell me strike one is beside me I carry the heavy burden Of life on my limp shoulder Not trustin’ one man from another You do me wrong I let it slide Kills me in the inside I don’t know what to think Momma can’t tell me nun’ Daddy just a pigment of thought Reflection of reality I hut, I cry, I kill I smile, I laugh, I shout No need to care ‘bout what you care So why bother thinking Colors fade Eyes close-
-Open The sun hits my pupils hard Put on my coat, Zip up Another day’s journeys a comin’ To keep on strugglin’
102 | H a r r i s
One Love, One Poem. Michael T. Y. Harris The bullet shot the sheriff, barely missed the deputy. Can one mans music liberate a colonized country? Jah rastafari, one life, one love, freedom to Zimbabwe. The 80z murdered marley, coined aids, spread, crack, and split Newton. Continued to diffuse blacks by giving us more guns to shoot with. He sang sweet songs of freedom with words of redemption written in them. Cancer could not keep him down, nor would it change his smile into a frown. Melanoma from the lack of melanin, the product of a British soldier and Jamaican queen. Half-cast, cast away, they say them mulattos crazy, a spy for both sides, despised for seeing the truth with two greenishbrown eyes. Not color blind, but aware of the God we all held inside. He found where it resided, and got high enough to fill rooms with clouds of haze, from fire roasted ganja. A gangstas’ angel, who let his heart dangle from the microphone, exposed on the stage. Robert “Bob” Marley, an icon engraved in our History’s pages.
W i l l i a m s | 103
Imperfections Nathiel Williams I see lies and I see flaws I see a scared child With the rage of a beast that crawls Always speaking but speechless and always hearing but not listening I see insecurities and pain I see tissues that were umbrellas to an eyes rain I see a smile a smile that canâ€™t be hidden I look into the past and there lies sins that only God has lifted The outlet is a shovel. I look into the eyes and I dig deeper I look up and before me standsâ€Ś. A mirror
104 | R a y - W i l l i a m s
"Journey to the Blues" Mitchelle Ray-Williams I've been a poet since before ink, before parchment. Before water and fire, wood and metal, Earth stood empty. Oh, I remember the first poem etched into her when she was untamed like free verse: God dipped his quill, stroked Earth and she bore what was later tagged Africa. The beginning was effortlessly beautiful and I was in awe. Some say since then we've evolved from apes, others, from ash and dust. I remember being a ball of mucus spat out by a diamond of light, a hole that slit the dark night. Then BOOM! Waves crashed into sardine-like boats rattling souls. The explosion of lightning electrified the black horizon illuminating swarthy faces lurching to and fro. But I've been a prophetess since upright and opposable thumbs. So when I rose from the undertow, I howled for breath, for an asylum, for God because I knew He saw this coming when they lured us with their literature and mores. He saw this coming when the seas ran red with the taste of copper, when they tore the hymen of my people to get to our roots where the drums continuously hummed the truth that bore the blues that begot jazz, that begot rock that begot funk,
R a y - W i l l i a m s | 105 that begot soul, that begot hip-hop. Be grateful for those crimson-eyed hippies that play their songs and recite their stories on the head of our highs that retain the bone-chilling voyage and the sweaty bodies and the age-old vomit and the smell of rotting flesh and the sound of seagulls nearing land and the men raping our women and the dogs feeding on our children and our beings reigned over and in the midst of altering chaos, in the midst of defiling us we still found love in all that was ugly. Even if we become nothing but some generalized reference in the beat of a song, in the line of a poem, we'll know that none but our Creator got us to and from the blues.
106 | R a y - W i l l i a m s
"Letter to the Woman Activist" Inspired by Gil Scott-Heron Mitchelle Ray-Williams Sister, You will not stay home. Turn the television off and a look outside the revolution is taking place, again, and again it will not be televised. Don't cry to Rosa Parks. Don't cry to Angela Davis. Don't cry to Kathleen Cleaver. They have all fought in their own revolution. Pull up your boot straps, pull out your picket signs, sketch "TAX THE RICH!" This is the unraveling story, the dream we have all been fighting for. This will not be attractiveâ€” tears will fall and blood will splatter. And at the end of the day, you will not get a slot on the 5 o'clock news nor a commercial to intercept. So, occupy Wall Street and Chicago. Occupy Oakland and Tallahassee. Occupy every corner of this nation until the pigs squeal for mercy, until pumping fists knock down the unjust, until college degrees hold meaning again. Oh, Sister, this world will crumble and crush you if you are not thick-skinned. You will not be able to stay home, Sister. Turn the television off and a look outside
R a y - W i l l i a m s | 107 the revolution is taking place, again and again it will NOT be televised.
108 | K o l i n
Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin Philip C. Kolin You could be my grandson we both made history before our teens expired our photos walled the world with violence in peace-loving America, land of the free and home of shooting brave black boys guilty of felonies such as laughing. We were ensnared by Moloch's contemporary clan Tumulting us down in disputed graves. Local sheriffs promised their constituents protective silence. Our bodies became witnesses To crimes we did not commit.
K o l i n | 109
Emmett Till's Sister Philip C. Kolin I search for my brother In the streets where Sentinels look around Each corner a hiding place For my tears. I wear a veil-Do not stare at me The sun has fixed his gaze On me so often, so closely My love is bounteous. Inside I wear a garden Lilies and henna-I pour out his name Arise, Brother, And each flower quickens The aether hopes The west dapples. The sun canters for your smile. But men with ropes dipped in bloodroot Have taken you off into a wilderness of silence. The stars send Mass cards.
I will continue to look for you in the black rain I will not give up Until I bring you
110 | K o l i n Into our mother's house.
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Endurance Yaminah Mujahid-Lambert Honorable Mention FAMU Writers Contest When it happened, of course Veda freaked out. It was like the carpet had been pulled out from under her. She was less than two months away from graduating, she’d just finished that stupid midterm for social psych. It was spring break- she was with her family. She knew it first. It wasn’t terribly early in the morning (almost late even), yet everyone was still asleep. She was on her computer, blogging- then a tweet came through from CNN. Veda pounded on everyone’s doors, screaming at them to wake the hell up. She switched the television on in her parents’ room. Images of cannibals scrolled across the screen. “What the f---?” The middle sister, Naomi, mumbled. “No, what the actual f---.” Their mother didn’t even chastise her for the language. They were all thinking it. Veda wouldn’t forget that moment. Her heart sunk. Her stomach rose. Her blood raged within her skull, and she couldn’t breathe. Veda’s youngest sister, Sitara, wrapped her arm around Veda’s waist; her body whimpered. “Mama, what is going-” “Hush,” Lux Monroe murmured. She sat quietly, her eyes fevered with fright. Her hands dipped down to the bottommost corner of her side table. Passports, birth certificates, social security cards, a photo album- they were all in that drawer. Lux Monroe was a woman of substance, of philosophy, of education, and of beauty. Her mind was innovative, and she wanted nothing more than the preservation of her children. The fact that se reached for those things first showed that. She held them in her lap and turned to her husband. “Veda, get the truck ready,” her father said calmly. “Lux, you and Sitara lock down the house. Naomi, you’re going with me and Veda.” Veda stared at him a moment, not registering what was going on. He was calm. How was he so calm? There were people eating people in Texas, and he was calm, ready“Let’s go!” Their father was already slipping on his shoes. The shopping pavilion was strangely quiet. Her father had Naomi stay with the truck and listen to the radio; Veda followed her father.
112 | M u j a h i d - L a m b e r t It was an unsaid thing. Veda was the oldest of three girls to Vance and Lux Monroe, and as such, she was son and daughter in one. When trees fell from hurricanes in the yard, Veda helped her father move them. When maintenance on the house was needed, Veda was there with a nail and hammer. When anything serious had to be done, it was Veda her parents called on. “Canned goods, non-perishables, water, sleeping bags, tents, batteries, flashlights, matches, toiletries,” her father began reciting things from a non-existent list. Vance Monroe was a practical jack-ofall-trades; his degree said chemical engineering, but he was so much more than that. Veda never realized how far this extended until that day. Her hands were shaking, she felt sick, but somehow his presence was easing her panic. This first store was all a blur to Veda. Three carts full of things went to the truck; he’d used the Visa to its fullest extent. He asked Naomi to load it all, then they went into the next store. When the two of them were well into the store, he spoke: “Zombies.” Veda remembered looking at him incredulously, shock still coursing through her body and mid. He nodded, brow furrowed. She wanted to cry, to just rewind to yesterday, not because of zombies, but because of what he was asking her to do. Did he know what he wanted her to become? Sitara and Naomi weren’t young, but they were unable. Unable to do anything but run. “Don’t vomit,” he suddenly said, throwing baseball bats into the cart. Veda realized she was doubled over on the steering bar. She lifted her head up all too fast and became woozy once more. Vance Monroe rolled his eyes. They survived for a month in their house by themselves. When Naomi and Sitara would sleep, Veda and her parents would stay up, taking shifts or just talking. They talked about what to do, when to do it. Mostly Veda listened; that sick feeling had smoldered into quietness. She’d taken to popping Tums. During one of these talks, the subject of turning was brought up. And her father was very serious, that if any one of them should be bitten, someone should kill them. He said it was morally right. Veda was naïve to think that she’d never have to use those bullets. Looking back on it, Veda knows they did everything right because of her father and mother. You think of a horror movie, and
M u j a h i d - L a m b e r t | 113 how things go wrong in those. But the truth is, you can do everything right and still lose. It was rare to leave the house, but they needed more canned food and medicines. The three sisters also needed pads, but they’d never tell their father that. But it seriously was time to scavenge. Veda was in the truck, engine off. She was good at this, good at watching, good at waiting. She was absolutely terrible at archery and shooting guns, as evidenced by the fact that Naomi borrowed her gun during these outings. Two flashes of light came from the door of the store. Veda scanned one last time. She flashed three back. Her father and sister strolled out slowly, each carrying a box. She turned around, scanning the area behind them. Everything was fine. Her father and sister loaded the boxes into the truckbed, and then Veda heard it. “Argh!” “AHH!” Naomi disappeared from view; she heard the crack of bone on metal. Her father began shooting. Veda didn’t scream, didn’t open the doors. She pushed herself through the back window into the bed of the truck, heart racing her mind focused on one thing. “Naomi?!” A zombie appeared from under the truck. Then another. And one more. Her father had shot one point-blank, but it was too late for that. Its teeth hand found their way into his flesh. But Veda wasn’t paying attention because her father was still shooting. She hadn’t heard him seethe with anger, not at all. Her hands found Naomi’s body and hoisted her into the truck. She was bleeding out from her head; Naomi’s eyes were darting around. Her father jumped into the back with them, breathing heavily. He directed his eldest to drive and his middle daughter to keep her eyes open. Veda still hadn’t noticed the bite. She drove. Lux Monroe was an intuitive old soul, philosophical and airy; she followed her heart, and her heart told her to come outside with her gun. It didn’t take long to size up what happened. Only minutes after they returned, Lux drove a bullet through her husband’s head. It was quick. Wordless. In that moment, Veda understood that her mother was far stronger than her father had ever been, and that slightly sick feeling Veda had harbored since the beginning faded. While Veda dug her father’s grave, Lux came out to tell her to make the hole wider. Naomi finally closed her eyes. A weeping Sitara came out to help.
114 | M u j a h i d - L a m b e r t Two weeks later, Veda came back from a raid greeted with gunshots. There was yelling. She charged in with her own gun, ready to kill. There were a good ten of them just in the entrance. She fired off a shot and cursed her poor aim. Veda fell back, deciding to follow th screams. Sitara was upstairs, somewhere they were not supposed to be. And Veda, frozen to her spot, saw it all in slow motion. Her youngest sister’s back was to the banister, her baseball bat was swinging. She caught one in the neck- it went down. And then the banister gave out, and Sitara fell. Her scream hovered sickeningly in the air. The gunshots in the background fired faster- Lux had heard her youngest. And then Veda’s ears caught something they never wanted to. Her mother cried out, and Veda’s body thrust itself into motion, pumping bullets into whatever figures were in her way. Fortunately, Lux had taken care of most of them, even with three bites. Her mother said she didn’t believe in luck, just fate. But the lucky ones survive, Veda knew that. Her mother said that those born with true heart and will would survive in some way. The older ones, like herself and Vance, she said they were fading fast, but that was alright. She said that her children had heart and will- they had to. She taught them to survive, not just to live. And she was right- Sitara had died fighting, Naomi had died gathering. Her parents had died defending their children’s heart and will. But it tortured Veda to know that the moment she gained her will was the moment she pulled the trigger to end her mother’s life. It hurt because now there was nothing and no one to defend. After burying them, Veda packed her things in her father’s truck and started driving. Her mother’s bag with the passports and birth certificates was in the front seat, empty gun nestled overtop. When the tank was past half-empty, she pulled over on the side of the road, cut the engine, and cried. How as she supposed to do… to do this? All of this? What was the purpose of it, any of it, if she was the last one left? The last Monroe, with some pieces of embossed paper showing that at one point she was part of something, anything. College seemed so far away- friends, graduation plans, late nights. Another sick feeling bored into her temple: Where was everyone else? She opened the door just in time to empty her stomach on the scorching hot pavement. Veda cursed between heaves. Why couldn’t she have been a better scout? They were under the damn car, even.
M u j a h i d - L a m b e r t | 115 Veda took care not to scream out- every loud noise just attracted more attention. She slammed the truck door and wiped her mouth, sighing and trying to rid herself of the bile taste. Options. The sea: Boat, island, no half-dead cannibals. College: Half-dead cannibals, more obstacles, people maybe. Extended family: Half-dead cannibals, even more obstacles, more sadness to be had. She nixed the last- her grandparents and old uncles couldn’t be alive. And even if they were, that was at least eight hundred miles out. Veda needed people. She was hesitant about the campus bit, but she put the truck in drive and began. She’d take the long way; the sea was after the college after all- if it got too dicey, Veda would just keep driving. Keep driving until she found someone. Hopefully someone familiar. From then on, she wandered, wondering what in the world fate wanted her to do now. All Veda knew was that she had to endure this. She just couldn’t die. Not yet.
Rememb(H)er – For Nazarie Keila Dumas Silence speaks volumes imagine a holocaust of memories swept away, not knowing there are tomorrows because you barely knew it was today… a history drought. not remembering you fought in War, or that you drank from a water fountain labeled “colored”, America’s dirtiest secrets hidden behind your blood-rimmed eyes, in a blink of an eye, someone has “Men In Black’d” you… and you forgot to put your shades on… the irony… secrets that were meant to be unlocked through lessons after the switch was brought out, recipes explained only when you’re becoming a Woman, because men don’t play around in the kitchen unless there’s sugar in the tank “Baby, snap those beans in three” that was then… 10 years later… She smiled because she remembered my face… We have the same hands… I know what mine will look like once I age and she’s familiar… a Woman living in a daily nostalgia; to her I’m what her future may look like… not knowing that I am her future, and this is what I look like… she’s a victim, to a thief that she’s somewhat kin to, allowed in her home and made comfortable, her treasures have been stolen in stages, Billie Holiday'd her family members so now we're strange fruit, hummed old tunes, but this ain’t Miss Celie’s blues, and the only Hughes (hues) we speak is Nazarie… Holliday’s that come annual to us are her daily smiles,
D u m a s | 117 Elzie… he’s the only treasure the thief hasn’t taken as of yet. & we aren’t brave enough to tell her his creek has risen, she still thinks he’s on the way back from the store… he loved him some her … Blushes at the sound of his name not knowing this is the third November he’s been on his way… she said I remind her of Mamie, but no baby, I’m KD, I’m your baby’s baby’s baby, Your grandbaby’s baby… now I’m a lady… role reversal at it’s finest I’m feeding you the cookies you introduced me to I wish I could give you back what was stole from you It’s hard having to be the one who says “I love you” and “I love you too” silence speaks volumes maybe it’s just because of your age, maybe this isn’t a stage maybe you’ve just decided that we weren’t deserving of learning our history in this day in age… so your silent… who would really believe that your mind is it’s own kleptomaniac? who am I to think that? how could anyone forget decades of events that made them? but she can’t answer that just yet, her mind has checked out, her thief has checked in and introduced himself, as Alzheimer’s… but she remembers my hands, matches each fingertip with hers, even our veins go in the same direction, so she knows I’m her, everything she’s forgotten is sitting in front of her. my history, her future, and she remembers…
118 | D u m a s kiss her on the cheek and pray she doesn’t remember that I’ll be back in a few actually means that I’ll be back next December…
Part 5: 360째
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The Fire Michael Hettich I wake late, to find the answer to everything I’ve ever thought I’d need to know lying in a heap in the middle of our living room like a pile of old magazines, or photograph albums, while my wife lights a match and leans down to set the pile on fire. But it doesn’t burn the floor or furniture, and it’s hardly even hot, though the flames rise almost to the ceiling. So the answer to everything, this pile of essentials, burns without burning to ash, while this woman I’ve lived with for years, the mother of our children, sprawls in a fold-up lawn chair beside the fire, reading from a dog-eared manual I gave her one long-ago Christmas, Fifty Ways to Fly Away into Your True Life; she’s drinking a cup of fragrant tea, humming an old folk song of trains and rivers, fields of waving wheat, of a man who done her wrong and a woman who yearns for the voice of the dew in the barley. So I get out my old twelve-string and sing along with her, of hump and resurrection, highways and vast distances, lovers who capture our souls and send us down the demon path—I know all the chords, though I haven’t played for years; and the fire keeps burning as stars seem to come out all across the ceiling like the real stars that glint in the black sky beyond our rituals and carefully-measured-out doses of loss. I play until my fingers bleed,
H e t t i c h | 121 which doesnâ€™t mean I play well. Eventually we crawl into our sleeping bags, and gather up our dreams from wherever we can find them, which is everywhere. And then weâ€™re burning too.
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Dark Dreams Cameron Askew Thunder roars behind me. As I creep carefully down the road, rain beats madly at my windshield, and the wind threatens to rip my sedan from the ground. The national weather warnings on the radio insist that everyone on the east coast stay inside, and my mother shrieks through my headset that I'm out of my mind, but I am resolute. I am driving to see my Father, who has fallen dangerously ill. I struggle against the urge to grin. Everything in the hospital is white, and the lights above are blinding, as if the light can sterilize the place. The lobby is so bright that as I stumble in from the black storm, I must cover my eyes. I look around, feeling oddly out-of-place. I don't realize why until I see my reflection in the glossy linoleum; I'm dressed for a funeral. I left immediately from work when Alisha, my sister, called earlier today, and I hadn't had a chance to change. "Oh my God," she'd sobbed into the receiver, "I'm so scared for him—and there's nothing I can do! All the flights are delayed until this storm lets up. And he's got no one else, you know?" I said that I'd only go because it was the right thing to do, that it was time for my Father and me to put aside our differences, and made a show of groaning in annoyance. I didn't say how excited I was; I didn't say that I had been waiting for this call for as long as I could remember. Even as I comforted her, a burning knot formed in my gut. The fire crept up through my chest and into my arms before it started pooling in my head, and all I saw was red. My hands started to shake, and I grinned in familiarity. This feeling—hatred, probably— was the reason I had graduated from college at sixteen. It was the reason for my greatest successes. It was the reason I fought, tooth and nail, to make sure that I was at the top, that I would never look up at anyone again. I glanced around my office, quickly inhaling the fumes of my triumphs, turned off the lights and bolted giddily for the stairs. There was no time for the elevator. Now, though, I'm taking my time. The receptionist smiles politely as she gives me directions to His room, but there's an expression in her eyes I can't identify. We stand there in silence, cordial but curious, until a thunder clap shakes me, reminding me of why I’ve come. I try to look concernedly hurried as I excuse myself from the
A s k e w | 123 kiosk, but I am in no rush to go upstairs, for two reasons: firstly, I’m nervous; and secondly, I want to enjoy this. I key in the top floor before I check my reflection in the elevator walls. I smooth my hair and shake the water from my deliberately expensive suit jacket to calm myself. I look up as I hear the “ding!” and the doors slide open. I walk casually to His room, careful to maintain my air of confidence. The door is open, and without giving my body a chance to pull back, I throw myself in. His room, bed, and robe are somehow actually whiter than the lobby and hallway were, and once again, I have to squint as my eyes adjust. At first, the brightness unsettles me. Again, I feel like I shouldn’t be here—like there’s no place here for retribution among the clutter of the light. But then the thunder claps and I remember my resolve. I look around. There are no flowers; He has no friends. All around Him are tubes and machines, and His wheezing harmonizes with their beeps and clicks like The Ride of the Valkyries, buoying me up to strike. But I inhale sharply, and close my eyes. Remember, you want to enjoy this. He hasn’t noticed me yet, and is staring off into space with eyes that do not see. So I exhale. I look at Him with the same ice in my eyes He once had, and say, for the first time in twenty years, “Hello, Father.” . . . I was seven, when I saw him last. The little fan whirred obnoxiously to life as my Father sat at the keyboard, and I wanted nothing more than for them-- my Father and his accursed computer-- to die together. The sky outside was conveniently violent, and I couldn't help but hope that lightning would strike the house-- that my Father would sizzle down to a scorch mark on the floor-- and I would never have to set foot in His odious office again. The most I got was a playful peal of thunder. The fan continued to whir, and my Father began to bark. I lost yet another weekend to his tyrannical instruction. His job called him away every week, leaving only Saturdays for him to preach to me about my lack of productivity— to lecture me in things I didn't want to know— to beat me when I forgot the last week's lesson. Early every Saturday morning, I greeted Him at the door with an obligatory hug and a smile, and then we would go to His office. It was dark, save for the computer's cerulean glare; silent, save for Father's voice and the computer's cacophonous fan-blades; still, save
124| A s k e w for my trembling hands. I felt the fire in me even then; I heard it pounding in my head, so loud that the thunder was but a whisper, and Father’s voice was impossible to hear. I was too young to understand its power, then. I thought, naively, that I was trembling in terror. Of course, I hated the shaking and hated the fear, but I had no idea that the shaking was hatred—raw, latent force— leaking out from me. I had no idea what to do with it. He didn't even look at me, most of the time. His face just swam in the blue glow; His eyes were ice. Usually, His voice was just as cold, calm, and impassive. He worked while He spoke-- always working-- His hands glided gracefully and automatically over the keys. He spoke of science and society, of chess and computers, of geometry and God; and I was to listen and learn, to hear and remember. And of course, I forgot. Somewhere during the week, the lines to John 3:16, the shape of the sides in a dodecahedron, the number of bits in a byte, the best opening involving the knight, name of the governor of Maryland, or the chromosome count in a species of cricket would trickle out of my head like water from pipes set to burst. When I did forget, He was quick to remind me. His hands, usually so graceful, hammered the correct answers into place. His voice, usually so calm, roared infinitely louder and infinitely more cacophonous than the fan. His eyes were fire, and the blue that bathed the room drowned in the crimson of His incredulous rage. With each swipe of His hand, He wondered aloud how I had forgotten, and whether I had gotten my stupidity from “that woman,” my mother. Every Saturday. All Saturday. Of course, He treated her no better, and one Saturday morning, Father returned to an empty home. Mother spirited Alisha and me away the Thursday before and had filed for divorce by Friday. I overheard Him roaring at my mother over the phone, and winced as I imagined the office flooded in garnet. I slept soundly— though it was a Saturday night— unafraid of being woken to another mad lecture. I fell asleep as soon as I hit the bed, and I began to dream. I stood wearing black at Death’s side, looming over Father’s bed. I knew it was Him, though He was old. The ice in His eyes and the fire in His voice were unmistakable. He shouted in vain, as He could not rise. Death and I mocked Him, laughing heartily, for He was sure to die. That was the first time I dreamed it, but of course, it was not the last.
A s k e w | 125 . . . The power went out as soon as I spoke, leaving only thunderbolts to light our ultimate confrontation. Now the thunder claps in applause as He wakes from His half conscious stupor and in the harsh spasms of light, the room looks as I had imagined it, and I am at ease. His skin is loose and spotted, and His hair is as white as His gown. I continue to grin, though it infuriates me that He dares wear the color of innocence. But I notice that my hands are shaking, and my affect matches my face, as I recognize that I have the power here, and that I know how to use it. “Is that you, so—” He moans pathetically before I cut Him off. “Don’t. You. Dare.” The tone renders my voice ubiquitous, and its weight shakes Him. He winces and His blind eyes search frantically for the source. He opens his mouth and thinks to speak, but I have seen this scenario a thousand nights before. I am ready. “I heard,” I say, dancing on the last word for effect, “that the doctors don’t know how much time you have left. But I get the feeling it won’t be long now.” He withers in His own skin, but I continue cloyingly. “Shame, ain’t it, that you’ll die alone? See, you beat Mom away,” I spit, “And even Alisha, who tolerates you on occasion, hated you so much that she practically moved to Canada. And yet, I am here. You wanna know why, Father?” He’s crying now—bawling, really— gasping and mouthing the words “I’m sorry.” Again, I fight the urge to laugh. His words are worthless now. I make my way over to him now. I loom over Him with lips stretched in a grin so wide it aches. All I see is red; all I feel is fire; all I want is vengeance. But I stay cool, veiling my ire with a calm more blue than even that wretched computer screen. I look at Him with apathy and the icy gaze He taught me so many years before. At my side, I see a Shadow, and we speak as one, our cold whisper infinitely louder and infinitely more cacophonous than the once mighty shouts of the puny husk before us. “I came to watch you die, you know. Wouldn’t miss it for the world.” All is still, save for my ravenous eyes, devouring the pitiful despair in his; all is silent, save for the rain, clamoring at the window for a closer look. The thunder does not clap; the machines do not beep
126| A s k e w or click; Father doesn’t even bother to wheeze. As I step back, the lights flicker back to life, and I see him for what he really is. He isn’t some great demon to be conquered, or some dark monolith to topple. He is a sad, misguided man— man ravaged by age, disease, and despair; a man mired in guilt and loneliness; a man not afforded the luxury of repentance, who realized too late his sins. Too late? I feel sick as I remember his apology. He was sorry, and had time enough to tell me so. I continue to back away as the guilt of my dark dreams surfaces, and with it, heavy waves of nausea. The sounds, following quickly after the lights, return to the room, and the machines begin one long, mournful “beeeepp…” I know, as I crash to the floor, that it is I who has failed to repent. Death and Hatred are gone and my father left with them, and I begin to weep, as I shall never be forgiven. I stare down at my black suit, feeling once again out of place, and deflated. I have no one to hate; I have no one to fear. As the nurses run frantically into the room, flailing futilely to resuscitate him, I remember the look in the receptionist’s eye. It seems obvious to me now: it was pity. I was a fool.
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DARKNESS Malcolm Dwayne McFarlane Darkness is but the absence of light, where does hope come from when only darkness existsâ€” when light is out of the question? Can one hope for such, When darkness finds every hidden corner, when life becomes vain, because such does not exist in darkness? What can exist in darkness? Breath ceases with the demons of the dark, not because of its power, but only with light can breath liven the dry bones. Can man find life when one cannot discern, to wish upon a star one cannot see? Is it the nature of a man to hope without action? Darkness does not overcome the light, but rules where the light does not lie. The light will continue to rule where darkness cannot develop, but what becomes of the heart trapped in darkness, where maggots and filth are left to lie in shame? Vile hearts have never seen the light, nor could it go unchanged. Woe to such that never see. Light conquers darkness, but what of those who havenâ€™t the chance to see. Darkness holds no mercy for the spirit that was deceived, that cannot recognize the light when it appears. Marked with the sign of rebellion, the unfaithful man dies in the assembly line of the multitudes. More bearable will it be for Egypt, who knew darkness in three, then the man who held light, but dropped it for three more. Into the fiery lake will darkness go, for on earth there will be light only; Thus to light will darkness fail. And those in the light will have no reason to look to the sky, for such glory will be all around
The First and the Last Malcolm Dwayne McFarlane On streets made golden by the broken boot-straps of those under, stood upright he amongst the money plates of such man’s lineage. Born into money, work was a foreign concept; No need for righteousness, for such was glory found in the hearts of men. Beneath streets of gold, sat fetal a man hunched over, of no wealth or creed. Humbled by life, but made with eyes held low. Such man’s righteousness was not enough, work that did not satisfy. In something more such a man’s heart rested in, as he strived through rocks damp with tears. Times told in such men past, rendered crucial in this coming age. Fortitude of class, shrouded in clandestine servitude, was now tarnished with the hoofs of Faithful and True. A man of no wealth found stature in eyes aflame. Inconceivable glory and beauty rested on this man of no appeal, Left despised like the sun that seemed to have died. The last made to be first, Spared from judgment and Wrath. Trial had reached its end, Suffering now made complete. The man of no creed, Inherited eternal wealth; A heir to a divine dynasty, he was Left upright by the treasures of heaven.
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Apocalyptic Malcolm McFarlane 1 Angelically placed somersaults of footprints upon ashes like snow; she danced innocently in shades of gray. Then mounds of burning Bibles invaded her vision. Smoke filled her lungs as she inhaled, such inflamed words flowed to her heart Clinging to her lifeâ€™s blood; Words that brought life, contenting the death that flowed between her toes. Ashes so deep, her skin scarcely felt the wind. Her eyes burned with solitude, for darkness resided selfishly. Meadows thick with the blood of insurrection, Condemn men against dead men, she could not walk without resting her sole upon what remained. Her mind remained fixated on towers of atheism and the marks of those deceived. How grim the world had remained; gloom and fire had charred away any innocence left in the dark brown eyes of this forgotten child. 2 Like a wounded angel, she had now seen the flaws of Godâ€™s creation, a chosen imperfection by beings once made with no blemish. Her hands could not stand the sting as she forced them together, All in hopes of a desperate plea for His return. She now knew the truth she had been blinded from. Her innocence now departed with the peace
130 | M c F a r l a n e that ceased to come. She sat Crisscross in pools of dry blood beckoning her Hero, One who rides a horse so pure. Stretching her finger tips to the sky, her heart beats in desperation, for this was her only hope. It took the threat of death and eternal pain that would run deep to find such hope that did not come from her, for such hope could only come from hopeâ€™s Author. Her heart felt heavy, not with pain, but with conviction apart from herself. She had found faith at the earthâ€™s destruction; when a beast and dragon had appeared, and stripped creation of the truth. But the Word still had power that kept her small feet in joint to be healed. Creation wept like the Savior did; her lungs collapsed as His did. 3 The sky was dim as light began to escape her eyes. Her knees moved to the ground as she panted for life. She panted to be set free. Her life was no stranger to pain, so she began to pant for death, for in such was life the world could not give. Life without the stain of sin, but covered by the blood of her Christ. Jesus was his name, a name that rose high above the heaps of ash and rumble. So many thought He had come, or would never. But in a moment, as she lay clutching her last breath, He had come.
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Vibrating Changming Yuan Did they feel a momentary trembling movement of the earth Around 4 o'clock this morning, when they were still Half asleep, half awake? Have they ever felt that before? Or, have you? I have. I know for sure it's neither an atrial fibrillation Nor an earth quake, rather It's the agitation that is well On its way, with its seismic waves Originated deep, deep In the heart Of our civilization
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In the Forests of the Night Allen Qing Yuan His soul trembles and twirls Like a disco ball lacking the rainbow of spirits The heavens switch on, but the backlight is off Structures’ silhouettes’ shiver against the surface Painting the essence of extraordinary high Delirious on first sight, but more disillusioned the second His vision is scorched by the pounding of fire in his throat The wicked gusts of disapproval emanate from icy eyes gazing A shamed person more than just ashamed He lacks the method of getting home He collapses on the money stacked above him Blinking, gleaming Shimmering, shinin’ Blackout.
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Nature's Cell Allen Qing Yuan the slender and straight trunks seal our vision of the sky like screen bars on a faulty monitor unsure and hesitant the green growth is the only beauty blossoming in our domain its bytes exponentially growing upwards and outwards some shadowed, some shining a canopy of yin and yang a contrast so vivid on a scale of 0-100 the sunlight is a pure purge for the virus skitters away like a shameful puppy breathing life into us, we live free, carefree to rise to the sun-kissed clouds in the open to match the horizon to our eye level Tree-exception standing on the shoulders of your elder wood where the sides curve into faces long, disfigured yet noble your arms embrace outwardly not afraid to be broken, because they are inseparable your veiny growth pumps through the stump, a heartbeat so subtle like a tambourine against the clouds your skin is so thick, yet you are so open learning from the sun
134 | Y u a n feeding yourself with its rays of nourishment you will rise, a living legacy.
Y u a n | 135
Wandering, I Wonder Allen Qing Yuan I wonder if you know, what it means to find your dreams like that dusty baby photo you had no recollection of to gain confidence in a decision not yet made like a healthy bird preparing for its first flight to be the one when you're the only one who knows it like a new butterfly fresh out of the cocoon to have your dreams in your reach and then fail like a naive bear hunting experienced fish to try to perform what is possible but impossible for you like a fish flopping on the beach I wonder if you know, what your dream is.
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Wintry Stanzas Changming Yuan January Standing alone At this coldest spot of the doorway You pause, wondering which door to Knock at, which to Push or pull So you can go inside A warm room where you know You cannot stay for the whole year Nor would you come out of the same door But which to enter: The narrow door with a wide exit Or the wide one with a narrow exit?
February Rolling, flowing, dripping From the palest memories of last year The melting snow stops moving But hung everywhere Like crystals Against the freezing fits of frantic winds With the moon always broken In this shortest month of the pearl No love can be purified No couple can enjoy a full honeymoon
December As the sun sinks deeper every day Into the other side of the world The shadow is getting longer, darker
Y u a n | 137 Making our lives slant more and more Towards night, when nature Tries to balance yin and yang By covering each dark corner With white snowflakes Ever so softly, quietly As each twig frowns hard at twilight Why not give it smile and thus Book a space in heaven? Recalling: For Yuan Hongqi & Liu Yu ‘Wait a while!’ Mother would shout, ‘they say There might be more showers this afternoon.’ So I recalled, from time to time How he would turn a deaf ear to her And continue, dragging out quilts Sheets, pillows, blankets, padded coats One pile after another Like moving forests Hanging them on thick ropes Tied to deformed poplars or lamp posts ‘Not again! This old man of mine just wouldn’t Want to waste a single ray of sunlight.’ And remembered, for nearly half a century My dad had tried each time to empty the whole house And sun-wash everything, more like a grandma Than like a father, even during the Cultural Revolution Now realizing how I have been haunted By his stark image, smiling, in blue, ever since He nodded his head to Mother for the last time About 5 pm on January 2 last year I find myself choked again with gratitude: It was my father who gave me so many a chance To smell fresh sunlight in my boyish nightmares
138 | K a i s e r
Fence and Snow Pamela Kaiser
M a g i k | 139
Smooth Lady Skin and Thunderstorms Sucio DBM Magik Clouds in the city’s sky are orange, and the friction between the sheets and her skin keep me warm. Calm kinetic, Potentially keeping on. Like the taps on the windows, keep keeping on. In weather like this, no one wants to be alone. So we’re creeping and the dark keeps the secrets, no leaks but the water on pane slowing seeping in. Body is the only language we’re speaking in. Arrested in the physical sentences. Dangerous and tempting, beautiful tempest. Weakening of the tension deepening in sensual ascension, Drowning in climactic prisons that’re steep in wonder and sinning. When lightning speaks the thunder must listen. Waterfalls submerged in subtle collision never missing in any position. Beat and dropped into submission. Leaving a fulfilled puddle of wishes. And when it’s finished we both know what this is and cuddling could lead to future troubling, from a distance, clouds of grief bring in silent winds. No one around to hear us whispering. “Where will this go?” “I never know. Let it flow, let it be. Our reign just started and there no ending to the stream.”
140 | R o a c h
Heliocentric Breauna Roach Honorable Mention, FAMU Writing Contest Did we ascend by way of sheaths of tree trunks, barking praise to our designer, praying beside each palm print for purity of purpose? Did we evaporate like condensed water, levitate; extraterrestrial carbon-dusted- Blackdiamond-footed -tree climbers? Or do we still look upward ; view branches as blockades, leaves as left reminders of failed attempts? Or do we tip the tightrope, still regarding the sun as center?
A s k e w | 141
Florentine Machine Cameron Askew The tired old man had been too ill for too long. Technology, that arcane magic he called his craft, had reached its limits: he was dying. Of course, hardly anyone died anymore. The advent of advanced cybernetic prosthetics made biological decay as grave as tooth decay had been, when it was possible. And yet, there he lay, dreaming fitfully to the slowing rhythm of his own heartbeat, even as the very neurons that propagated his dreams blinked out -- one by one like the ancient electric torches that used to lead men through the dark. His writhing was not for fear of dying of age. No, he had come to terms with his failing health. What the scientist could not abide were his dreams-- his nightmares-- of the cure for his ailments. The old man woke to the sound of a young girl entering the room. Her footsteps were inaudible, but he knew her by the gentle purr of the fan blades in her back. He smiled, as glad for her antiquated architecture as he was for her timeliness: the newer models could come and go as silently as the night, and he very much liked to know when she was near. He turned his smile to his handiwork. Though he had created the android in his youth-- almost immediately after he came into his substantial means and long before he had earned his title as “the Father of Modern Robotics”-- she remained a triumph of engineering. Unhindered by the public stockholders’ immutable expectations of mediocrity and their insatiable appetites for monetization, he was able to create a machine infinitely more capable than anything the mass market could dream of, for he had spared no expense in her design. Now, nearly a century later, her delicate chassis still shone brightly in the light of his bedroom, for he spared no expense in her maintenance. “I don’t think I can do it, Trix,” he sighed. “I can’t let them kill me.” Concern flashed across her face: the whisper of a wrinkle dancing across her porcelain skin, but her gait continued, light and unwavering as a shaft of sunlight. “Master, why would anyone wish you harm? You have no enemies,” Beatrix said, feigning confidence. Still, her eyes, emerald as her Florentine namesake’s, darted back and forth as she searched her memories-- the twelve thousand square foot
142 | A s k e w supercomputer that housed her mind-- before she looked up and nodded, sure of her assertion. “My operation, as you know, involves prosthetics,” the old man chuckled in a wary gesture of consolation. “They say they’ll have to replace... well, everything. All of me. But I fear I may not survive the transplant. I don’t think my heart can take it.” She sighed, relieved at her master’s ignorance. He was a stubborn naturalist, she knew; he had never had so much as an arm replaced. She had always found it odd that a man so beguiled by machines was so adverse to wearing them. She looked up, initiating a hypertext connection with the nearest satellite, and recited, “‘According to a study conducted by the United States Cybernetic Medical Association, Full Body Neuroprosthesis, also known as ‘Off-loading’ or ‘Botting’ is a--’” “‘--perfectly safe process.’ I know that,” he interrupted her. Her face dropped back to concern. “Then you should know that the procedure is harmless, yes? No one ever dies.” “No,” he said. “I suppose most people don’t think so. But I suppose...” he paused to cough. “...I’m not most people. I-I shudder at the thought of giving medical consent to the surgical implementation of my own doppelganger. I am very much afraid.” “Doppelganger? People undergo this procedure everyday. Their minds come out of the operating room unchanged, save for their fragility. You’ll... be the same. You’ll be fine.” “Will I?” he said. “The old body doesn’t just go away. They,” he coughed again, “...eliminate the original. When they’re done, they’ll ‘euthanize’ me: cast me aside like refuse, with my original mind-- with me-- intact.” He winced at the thought, looking down in his mind’s eye to see that the icy fingers of death were of his own hands. “But it won’t be you they put to sleep,” she insisted. “You’ll be here, with me. You’ll be free of this bed; you’ll be happy.” “I’m here now, confined to this bed,” he looked away, for her pleading was nearly enough to make him believe. He frowned: he would need more than her innocence to convince him. “If a man walks out of here with my face, with my clothes, with my memories, can you promise me that I-- the me I am now-- will have finally left this bed? I can’t sign that consent form without knowing, though the answer is there. My mind is old, you see. I am incapable of reaching the proper conclusion alone.”
A s k e w | 143 Beatrix spared a pitiful face before she mused, “‘The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their place, insomuch that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.’” Theseus’s Ship-- he knew it well. “They call it a paradox for a reason. That is not the answer,” he sighed. “Am I the shining ship in Athens's port, or the rotten one on the ocean floor? I am still afraid, I fear.” As she listened to her maker’s words, she searched. Elsewhere, her mind began to hum as she focused her attention to a blade for cutting through his doubt: this time, she was ready. “Your fear is borne of forgetfulness,” she said gently. “You must remember that Aristotle has solved the paradox, by way of his four causes. You fear the loss of your material cause, the loss of the parts that form your whole, but your formal cause-- the man I call my maker, the man I call my friend-- will remain, despite your operation. The shape of a vase is unchanged by the water that fills it.” The old man laughed bitterly, careful still not to meet her eyes, and threw up his unsteady arms. “And so, every vase with the same shape is interchangeable? It matters not, when one shatters; of course! Another vase-- the very same vase-- is already set to take its place! That thing and I are not the same.” Beatrix winced in spite of herself. Thing? In her extrapolations of the conversation, she hadn’t failed to see that he might take offense, but she never imagined that his words, ever mellifluous and comforting as honey, could sting with the mindlessness of a crazed bee. Traditional philosophy would not help here. She turned to a medium he could not deny. “What, then, are you? How do you quantitatively define your ‘self’?” she pressed, folding her arms. “I have said: I am here,” he gestured about himself. “I am the amalgam of 67 and a third kilograms of carbon and oxygen, the man that occupies this very space.” “And yet,” she said slowly, “your definition is limited to three dimensions. What of the fourth?” The hum between her processors was
144 | A s k e w like the panting of a jogger now, steady, but labored. “You have not always been what you are now. The atoms in your hands are not the same ones that were there when you molded me.” Her maker lifted his head to the window. “Rather, you-- your hands, your eyes, and even your mind-- make up a four dimensional shape through which those ‘constituent’ atoms flow. A river does not change its name as water comes and goes.” “Perdurantism?” The scientist’s eyes widened at the sound of his native tongue and at the peripheral glimmer of hope. He nodded as he considered the android’s words. They were enough to smooth his furrowed brow, but they were not enough to ease his mind. “This is not to say that four dimensional objects are without ends. Who is to say that my form in space-time does not end on the operation-- who is to say that it will arc away with my memories?” Then he stopped. He thought of his magnum opus, of all the years she stood by his side. He thought of all of the parts he had installed and replaced, of the countless times he’d replaced her body, of the countless times he’d “upgraded” her mind while she slept. I spared no expense, he thought. He turned to Beatrix, his creation, his daughter, his muse, and his guide, with weight in his heart and with tears in his eyes. “How do you know, Trix? After all of the times I’ve reinstalled and replaced and rebooted your mind-how do you know that you are still yourself?” Beatrix paused. There was no query to run, no search to be executed. All twelve thousand square feet were silent; not one cycle turned on any of her million parallel processors. The only sound across the estate was the purr of her fan blades. She spoke with as much certainty in her emerald eyes as there was love in her mechanical heart. “I believe,” she said. “Every morning, when I boot up, I believe I am myself. Every night, when I shut down, I believe that I’ll still be: just as I believe you’ll choose the right path. That you will be here tomorrow. Such, Father, is the nature of faith.”
C o n t r i b u t o r s | 145
146 | C o n t r i b u t o r s Barry Archie Barry Archie II is a graduating Business Administration student with a minor in Marketing. His favorite book is Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. His piece “In the Clouds” won Honorable Mention in Florida A&M University’s sixth annual writing contest. Cayla Buck Cayla Buck is a first year Biology Pre-Med student from the small city of Sandersville, Georgia. When she first began writing, she was at a period in her life where she felt as though the world were against her just like any other adolescent. There was no one to talk to, so her pencil and paper became her best friends. She cried on the college-ruled lines and fought her enemies through the black pen ink. As she became older and my troubles simmered down, she brought her creativity into the papers she would write and the letters to her boyfriends she typed. Benjamin Arda Doty Benjamin A. Doty received an MFA from the University of Minnesota, but resides in Gainesville, FL. His fiction has appeared in the Coe Review, Literary Imagination, the Colorado Review and Southword, among other places. Anitra Eillison Anitra Ellison is a graduate of Florida A&M University with a B.S. in Journalism. She has written for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, The Capitol Outlook, Tallahassee Magazine, Journey Magazine, CLUTCH Magazine, CaKe and VOICES. She currently resides in Douglasville, GA. Tarolyn Granthum Tarolyn C Granthum is a Senior Economics Student from Mobile, Alabama. She is a cadet in the FAMU Army ROTC Program where she has been able to travel to Senegal and have a culture immersion experience as well as being trained to be a parachutist for the United States Army. Upon graduation Miss Granthum will be commissioning as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army and embarking on her career at her first duty station in Italy. She enjoys traveling, baking, crocheting, exercising, writing, and blogging.
C o n t r i b u t o r s | 147 Michael Terrell Young-Harris Michael Terrell Young-Harris is a 21 year old from Minneapolis, MN. He is a 4th year History major with a minor political science at Florida A&M University. Michael is a scholar, Oral Historian and Voices Poet. Michael Hettich Michael Hettich's most recent books of poetry are LIKE HAPPINESS (Anhinga, 2010) and THE ANIMALS BEYOND US (New Rivers, 2011). His most recent chapbook, THE MEASURED BREATHING, won the 2011 Swan Scythe Press Chapbook award. Other awards include three Fellowships from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs and The Tales Prize. he lives in Miami. Miciotto Johnson II 3rd Year English Major at FAMU Military Brat currently at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Deanna Jones Deanna Jones attends Florida A&M University. She is a second year criminal justice student with a minor in theater from Boynton Beach, Florida. Philip C. Kolin Philip C. Kolin, University Distinguished Professor in the College of Arts and Letters at the Univ. of Southern Mississippi, is the Editor of the Southern Quarterly. He has published more than 40 books and 200 scholarly articles on Tennesee Williams, Shakespeare, Edward Albee, and such contemporary African American playwrights as Adrienne Kennedy and Suzan-Lori Parks. A poet as well, Kolin's newest book of poems is Reading God's Handwriting (Kaufmann Publishing, 2012). His poems have appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, South Carolina Review, Cape Rock, America, Spiritus, Christian Century, Louisiana Literature, Windhover, Poems & Plays, etc. Cengage/Wadsworth has published the 10th edition of his widely respected Successful Writing at Work.
148 | C o n t r i b u t o r s Sucio DBM Magik Sucio DBM Magik was born 1988 years after Christ near the Fountain of Youth. Now he lives timelessly in Tallahassee producing poetry and computer graphics. He falls between the cracks and crevices of earth, like dirt, searching for messages that have worth. Interpreting the world, listening to the language of life since birth. Lauren McDade Lauren McDade is a writer of fiction and poetry and a student at Florida A&M University who asserts that she doesn't care much for back story. Malcolm Dwayne McFarlane Malcolm is a graduating senior at Florida A&M University. He will be leaving FAMU with a Bachelor's of Science in Political Science with a minor in Writing. He enjoys poetry, reading, and most things fun. He defines himself first and foremost by the faith he has in Jesus and credits his artistic abilities and ideas to that same faith. "Live to die, die to live". Clare Mobley Clare Mobley is a third year English Major who was born on the beautiful island of Trinidad, grew up in Jamaica, and has been living in Tallahassee for the past three and a half years. She loves reading, writing, and learning about different languages and cultures. In the future, she hopes to teach English as a second language throughout the Spanish-speaking world. Yaminah Mujahid-Lambert Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, Yaminah Mujahid-Lambert is a graduating senior majoring in Architecture. She enjoys sipping mocha lattes with friends until the wee hours of the night and snuggling up with her family for movie nights. Her future plans include becoming a licensed architect, forming an architectural publication, and becoming an accomplished novelist and screenplay writer. Joseph Navarro Joseph Navarro is a 2013 graduate of the Florida A&M University Department of English. He was born into a military family in San
C o n t r i b u t o r s | 149 Francisco, but spent his childhood in Maryland, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida. He will begin a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Naropa University in the Fall of 2013. T.L. Orange T.L. Orange is a 23-year-old creative writer out of Miami, Florida seeking to touch hands with the world through literature and the many forms of contemporary art. He is currently working on a poetry collection titled "Love360" along with many other endeavors. T.L. Orange is an aspiring playwright/ screenwriter, as well as the co-owner of the up and coming H.E.R.U Publishing, and a member of Heathland Xpress Enterprises. He is an alumni of Florida State University with a degree in Sociology. Hailey Ray Hailey Ray is a first year public relations major minoring in psychology from West Orlando Florida. She has always had a love for writing and received perfect scores on the FCAT writes in 4th and 8th grade. Her other hobbies include arts and crafts, singing, rapping and acting. Breauna Roach Breauna Roach is a senior at Florida A&M University with a major in English. She is the winner of the Inaugural Gwendolyn Brooks Writers Associationâ€™s Poetry Prize, 2012 winner of Florida A&M Universityâ€™s Writing Contest, and a member of Lambda Iota Tau Literary Honor Society. Her work has appeared in Ambiance Literary Magazine, The Detroit Free Press, Revelry Literary Magazine and various other publications. Breauna is a Cave Canem Fellow, a founding member of VOICES Poetry Group, and a Back Talk Poetry Troupe member. Post graduation she will be seeking an MFA in Creative Writing. Breauna was born and raised in Detroit, MI and is the Editor of CaKe: a Journal of Poetry and Art. Lorrin Rucker Lorrin Rucker is a 22-year-old Criminal Justice student minoring in African-American studies hailing from Marietta, Ga.
150 | C o n t r i b u t o r s McQuisha Kendly Smith McQuisha Kendly Smith is a 22 year old senior Sociology major and lover of the arts at Florida A&M University. She is the founder of FAMU’s first and only poetry organization VOICES, established October 2, 2009. She is a member of Tallahassee’s community poetry organization Back Talk poetry troupe, with an extensive background in dance and theatre. After graduation she plans to attend graduate school to obtain a Master’s in Acting. She intends to become a teacher, in hopes to engage underprivileged youth through art in the classroom. Amanda Stephens Born and raised in West Palm Beach Amanda isn’t your average urban child. She sees through her third eye and her creativity exceeds multiple levels. She is the youngest out of four beautiful girls. Amanda also has on older brother and one little brother. Growing up in a house full of kids was exciting for, but also annoying. She found her outlet through the pictures she painted and the poems she wrote. Amanda always stood out as “different” or “weird” in school so she kept to herself sometimes and focused on her art work. Amanda started doing photography at Suncoast High School and she hasn’t stopped; winning two scholarships for photography and one for poetry. Amanda Stephens is Photoshop CS4 and CS5 certified, so she chargers for her work. She attends Florida A & M University and is an active member of Voices Poetry Group. Her photos are captivating and unique. Her poems are emotional and diverse. She does photo shoots around the campus and makes logos and fliers for different organizations. Her dream is to one day open a chain of photography studios around the country that gives photo shoots to local artist, singers, dancers, models that are trying to become famous. Chereey Strong Chereey Strong attends the University of Montevallo. She is currently pursuing a bachelor of science in communication studies and hopes to become an established author in children and teen literature. She enjoys volunteering and working with children. Her inspirations are Maya Angelou, Walter Dean Myers, and Sharon Draper. She loves using her imagination and expressing it in her writings, and she hopes to become an inspirational writer for the generations to come.
C o n t r i b u t o r s | 151 Danielle Sutton Danielle M. Sutton is a third year psychology major from Winter Haven, FL. Denis Tavares Denis Tavares is a third year Business Administration student from Brooklyn, New York. In his spare time, he enjoys playing sports and video games. He comes from a family of 3, with 2 half-sisters. He is currently 20 years of age. L. Denise Taylor Taylor was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, adopted, and raised in Tallahassee, Florida. Growing up, she found solace in reading fantasy and science fiction as well as writing a few of her own outlines. She is currently an English major attending Florida A&M University. She started getting more serious about my writing poetry and short stories while attending Fairview Middle School and James S. Rickards High School. In the future, she hopes to publish several books in different genres and be a successful English professor. LeVander Thomas LeVander Thomas is a second-year student pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Social Work at Florida A&M University. Coming from the little-known-town of Arlington, Georgia, LeVander has deeply rooted her personality in the idea of “southern hospitality.” She is a frequent volunteer in the Tallahassee community, working in association of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church and FAMU Big Sister, Little Sister. After receiving her master’s degree in Environmental Science, she plans to work as an advocate on behalf of those affected by environmental racism and other miscarriages of justice. Mitchelle Ray-Williams Mitchelle Ray-Williams is an alumni from Florida A&M University and received her Bachelor of Science in graphic design. She is a freelance graphic designer who has designed for FAMU's campus magazine, Journey Magazine, and the campus newspaper, The FAMUan, as well as Ropeadope Records and New Orleans', 504Magazine. In addition to being a graphic designer, Williams is also a creative writer in which she has had work published in anthologies
152 | C o n t r i b u t o r s such as Young Poets: Florida Fall 2004 and FAMU's 1101 English book, Mosaics: Focusing on Essays 2008. With her love of writing combined with the design skills she acquired at FAMU, her ultimate goal is to establish a literary magazine that features and connects with modern youths. In the meantime, Williams resides in New Orleans, Louisiana enjoying the newlywed life with her bass playing husband and their eccentric, overgrown pup. Changming Yuan Changming Yuan, 4-time Pushcart nominee and author of Allen Qing Yuan, holds a PhD in English, teaches independently, and edits Poetry Pacific in Vancouver (Poetry submissions welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org). Yuan's poetry appears in 689 literary publications across 25 countries, including Barrow Street, Best Canadian Poetry (2009, 2012), BestNewPoemsOnline, Exquisite Corpse, London Magazine and Threepenny Review.