The yellow sun had halved, and the year was indeterminate.
___I had crossed the ocean in reverse to meet him on the beach.
Our guests collected their bones from the floor and rose to greet me.
___A man with the surname Donkor (slave). Mine was Gargaɗi (caution).
___Sprung off how our darkness paired.
We spoke in Hausa, though through time we broke into trade language.
___For instance, in order to say, “I once loved you.”
_________We had a night wedding in the captive tradition.
______A separate ceremony for each just-acquired lord.
___For a wedding gift, each forged us an iron collar inscribed with gospel.
______To each we offered our declarations of fidelity.
___Our first dance happened in ankle fetters.
Our first dance had been our first touch. We whispered hurriedly of
___how long it had been since last we had seen each other.
We fed each other karkashi, burukutu, roast plantain, and fried pork back.
___We turned indoors where we claimed rhythm as our portion.
Fate coming soon to silhouette, we thought to hyphenate our destinations.
___I listened as our bone people shouted for him to break me for my blood.
for Freddie Gray
since the king of any hood be he who best shuffles, shuttles
our hordes of undead: since torching the blazing bundle—
who promised, as a final gift, to be the first breath
of smog for mama’s remaining mornings: since eviction
be rule of law: bullets the gods—for their seizure, for
their thermodynamics, for their aching after praise and shout:
you and i are the taboo, queer for our clutch and seeing
i-against-i: since the blessing of forgiveness at every hastened
leaving: since the landlord’s sentinels ride rough to shatter
spines, lest the rest of us forget: since with any easy holler,
we too will be left twinless, clanless, privileged only the luck
of the riot, without any place at all to take our rest—
In from the Rain
My name in the movie will be “unknown thot #3,” but good
friends may still call me Chek for short. Dew is sticking
to the fishnets which stick to my thighs which hunger
after your fingerprints. A load of epithelia, precisely.
Goddamn if I ain’t my mother’s kid. I look so fine
in this black velvet dress. Even while getting it grimy
in the alley. The rain all around. Your kisses sticking
too while we grunt in the same place where someone
later will have to sleep. I’d never promised to give you 100.
Above all, the blue and green neon eeks PARADISE.
This particular moment is the whole movie. It’s a rom-com,
but for clueless queers. We’ll cast Monster-era
Charlize Theron as your absent mother. We’ll cast Denzel
as my absent father. Hella cameos from all the salty folks
who had they mans or they girl snatched up by me.
Corrupting the weak. Little sympathy as such.
All I could do was tidy up the house a little, sneak a slice
of cake from the fridge. But I’m gone by now. I’m back
inside and drying off. I’m updating my recipes again
for miyan taushe and pecan pie. Contemplating how to embody
believably. Ideally before dawn. Yusef Lateef is playing.
The vape pen is fully charged. What Ma doesn’t know won’t
hurt much. And soon this won’t be my beautiful home. Those
won’t be my succulent houseplants. That won’t be my beautiful
dog. I’ll have gone off somewhere warm. You’ll be somewhere
thinking of me. Now I’ve gone to bed where I may consider— a
s a way to go, when the time comes, if granted the choice—death
by volcano. Lining the rim, another cameo from those salty folks.
(Y’all see your redemption? Y’all get to watch me burn.)
How often do you neglect your joy? Witness now with open eyes,
as I enter permanently into my favored visions. Each offering
a glimpse into the next incarnation. I love the one where I become
a horse. I dance on Saturn’s rings. My remnants no longer matter.
In the void all colors fully present. Born violently, yet born.
CHEKWUBE DANLADI is the author of Semiotics (UGA Press, September 2020), selected by Evie Shockley as the winner of the 2019 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. From Lagos by way of West Baltimore, she currently lives in Chicago.