DC Pride Poem-a-Day celebrates queer love! We are proud to present 30 short videos, in celebration of National Pride Month. Each video features a different poet from the greater Washington, DC region, reading an original love poem. Videos highlight the talent, diversity and richness of poets from the national capital who identify as LGBTQ+. A new poem will be released daily in June 2022, and all will be archived for continued viewing.
“Some Nights” by Dan Vera
Some nights I come to bed late, because you are the early riser, the dog asleep at your side, your breath in rhythm with her snoring, or reversed, but always intertwined, And I move gingerly into bed not to rouse you two from dreaming with my own settling down, and I lie there glad in this restful harmony so much so I can't help myself but move so slowly to your ear and whisper, I love you I love you I love you into your dreaming
So that I imagine the breeze in the trees on your forest walk is whispering that refrain, or the gurgling brook or the soaring bird overhead is singing it to you clearly now,
And if it's a nightmare you are in, it takes a sudden turn for joy when the magistrate declares the jury has found you unanimously loved, or the jeering crowd has abruptly changed to cheers to see it's your beautiful heart on parade in the public square of their now blessed town where bells are pealing in adoration.
Let it be for me to attest that in all places, even in your dreams, you are loved, you are loved, you are loved.
All rights reserved. ® Dan Vera
Dan Vera is a writer, editor, watercolorist, and literary historian. The recipient of the Oscar Wilde Award for Poetry and the Letras Latinas/Red Hen Poetry Prize, he’s the co-editor of Imaniman: Poets Writing In The Anzaldúan Borderlands (Aunt Lute Books) and author of two books of poetry, Speaking Wiri Wiri (Red Hen Press) and The Space Between Our Danger and Delight (Beothuk Books). His work is featured by the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts and included in college and university curricula; various journals including Notre Dame Review, Poet Lore, and Beltway Poetry Quarterly; and in anthologies including Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology, The Traveler’s Vade Mecum, and The Queer South: LGBTQ Writers on the American South.
- Find Dan online:
Dan Vera is a resident of Brookland .
Reprinted with the permission of the author.
“Love Poem: Satyr” by Malik Thompson
Love Poem: Satyr
after Donika Kelly
Tonight I set the chalice aside &, behind me, I’ve finally shut the door. Out here, a chill wind speaks to me
of wild trees & their cavortings with lightning.
Love, I recall the stories you’d tell in languid night-drenched whispers,
our slender bed ablaze, dark fire pulsing in my bones. In your absence, I’ve become
something lusting & something lost.
I enter the pub & exit with a chain of paper men
entangled in my horns—
Malik Thompson is a Black queer man from Washington, DC. He is a bibliophile and baked goods connoisseur. He works as a bookstore manager for Black, queer-owned Loyalty Bookstores in Petworth, DC, and is current co-chair of OutWrite DC, an annual DC LGBTQ+ literary festival.
- Find Malik online:
Malik Thompson is a resident of Mt. Pleasant.
“This Is Not A Love Poem” by Kathi Wolfe
This Is Not a Love Poem There were no lovers’ serenades, candle-lit dinners, bridal trains, towering cakes, solemn vows. One night, we dressed in torn shorts, ripped tops, flip-flops. We’d forgotten to clean the cat’s litter box. The light bulb above our heads went out. Next door the neighbor’s six-year-old played chop-sticks on the piano. Sure, let’s get hitched, we agreed, digging into the mac and cheese. We exchanged Ring-Dings. Our tongues will never forget the taste.
Kathi Wolfe’s poetry has appeared in _The New York Times, Poetry Magazine, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, _and other publications. Love and Kumquats: New and Selected Poems (BrickHouse Books) is her most recent collection. Wolfe has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is a contributor with the Washington Blade, DC's LGBTQ+ paper.
Previously appeared in Mollyhouse. Reprinted with permission of the editors.
“Bedford-Nostrand” by keondra bills freemyn
the G train is a gamble no reasonable human being should take unless, of course, liquor or love is involved
profound musings casually pitched into the throws of late nights and mixed company while hailing unmarked cabs at unspeakable hours wearing little more than that look of self-pleasure and your best leather skirt
you bend with the breeze of an unnamed desire never mind that it’s a little too cold for bare legs and vodka on ice tonight
never mind that it’s a little too late for an exchange of our most intimate desires in the backseat of a black sedan
the night has led us here somewhere between Nostrand Avenue and a subtle invitation for coffee in the morning
we ignore what’s at risk, choosing to imagine a world where the only conflict of our post-lovemaking routine is which side of Bedford we will venture for poached eggs and Americanos
my fantasy is interrupted by the glimmer of your eyes beneath the moonlight of a shifting season
i wonder if there is space for me there amid that storied gaze and your earnest effort to conceal it
most pegged you as a force of a woman, but only i knew where you’d been stitched together at the seams
sometimes by the will of others, more often by a needle and twine of your own making
keondra bills freemyn is a lover and storyteller originally from South Central Los Angeles. Inspired by the extraordinary beauty of ordinary things, she has shared her work at Recess, The Wing, and the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center, among others. She is author of the poetry collection Things You Left Behind and the forthcoming collection, Haiku for Lovers.
Previously appeared in Things You Left Behind. Reprinted with permission of 67th Street Storytellers.
“Dedication” by Michelle Ott
I did not think I deserved someone like you. I have always thought my hair too knotted to be undone by your slender pianist fingers, my scars too dark and jagged to be stitched closed under the anesthesia of your voice in my ear, a feather- soft whisper lingering on my neck. A hot, thick downpour when I cried my wretched tears, I could not understand why you pooled them in your hands. I could not understand why you would want to. I did not think I deserved someone like you: but this is not a matter of deserving. This is a matter of choosing. To unlock the front door and let light leak through the crack, to surrender to the gentleness of your hand chiseling away the calcification of my heart, to find it within me to love myself as an act of loving you.
Michelle Ott is an emerging poet from the Mid-Atlantic. She is an MFA student at American University earning her degree in Creative Writing, and also serves as the Community Outreach Coordinator for the university’s literary magazine, Folio. Her poetry has been previously published in the Northern Virginia Writers’ Project’s anthology Falling for the Story, and will soon be featured in Black Fox Literary Magazine. She currently lives in Washington, D.C.
Michelle Ott is a resident of Van Ness.
“Missed Call” by Christopher Alexandria-Bernard Thomas
Missed Call You've reached the voicemail of the man that used to love you. Placed no one above you. The man who watched the sun rise and set before you. All that's left...a lost signal from a broken heart.
I loved you... I remember reaching out to touch you. Your response, leaving my emotions unread.
Unlimited minutes questioning if my intentions for loving you were worth it. Nights alone, filled with laughing ringtones. Calling you was a joke---me the punchline. I disconnected a piece of me every time I speed dialed your name.
Foolish to think your heart would answer or acknowledge me.
No emoji for the nights I spent wondering where you were yet knowing another carrier was holding you. Caressing you. Sexing you. Giving you what you wanted!
Hanging up is your thing. You live for prepaid affairs. No commitment to a love of your own.
No rollover for the minutes burned crying for you. My love, an incoming call accepted on your terms otherwise ignore button hit. This relationship has been disconnected. Past due notices received long ago—I never paid them any attention.
I'm confessing a love treated like one-night stands—even then calls were dropped.
Maybe I should have loved you through text message, disabled autocorrect to make lying easy. Should've swiped my affection LOL followed with: "Of course I love you! Bae why you trippin?"
Gave you my all; wanted nothing but you in return. Your plans? Limited in coverage. Wrong extension from day one, my bad for misdialing.
I’ve redialed the day we met. Never thought you'd hurt me. Confused chirps from your cricket as a heartbeat. I built my life around you.
I loved you so much. Placed no one above you. Watched the sun rise and set before you. Everything we had was a blocked call.
The heart you've dialed will not receive any more of your heartache. Don't bother to leave a message. Hang up and never try again.
Copyright © 2022
C. Alexandria-Bernard Thomas is true force of nature and a necessary voice for uplifting the community and inspiring hope. Witnessing him perform, teaching in the classroom, or during a speaking engagement is experiencing love in action. Non-binary, ladies, and gentlemen, C. Alexandria-Bernard Thomas!
“Ghazal: San Jose” by Jona Colson
Ghazal: San Jose
I remember when he kissed me in San Jose, in La Plaza de la Cultura in the early evening of San Jose.
As beads of perspiration formed underneath his hands, we walked through the streets of San Jose.
I canvassed the bed to wake him in his dreams where I speak to him in English, not the Spanish of San Jose.
In the window as he dressed, the glass showed the pink of his body. Soft lamplight fell across him from the city of San Jose.
Not far from Calle Zamora he kissed me again then walked away. I watched him fade into the city of San Jose.
Jona Colson’s first poetry collection, Said Through Glass, won the 2018 Jean Feldman Poetry Prize from the Washington Writers’ Publishing House. His poems, translations and interviews can be found in Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, and The Writer’s Chronicle. He is also the poetry editor of WWPH Writes (a bi-weekly literary journal). He is an associate professor of ESL at Montgomery College in Maryland and lives in Washington, DC.
Jona Colson is a resident of Dupont Circle.
“Tinguage” by Natasha Sajé
What you do to me. With me. What I’ve learned to do with you. A language of bliss, a sublingual, interlingual, bilingual tale that lasts from labial lark through the long light of dawn. A trickle of terroir layered in taste, liquid as thirst. More than touch, less than labor, this lesson in tilt and lather. The tang of a lyre of skin, a lick of liberal tact in tandem. Our own langue d’oc, turtled in time and tinkered by thrill. It’s not lex, not law— but logos, the tabor and talisman of love.
Natasha Sajé is the author of five books of poems, a postmodern poetry handbook, and a memoir-in-essays, Terroir: Love, Out of Place (Trinity UP, 2020). She teaches at the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing Program.
Natasha Sajé is a resident of Cleveland Park.
Previously appeared in Vivarium (Tupelo, 2014). Reprinted with permission of the author.
“Winter Hours” by Francisco Aragón
Winter Hours Look
at him, curled in a large, plush chair, wrapped in sable fur, fireplace glowing just beyond, the angora nosing the fabric of his shirt, a porcelain vase beside the folding screen, draped with silk, his eyes subtle filters allowing sleep to seep through. He enters in silence, takes off his gray coat, pecks the slender rose of his face, a fleur-de-lis —Amado wakes, smiles, snow general over París. after Rubén Darío’s “De invierno”
Francisco Aragón is the son of Nicaraguan immigrants. His books include: After Rubén (Red Hen Press), Glow of Our Sweat (Scapegoat Press), and Puerta de Sol (Bilingual Press). He’s also the editor of The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry (University of Arizona Press). A native of San Francisco, CA, he is on the faculty of the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies, where he directs their literary initiative, Letras Latinas. He has read his work widely, including at universities, bookstores, art galleries, the Dodge Poetry Festival and the Split This Rock Poetry Festival.
- Find Francisco online:
Previously appeared in After Rubén (Red Hen Press, 2020).
“Meeting” by Joseph Ross
Meeting for Robert
We weren’t supposed to meet that night. But the
June evening air was ready to speak. Friends
laughed around us in their own language.
We spoke in words and sipped the water
beneath the words. I told you my father’s name;
you whispered yours. Our mothers were already
conspiring in our mutual joy. The wooden walls of that
dining room baptized us with quiet longing.
You wrote your number on a green paper napkin
that found its way to my skin. I held it close,
between my fingers and my chest. I still hold it
there. I saw kindness at the edges of your eyes. I felt
a trembling at the edges of my breath, as if someone
were playing a cello in the distance. As if I had forgotten
the song’s name but not its ache.
Joseph Ross is the author of four books of poetry: Raising King, (2020) Ache, (2017) Gospel of Dust, (2013), and Meeting Bone Man, (2012).
Previously appeared in Ache, 2017, published by Sibling Rivalry Press. Reprinted with permission of the author.
“adventures of the third limb” by Saida Agostini
adventures of the third limb
I want to name our cock chocolate thunder, tammy thinks I have lost my mind. I see our cock as a blaxsploitation heroine resplendent in the finest of neon spandex, draped in golden chains and a velvet cape, stiff in resolution to kick any jive turkey punk muthafucka ass into submission.
our cock has framed pictures of prince on the wall, and listens to deon estus to show her sensitive side.
she is fluent in seven languages, drinks dos equis, can paint, sing gospel, praise dance and is head usher at the church of dynamic discipleship. our cock is the renaissance dick, and if you are looking at her sideways: bitch, what has your cock done for you lately?
our cock doesn’t hide when company comes, stalks out butt naked in sequined pumps, shining with lube, sits spread eagled on the dinner table and says embarrassing shit about things she would do to kerry washington.
and when everyone else leaves, and only the three of us are left, all limbs and laughter, she pulls me and tammy closer, our pussies climbing up her veined girth.
this is how we fit together-loud, tight and eager, our wails her composition, agitated aching notes-accesso and broken chord. in the studio later with smokey, outfitted in a double breasted stacey adams suit, matching gators, pinky ring and straw panama hat, she’ll share a blunt, and then play cruisin while talking shit about how hard we came, and the scent of wet -but in that moment, oh! my love!
Saida Agostini is a queer Afro-Guyanese poet whose work explores the ways Black folks harness mythology to enter the fantastic. She is the author of Stunt (Neon Hemlock, 2020), a chapbook reimagining the life of Nellie Jackson, a Black madam and FBI spy from Natchez Mississippi. Her first full length collection, let the dead in _(_Alan Squire Publishing) was released in Spring 2022.
Previously appeared in let the dead in. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
“Sidle and Fold” by Hiram Larew
Sidle and Fold If I could roll over, roll over, roll over If I could might turning and see that it’s true If I could at waking or blanket or shoulder If I could hope closer and reach o’clock through Then I would make restless You would sleep bold I would companion Like sidle and fold. I would want boldness Nearer and near I would have fingers Crossing the fear Crossing the linen Crossing first pledge I would have fingers Crossing the edge. If I could roll over, roll over, roll over If I could touch ever and know beyond clue If I could at stretching or window or grinning If I could relying and start assume new Then I could do knowing You could grab hold I could beginning Like daybreak and roll.
Hiram Larew's poems have appeared widely, most recently in Poetry South, Contemporary American Voices and Honest Ulsterman. His most recently collection, Mud Ajar, was issued by Atmosphere Press in 2021.
- Find Hiram online:
This poem first appeared in Freezer Burn. Reprinted with permission of the author.
“Like/As” by Kristen Zory King
Each early love a hushed and broken simile: black bra padded, peeking through tank top sheer as—
bubble gum warm and pink around her tongue like— the red-laced stamp of shin guard on skin as—
Herbal Essence in wet braids like— That first kiss by the garage didn’t count
as anything but practice, the boys watching in a circle around us, her mouth like
a humid conclusion, sweet as watermelon lipgloss.
Kristen Zory King is a writer and teaching artist based in Washington, DC. Previously published work can be found in Electric Lit, The Citron Review, and SWWIM among others.
Kristen Zory King is a resident of Mt. Pleasant.
Previously appeared in Rejection Letters. Reprinted with permission of the editors.
“Trying to Sit Up” by Brandon Blue
Trying to Sit Up
A golden shovel after Margaret Atwood
There are moments when I think of you lying next to me as we try to fit neatly like children’s toys into each other. You bent, crescent like, me folded neatly into your armpit like you ask. In this position, speaking a- loud, we trade soft things to hook one another with desire, lolling into the mattress, and you say, almost like an agreement, I could happily lie here eye to eye.
Now with only morning light, a mess of sheets and covers fish- ed from the closet, worm to hook, to wrap myself around, I can only an- swer questions that are left ended-open: What was truly in my eye?
Brandon Blue is a Black, queer poet and French teacher based in Washington, DC. He is a reader for Storm Cellar and Poet Lore and his work has or will appear in [PANK], Beyond Queer Words, Lucky Jefferson and more.
“I Want Your” by Tafisha Andrea Edwards
I Want Your after George Michael
sex is my communion wine;
Class 1 Firearm;
pale ribbon on my handbasket to hell;
your sex earns a measurable vasocongestional response
(kiss my throat &
my pussy inflates).
your sex as plea:
let me suck
Darkling, I listen/
with my body, I thee worship,
your sex like Hailey’s Comet; Aurora
Destiny 4th of July firework
and nipple piercings like
bullets in my mouth,
your sex as distraction;
Have you ever been so lonely like you felt you were the only one in this world?
Have you ever wanted to play with someone so much you’d take any boy or girl?
and the foot on my face and my foot on the gas
your sex as my mother tongue as my hand on my parent’s locked bedroom door
baby the arch of your back makes me feel
my hands spread my legs
a love letter
I want your sex
Tafisha A. Edwards is author of two chapbooks: In the Belly of the Mirror, and The Bloodlet. She is the recipient of a 2022 Regional Artist Award from the Maryland State Arts Council and a Ruby’s Artist Grant from the Robert Deutsch Foundation. Her work has appeared in The Georgia Review, _Apogee Journa_l, Poetry Northwest, Washington Square Review, Winter Tangerine, and other print and online publications.
- Find Tafisha online:
“Smoke From Mirrors/Ruins Under the Roller Coaster” by Yermiyahu Ahron Taub
Smoke From Mirrors/Ruins Under the Roller Coaster
Was it the unfamiliar streets, engulfed by whisper, a labyrinth of uncertainty. Once I might have traveled this terrain: the shifting curtains, hair brushed from eyes, fences rising brusquely. But we had never needed the instruments of navigation; we alone had been the cartographers of these fields. Our hands had cut through the vines of resistance; at the opposite end of the world, I heard your voice. How then are these planets aligned? Who ensures the edge of this line, the symmetry of these red rings? Outside the elevated train, an entire cityscape bore witness. Even without our visibility, the skyscrapers divined the intricacy of our need. These pages were not torn; these words were not muffled. Through the day's expansion, this had been no frail articulation. Despite my entreaties, my insistence on the known city, I was whisked, captive of your whim and whimsy, into an abruptly invoked carnival. And it was there, in that frayed underworld, with its mirages and riddles, that I lost sight of you, your undiminished locks, your thick neck, in the corridor of mirrors and sat frozen instead on the carousel, unable to disentangle from tinny music, unable to disembark from sticky plastic horse. But surely that vanishing could never have been foreseen; all steps could not have led to this absence of insight, this ashy oblivion. Eventually the children returned to chant against the oncoming Coney Island dark, and heeding the clarity of their call, I stumbled from the shimmering wreckage. I had no choice. Refusing the veil of mangled cotton candy, I glided into the sheath of my solitude, the thorn carpet of my without-you.
Yermiyahu Ahron Taub is a poet, writer, and Yiddish literary translator. He is the author of two books of fiction, Beloved Comrades: a Novel in Stories (2020) and Prodigal Children in the House of G-d: Stories (2018), and six volumes of poetry, including A Mouse Among Tottering Skyscrapers: Selected Yiddish Poems (2017). Yermiyahu's most recent translation from the Yiddish is Dineh: an Autobiographical Novel by Ida Maze (2022).
Yermiyahu Ahron Taub is a resident of Brookland.
Previously appeared in Uncle Feygele (Austin, Texas: Plain View Press, 2011). Reprinted with permission of the author.
“When you've got the bugs” by Marlena Chertock
When you’ve got the bugs
It feels like worms wriggling in my belly, nervous beetles skittering across my chest. They have an uncountable number of legs. Will they crowd my heartbeats, keep me from trying, without knowing what’s to come. Or, maybe it feels more like a persistent firefly fluttering in my brain jelly. Off and on, flickering a reminder, hey, I’m here, hey, I’m here, you feel me still, your feelings are real, distracting me throughout the day in the best way. Liking her, that other word scares the cicadas out of you, feels powdery, like a moth you barely touch and it disintegrates. It feels like you’re peering through a glasswing butterfly, a window into what everyone else seems to have experienced. It must be protected.
Marlena Chertock has two books of poetry: Crumb-sized: Poems (Unnamed Press) and On that one-way trip to Mars (Bottlecap Press). She is queer, disabled, and uses her skeletal dysplasia as a bridge to scientific poetry. Marlena serves as Co-Chair of OutWrite, Washington, D.C.'s annual LGBTQ literary festival, and on the Board of Split This Rock, a nonprofit that cultivates poetry that bears witness to injustice and provokes social change. Her poetry and prose has appeared in AWP’s The Writer’s Notebook, Breath & Shadow, The Deaf Poets Society, Lambda Literary Review, Little Patuxent Review, Washington Independent Review of Books, Wordgathering, and more.
Marlena Chertock is a resident of Cleveland Park.
Previously appeared in An Ocean of Possibilities: A Zine for Bisexual Visibility Week, September 23, 2020. Reprinted with permission of the author.
“Horizon ” by Natalie E. Illum
I will know when our apocalypse is over by the number of skyscrapers we have taken down.
When our love has ruined the skyline, I will stop calling you shelter. I will crawl up 42nd Street, shred
my knees in all that glass. Search through the window casings, wondering if my father built the machine that made them.
Every heart has an incineration point. By sunrise I was already rotting. When you moved out
the whole neighborhood became a sinkhole. The paintings removed themselves from the living room; the garden buried.
The children we never had started crying out to me. But there were no flesh eating monsters to protect them from. Just us.
Years later, I think I pass you in what they used to call Bedstuy. My grid, my graphite but there’s no blueprint to rebuild the city
we once held inside the other.
Natalie E. Illum is a poet, disability activist and singer living in Washington DC. She is a four-time recipient of the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities Literary fellowship, and a multiple Pushcart prize, Best of the Net, and Best New Poet nominee. She was a founding board member of mothertongue, a LGBTQA open mic that lasted 15 years. She competed in the National Poetry Slam circuit and was the 2013 Beltway Grand Slam Champion. She has an MFA from American University.
Natalie E. Illum is a resident of Shaw.
“Too Pretty ” by Sunu P. Chandy
Too Pretty October on the subway, roses at my side, kids being loud. One skinny girl with a cap and a pretty smile gets up to give me her seat and takes this chance to sit on her friend’s lap. I read the paper and look over at these girls. So free and easy, they are laughing laughing. I look at the pink pink roses and how I say I am not a romantic and how this whole roses thing is going to ruin my reputation against romance. I watch the girls. I watch the skinny girl in boy’s clothes and pretty smile flirt with all the other girls. So free and easy, they are laughing laughing. And the man next to me, he is also watching watching. And the man next to me, he leans over and says to me: Hey, miss, hey miss, that’s too pretty to be a boy, right? As if somehow that thought disgusts him. As if he wants some agreement about this disgust. And me, I am just relieved that he knows that I am a miss and not a pretty boy. So I just shrug, and I say nothing because I am still afraid. Afraid to say what does a she look like and what does a boy look like. And what does too pretty look like and what is your problem exactly. And I don’t know whether his disgust is that he thinks girls who look like boys should be beat up or boys who look like girls should be beat up because, in fact, we know, they both are. I only know that I was relieved that he did not know my pink pink roses were for a girl and somehow I have this safety of passing. And I think to myself: You all sitting there, laughing laughing sitting there on your sixth grade girlfriend’s lap, so free and easy, laughing laughing, be safe my handsome girls, be safe my pretty boys.
Sunu P. Chandy lives in Washington, D.C. with her family, and is the daughter of immigrants from Kerala, India. Sunu’s collection of poems, My Dear Comrades, will be published by Regal House in the Spring of 2023 and is available now for pre-order . Sunu’s work can be found in publications including Asian American Literary Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Poets on Adoption, Split this Rock’s online social justice database, The Quarry, and in anthologies including The Penguin Book of Indian Poets, _The Long Devotion: Poets Writing Motherhood and This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation._ Sunu has completed degrees in Peace and Global Studies/Women’s Studies, Law, and Fine Arts with a focus on Creating Writing/Poetry.
Sunu P. Chandy is a resident of the District of Columbia.
Previously appeared in Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database. Reprinted with permission of the author. Photo credit: Fid Thompson.
“Making Love” by Anthony R. Keith Jr.
some folks ain’t know Black men could float up here, like this, where we are us, flying inside the blue sky flapping only our softest feathers blowing kisses in-between clouds, causing the wind to bounce us all around as if everything is meant to be buoyant up here, where we are…
where our breath be verses written into the breeze and so, we hang-glide across the tops of tall trees suspending ourselves high above the bottom of sturdy bridges that were built on nothing but trust and faith alone
we are together up here where we are… where, gravity keeps pulling us into our centers causing our cores to warm and our middles to melt and we just be Black skin, hot, smooth, and strong with nails and fingers and toes and wrinkles on hands symmetrical to lines spread across our thick foreheads where we just be black marrow, deep, sweat-soaked, shined up and stashed inside trenches burrowed inside our bones, where it just be dark, berry, very sweet juice
some folks ain’t know we could squeeze within ourselves, like this, all while holding on to each other, up here, where we are us, overlapping into one another folding underneath brown flesh peeling back and pulling up the private parts of us that keeps our entire Black bodies whole and that make our knuckles swell as if sucking in too much sugar and spitting out something divine ain’t no one up here but us.
Tony Keith, Jr., PhD. is an award-winning Black, gay poet, spoken word artist, and essayist originally from Washington DC. He is a multi-year fellow of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and has featured performances and presented lectures at schools, colleges, and communities around the world. Dr. Keith and his husband, Harry Christian III, were married in 2018 and currently reside in Ward 7 with their puppy, Sage.
Anthony R. Keith Jr. is a resident of Marshall Heights.
“My Partner Teaches Me To Speak” by Emily Holland
My Partner Teaches Me to Speak She spoon feeds me syllables in bed. I repeat after her letter combinations we don’t have in English. Consonants stick in my throat. My tongue does not yet know how to roll, how to twist into position. Each night, another word: head, eyes, nose, mouth. Language starts with the body.
She moves my hands around her face and I name each part again. I am not always a good student. Some nights we repeat lessons I’ve forgotten. She tells me words
for everyday things. I learn how to tell her I’m thirsty or hungry, hot or cold. Later she teaches me to ask: Are you hungry? Are you cold? Of course, the curse words are easy. I can say shit and pussy with the same sharp point of my teeth. I master please and I’m sorry and thank you for when I know I’ll need them. One night, I ask how to say I love you. She tells me in two small breaths. I repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat—
Emily Holland (she/they) is a lesbian writer living in Washington, DC. She received her MFA from American University, where she won the Myra Sklarew Award for outstanding thesis in poetry and was the Editor-In-Chief of Folio. Holland's poems have appeared in Black Warrior Review, Nat. Brut, Homology Lit, and Wussy, and the chapbook Lineage (dancing girl press, 2019). Her work has received support from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and Sundress Academy for the Arts. Currently, she is the Editor of Poet Lore, America’s oldest poetry magazine, published by The Writer’s Center.
Emily Holland is a resident of Adams Morgan.
“Waiting” by Holly Mason
Waiting Winter branches silhouette
the darkening sky. In trying to be tender, I slice a pear and add cinnamon. The gate swings on a hinge. Imagine a crescent moon: the beloved’s ear. And in her eye a silhouette of winter branches.
Holly Mason Badra received her MFA in Poetry from George Mason University. Her poems, interviews, and reviews have been published in The Adroit Journal, Rabbit Catastrophe Review, The Northern Virginia Review, Foothill Poetry Journal, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She has been a presenter at OutWrite, RAWIFest, and Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here as a Kurdish-American Poet. Mason Badra is currently on the staff of Poetry Daily and lives in Northern Virginia.
“Love In The In-Between” by Dwayne Scott Elias Lawson-Brown
Love In The In-Between
My partner wants to steal my dresses Wear them around hips I long to hold close She questions What this makes her; Why eyes linger on my legs In stockings that accentuate what people use to define me She loves the woman I hide inside The way I love her; Deep with want
Questions what this makes her A kisser of queer body Stroker of "them" in "him" trappings Or simply a lover In all the in-between
My partner sits in my closet Rank with the stench of longing And I A pound of flesh worth the work.
Dwayne Lawson-Brown is a crocheting, breakdancing, parent; doubling as a poet and host of various events. Dwayne is foolish lover with a passion for connecting communities. They prove that you are constantly learning, and self-exploration is an ongoing practice.
Dwayne Scott Elias Lawson-Brown is a resident of Douglass/Congress Heights.
“Uncontained” by Tanya Paperny
Uncontained I feel myself filling up organs greeting each other as the ship gently rocks then quickens the open mouth of the water’s pour narrowing my attention cancelling out everything but the hum of our eye contact but perhaps it’s not water I’m collecting perhaps some combination of hydraulic fluid for boundaries salt water for boundary crossings or simply whatever liquid those damn scientists can’t seem to agree upon which will soon rush out of me at your push and pull read the water level at the nipple this container’s meniscus for signs that it’s time to uncork I’ll gasp at the glowing retreat rejoice at the tips of your long fingers knobbed and naughty this vessel bows
Tanya Paperny is a writer, editor, translator, and community builder in Washington, DC. Her chapbook & Other Valuables won the 2019 Tusculum Review Poetry Chapbook Prize, selected by Bhanu Kapil, and her poem "Prababushka," about her revolutionary great-grandmother, was selected as Split This Rock's "Poem of the Week." Tanya is at work on a literary nonfiction book about the same badass great-grandmother.
Tanya Paperny is a resident of Edgewood.
“At Mount Cristo Rey” by Robert L. Giron
At Mount Cristo Rey —near El Paso
We climbed the mount, not any other souls along our way, but the sweet fragrance of roses follows us to the peak. A sunny day in April, yet this pilgrimage is glorious and so I take out my camera and he begins to disrobe, climbing upwards to follow Orpheus out of the pit and I snap the shot, now immortalized, —my love reaching for the light.
Robert L. Giron, author of five collections of poetry and editor of three anthologies, has poetry and fiction in national and international anthologies. He currently is an associate editor for _Potomac Review, _editor-in-chief of ArLiJo, and is the founder/publisher of Gival Press.
“The Garden of My Agony” by Danielle Elizabeth-Jane Badra
The Garden of My Agony Always. Always say always. Only today can we say our story. A thousand small Persian horses sleeping safely. Yes, the syllable sprains like a dry branch in the plaza with the moon on your forehead. Come out and shine like a crocus shines when I embrace your waist four nights. No one knows the perfume that ignites our alphabet. No one knows the martyrdom half lost in a pollen dusted lawn. Do not question elegance. The world opens up to you between gypsum and jasmine. Do not ask the word what shapes each side. Your body is a fugitive of always. Enemy of the snow stamped on a worn wall. A hummingbird of love between the teeth. This is not what we are; nor what we want.
Danielle Badra is a queer Arab American poet who was raised in Michigan and currently resides in Virginia, where she received an MFA from George Mason University. Like We Still Speak (University of Arkansas Press, 2021) is her first full-length collection. She is the winner of the 2021 Etel Adnan Poetry Prize.
Previously appeared in Outlook Springs and the book Like We Still Speak. Reprinted with permission of The University of Arkansas Press.
“Sometimes Sexual Healing Requires A Blindfold ” by Regie Cabico
Sometimes Sexual Healing Requires A Blindfold yr like a little dragon fruit yr like a comet powdered cardamom about yr puckered lip yr lips are lassis one of my words about you smoothie i whisper smoothly in bed this smoothing you thick pie of a meringue man you & then alone with chromebook over my breasts these keys & letters brushing you in the google docs going gaga wagging lagging against sleep in the night light like a lighthouse light me up marquee me with your electrolyte juice
Regie Cabico is a spoken word pioneer, having won The Nuyorican Poets Cafe Grand Slam and later taking top prizes in three National Poetry Slams. Television credits include 2 seasons of HBO's Def Poetry Jam, NPR's Snap Judgment & TEDx Talk. His work appears in over 30 anthologies including Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café, Spoken Word Revolution, and The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. Cabico received the 2006 Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers for his work teaching at-risk youth at Bellevue Hospital.
Regie Cabico is a resident of Union Market .
Reprinted by permission of the author.
“Let Me Not Forget Me Not” by Tanya Olson
Let Me Not Forget Me Not
Let me not be the last lesbian who remembers our bars Such smoky bars Everyone smoking Serious smokers Cocktail smokers People smoking outside People smoking in Smoking Marlboro Reds Camel Blues Smoking American Spirit cigarillos and cloves Waking to a reek of stale smoke the first reminder you had been out the night before Let us remember these sticky bars For we drank and drank and drinking spilled Spilled Budweiser Spilled Zima Spilled Jaeger Spilled Slippery Nipples Spilled Sex on the Beach Spilled bottom shelf tequila Spilled every rum and coke I ever ordered Spilled them on ourselves Spilled them on each other Fought over the spilling Forgave each other for spilling Drank because bars were the place to look Bars the place a trueself shown Bars a place the trueself seen Straight people seldom in our bars then Straight people with better options than bars with latenight stickyfloor pushyshovey fights Fights over love Love real Love imagined Bouncer steps in to breakup the fight Bouncer a bulldyke in boots hat and tie Hurrah hurrah for these bars and dykes Remember them both forever Let me not be the last lesbian who found her people on a screen Not the last to recognize herself in the light butches of TV Tatum Kristy Jodie Jo Let me not be the last who learned to crush through the screen MaryAnn Lori Kelly No one knows who you look at when you watch TV No one knows the way you see Let every lesbian always remember our long promised Dusty Springfield biopic Let us count the number of gay boy biopics made during those same years We must always make them make our movies Remember the annual rumor of who this time would play her KD Melissa Adele Nicole We must forever remember Whitney and Robyn We must never forget their love Remember how Cissy and the brothers tried to make them hide their love We heard the words that screened their love We saw through love’s tuneful disguise When Whitney confesses I get so emotional baby everytime I think of you we knew who she was talking to When Whitney states Ain’t it shocking what and then sits for a moment in the heart of that beat before she pivots and drops the line back in the track what love can do we hear the name in the gap Whitney dead now Dusty dead now May we always hear the love embedded in their soar Let me not be the final lesbian to believe Dolly and Ann Richards were a thing Not the last to see them together and recognize it as a love Dolly so solid in polkadots and sequins Ann permanently handsome in those Rose of Texas boots Hurrah hurrah for these stars and dykes Stars and dykes forever Let me not be the last butch stranded on Last Butch Island Let me not be the culminating bulldagger Not the terminal stud Not the concluding soft butch Not the ultimate stone Somebody has to bring an end to the diesel dykes Someone will be the final Butchie McShorthair in town Surely I can’t be the last to wear my hair like Elvis Not the closing flattop Not the crowning pompadour Let mine not be the finale in a long line of high and tights If I am let me say I am sorry Butches had a real chance to make change and we blew it We lived so far out we thought getting in meant progress Lived so far beyond we felt both diseased and immune When they opened the door right in the middle of our kicking it down we took that to mean we had won And let’s stop this story before it goes any further Butches aren’t being erased Butches aren’t being replaced It is simply become our time to go Extinct only means swallowed by the earth Extinct happens to everyone Extinct just says someday diggers uncover our bones Assistants turn up buckles from our belts Tourists buy commemorative keychains Students sift for boot scraps and wallets An intern designs a sign for the site and queer teens graffiti it the next day A theorist speculates why we played so much pool Some historian earns tenure debating whether 80s butches were imagined or true The museum installs a diorama where too tall butches spread out across a too bright bar Everyone is frozen in a distinct moment of action Smoking Drinking Gawking Lewd It is shocking these far future scientists conclude Simply shocking what love can do
Tanya Olson lives in Silver Spring, Maryland and is a Lecturer in English at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). Her first book, Boyishly, was published by YesYes Books in 2013 and received a 2014 American Book Award. Her second book, Stay, was released By YesYes Books in 2019. In 2010, she won a Discovery/Boston Review prize and she was named a 2011 Lambda Fellow by the Lambda Literary Foundation. Her poem "54 Prince" was chosen for inclusion in Best American Poems 2015.
“Lest We Forget” by Michelle Denise Parkerson
LEST WE FORGET These black, brown, beige faces of the least in life took the streets defied empires woman to woman man to man It began ablaze high tacky queens blood-soaked crinolines tear gas mace A few fearless freaks: flip, flamboyant fed up on police brutality the menace of the vice Spontaneous riots bushfire round Stonewall Bar
Meanwhile the 6 o’clock news brings you the blatant courage of the fag frontline America discovers sexual preference still believes in Rock Hudson It is 1969 Black and Puerto Rican sodomites proud leather dykes in a faceoff with the world for 3 nights Greenwich Village is a mine field Are you there? Let us now praise a few good women and men ripe for insurrection one chafed June night pushed to the wall beaten to shadows cutting back the night These, the fringe black, brown, beige faces of the least in life ignited a movement to love in the light
Are you there?
Michelle Parkerson is a writer, lecturer and award-winning filmmaker based in Washington, DC. Her work has screened at prestigious international film festivals including The Sundance Film Festival, The Berlin Film Festival and AFI Fest. She has documented the lives of LGBTQ icon Audre Lorde, jazz innovator Betty Carter, a cappella activists Sweet Honey in the Rock, and legendary male impersonator Storme’ DeLarverie. Parkerson served on the faculties of Northwestern University, Temple University, Howard University, and University of Delaware, as well as the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs Advisory Committee and the Board of Mary’s House for Older Adults, Inc.
Michelle Denise Parkerson is a resident of S.W. Waterfront.