Pride Poems spotlights LGBTQ+ poets from the greater Washington, DC region, by releasing a new video each day during the month of June, in honor of National Pride Month.

In 2024, Pride Poems selected thirty poets from the nation’s capital reading Tributes: original poems written for, about, or in the style of someone the writer admires—someone famous or not. Responding to the theme in creative ways, the project includes poems inspired by other poets (such as Essex Hemphill, Adrienne Rich, Joy Harjo, and Pat Parker) as well as poems for actors, musicians, painters, even Barbie and Ken dolls. There are odes, a haibun, and collaborative forms, written in a wealth of styles that are a moving testimonial to the ways queer writers are influenced and inspired.

  1. “gender euphoria as personal hyrule” by nat raum

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    gender euphoria as personal hyrule
    After The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

    fast travel offers an allure for my limbs especially,
    throb as they do after three or four trips
    up and down the block. but i imagine the ability
    to evaporate, reconstruct myself at point B
    in place of being seen in the wild. it’s not

    for a lack of craving the fresh air. rather, the look
    of this body means i can only be woman when
    i walk down the street; i lose the self i have
    sculpted in her absence while my breasts still
    dome and dart my ironic t-shirt for all to see.

    in actuality, gender is closer to an old forester
    calling me a bright-eyed young man, bestowing
    on me the masculine urge to spear a passing monster 
    until it dissolves into blackblight, finished with a flourish.
    gender is an arrangement of pixels on a screen

    dressed in sheikah armor dyed armoranthine,
    a haircut i envy not only because mine won’t fall
    like that, but also for the boyface it frames. the boy
    in me is taciturn, but when i let him go too silent,
    i fear i’ll never shake womanhood. i know i’ll never

    be fog, wish as i might to atomize these aching
    hips and knees, to be perceived as pure water:
    completely neutral. but is it so much to ask
    that i might one day shed the skin of woman, be held
    and holy in the wake of bright-eyed resurrection?

    nat raum is a queer disabled artist and writer based on unceded Piscataway and Susquehannock land in Baltimore. They’re the editor-in-chief of fifth wheel press and the author of you stupid slut (Dream Boy Book Club, 2022), the abyss is staring back (Querencia Press, 2023), random access memory (Bullshit Lit, 2023), and several others.

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    Previously appeared in Penumbra Online. Reprinted with permission by the author.
  2. “For Adrienne” by Jennifer Meneray

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    For Adrienne 

    Rich in color, heroine, your life established a feminism most overlook, 

    Reduced to a theorist, I fear your poetry has long been forgotten, 

    Go fearless when diving into the wreck exploring hidden truths with fierce curiosity, 

    Interpretation is subjective, we are missing the point. 

    In the evening, the city converses on a hunger that grows beneath dampened spirits, 

    The lioness states with complex confidence– what was, is; what might have been, might be. 

    The demon lover ponders what beckons a second sight at twilight while the eye reviews hubble photographs: after Sappho.

    You spoke lavender to the hearts of menace leaving them archaic, 

    Pieces of the lesbian continuum have caused disdain, 

    don’t flinch, you said, 

    The observer, waking in the dark, asks “aren’t continuums endless?” 

    The stranger adds, “evolving with time, a lesbian continuum, would continue resistance.” 

    The song sings, “they live indirectly in every lesbian heart…” 

    And I, I bring my tigers to speak what ghosts can say. 

    Sincerely, 

    Aunt Jennifer

    Jennifer Meneray uses writing as a means of self-expression and self-healing. As a lesbian feminist, she explores the themes of equity, inclusion, liberation, and empowerment. Her goal is to encourage others to use art as a form of expression that empowers them to be authentic and unapologetic in their existence.

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  3. “Demuth In Lancaster” by Dan Vera

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    Demuth In Lancaster
    There is a crusade against vice in Lancaster…I am going home to speak for vice. Charles Demuth (1883-1935)
    Sugar vein flower lover.

    You arose from your mother Augusta’s garden,
    to draw the world precise and alive
    that perfect geometry of this city
    its factory lines abstracted,
    the pulsing curve of tulips and apples
    red cabbage and rhubarb alongside the revelation
    of warmer flowers in the steam baths of New York,
    the mystical codes of numbers and sky,
    everything came alive in you.

    Deem, how amiable was your laugh
    to charm the bitterest of artist hearts—
    even Georgia O’Keefe the scowl loved you
    and William Carlos prized you so
    for your generous embrace.

    You seem all but forgotten now
    even on the brick streets of the city you returned to,
    Where you spent your last days with the needle and the brush.

    At King and Duke streets, your house is a museum now,
    Your watercolors, blossoms of petal and flesh
    hang in sight of Augusta’s Victorian flowered rows,
    The fruit, the vegetable, the silo, the cityscape,
    in the front room,
    the nudes in the darkest corners
    standing as you found them
    gleaming in their wet caverns of joy.

    Dan Vera is an award-winning writer, editor, and literary historian living in Washington, DC. The author of two poetry collections and co-editor of Imaniman: Poets Writing In The Anzaldúan Borderlands, his next book of poetry will be released in 2025 from FlowerSong Press. His poetry appears in various journals, anthologies, and academic curricula and in the Library of America’s Latino Poetry anthology out this year.

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    Dan Vera is a resident of Brookland.

    © Dan Vera
  4. “sing me at midnight” by Andy VanDoren

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    sing me at midnight
    for/after Wilfred Owen

    the dawn of spring is a memory
    buried with the past, salted with the earth

    silent, where once day broke
    in song, and not spirits nor on bones.

    dead boys in their dusk, on their way
    to you, with your murmurous heart,

    a chord concealed under cloak of
    midnight, a future unexhumed.

    Andy VanDoren (the pen name of a local artist) is a queer, synesthetic poet inspired by natural phenomena. Themes of their work include abstracting reality and unreliable narrators. Through poetry, they paint pictures of how the world looks from inside their mind. They are published in Celestite Poetry, Lavender Lime, Ink Drinkers, and more.

    Andy VanDoren is a resident of Brookland.

  5. “Barbies and Kens” by Keith David Parsons

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    Barbies and Kens

    With Chrysta, we played
    house with her Barbies; or searched
    the pine woods for mushrooms;
    built a fort on the hill of shadows.

    Her mother’s name was Barbara
    we all went to the same church
    the Navy husbands played paintball
    and shared their purple welts.

    Barb starred as Red Riding Hood
    in the community theater’s Red vs. the Wolf
    another husband, not hers, the lupine
    co-star, and I, a deer.

    “Do you want to kiss me?”
    Chrysta’s note was forward for ten;
    and I dithered, at eight – but
    eventually checked “yes.”

    “She’s learned her mother’s wiles!”
    my mother fumed, privately
    when I told her of the awkward peck
    as twitterpated as sparrows in spring.

    Only years later did Mom tell me
    of the grownup tryst that roiled the church
    between the titular stars of the play
    with their predatory roles reversed.

    They moved to England shortly after;
    re-based by the Navy, it was said.
    My first kiss faded like naked
    plastic, smooth-chested

    and blank-crotched; 
    a Ken-of-the-Woods
    sinking into the shadows
    and needles of pine.

    Keith David Parsons is a person who came from West Virginia, lives in Washington, DC and is less conflicted about it than you might think. Parsons is a member of DC Poetry Collective; and was featured in iNK BLOTS, Vols. 1 and 2.

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    Keith David Parsons is a resident of Lanier Heights.

  6. “Planting the seed” by Jose Gutierrez

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    Planting the seed

    Someone plants a seed
    With the hope that
    Someday it will grow
    And give fruit
     
    This is what activist is,
    We are the results of dreams
    That many years ago
    LGTQ+ people planted
     
    Everything can not be done
    By one person,
    It’s a community work
     
    Even thought when it is
    Something small, it has to be done
    With love and honesty
     
    Focus the energy
    In something positive
    That will help develop
    Our society
     
    This is in memory of
    Those who with so much
    Work planted the first seeds
     
    For those who were
    Present creating space
    And raising their
    Hands for us
     
    Thank you,
    For the support, power,
    Courage, passion and love to keep
    Fighting.

    Jose Gutierrez holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University Ana G. Mendez in Washington, DC. Jose is a local and national long-time human rights and social justice activist, immigration advocate, Latinx LGBTQ historian, artist, writer and poet. In 2020, he founded the Jose Gutierrez Archives, which preserves the history of the DC LGBTQ Latino community.  He is also the founder of DC Latino Pride, and co-founder of the Rainbow History Project.

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    Jose Gutierrez is a resident of Petworth.

  7. “Dear Roe v. Wade” by Natasha Saje

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    Dear Roe v. Wade,

    What a mess you’re in, with red states    
    eroding you like sand under a power  
    wash of picky laws, turning back time  
    to Texas, 1969. I feel for women   
    in Mississippi, listening to a doctor lie  
    that abortions cause breast cancer,   
     
    and that the fetus can feel pain, 
    women waiting at the only clinic in the state.
    Dangerous, this “personhood,” this lie
    extending to an embryo the powers
    not accorded to the breathing women 
    who care for and carry it over months.

    In 1973, I turned 18. 
    I appreciate your gloss on “do no harm,”
    on history: in 1787 women
    were in this way less constrained by states
    than corpses are today; they can be forced 
    to give birth. For whom is that the truth?

    We’ve made the Constitution our true
    guide, plus amendments carved in time:
    liberty and privacy inherent rights 
    for every citizen, even those as poor
    as Norma McCorvey (Roe), whose statement
    on the case reversed, pro to con, for women.  

    Yet privacy’s a cloud with women’s
    lives hovering like drops of rain. The truth: 
    so many tears. Thanks to DNA, the state
    knows everywhere we go, and sometimes, when. 
    If you had feelings, Roe v. Wade, you’d be blue,
    but you’re a court case, judicial law, 

    one that even Sarah Palin knows.   
    Irrelevance is cruel, and thinking women
    feel their bodies occupied by menace
    while living in our land of lies. 
    I availed myself of you at 29  
    and for access, I thank Maryland, my state.

    Personhood depends on power, and truth
    changes like a woman’s chance to thrive
    within her gendered state, her malady.

    Natasha Sajé was born stateless in Munich, Germany, and grew up in New York City and its suburbs. She is the author of five books of poems, including The Future Will Call You Something Else (Tupelo, 2023); a postmodern poetry handbook, Windows and Doors: A Poet Reads Literary Theory (Michigan, 2014); and a Pen finalist memoir, Terroir: Love, Out of Place (Trinity UP, 2020). She is Professor Emerita of English at Westminster University in Salt Lake City, and teaches in the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing Program.

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    Natasha Saje is a resident of Cleveland Park.

    Previously appeared in The Future Will Call You Something Else (Tupelo Press, 2023). Reprinted with permission of author.
  8. “Someone Sang for Me” by Alex Carrigan

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    Someone Sang for Me
    After Joy Harjo’s “A Refuge in the Smallest of Places”

    Someone sang for me and no one else could hear it.
    I had to step outside to see if I could make out the words.

    The words took me back to rotting steps and
    peanut shells scattered across the dusty porch.

    The dusty porch where I watched tall grass bend and sway
    with the melody that creeped out of it on summer nights.

    On summer nights, I matched the rocking of my chair
    with the whistles Nanny made with each sip of her bottle.

    Her bottles gathered by the side of her chair as she muttered and
    hummed anything that came to mind, while cicadas provided backup.

    I’m backed up into this memory now that I find myself
    watching my own mother repeat these songs in her bed.

    The bed creaks as the song begins anew in my mind.
    Someone sang for me and no one else could hear it.

    Alex Carrigan (he/him) is a Pushcart-nominated editor, poet, and critic from Alexandria, VA. He is the author of Now Let’s Get Brunch: A Collection of RuPaul’s Drag Race Twitter Poetry (Querencia Press, 2023) and May All Our Pain Be Champagne: A Collection of Real Housewives Twitter Poetry (Alien Buddha Press, 2022). He has appeared in The Broadkill Review, Sage Cigarettes, Barrelhouse, Fifth Wheel Press, Cutbow Quarterly, and more.

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  9. “Count Your Blessings” by Regie Cabico

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    Count your blessings, 
    Essex Hemphill autographed inscription, 1994
     
    I was 23 and a fledgling homosexual 
    lost at Limelight. 

    Essex Hemphill 
    who wrote of gay weddings 
    and ballrooms 

    Essex Hemphill 
    who named corruption in DC,
    who lived with HIV, 

    and dismantled queerphobia 
    by staging same-sex kiss-ins 
    on church steps 

    That Essex inspired me 
    to compose my Filipino rainbow narrative. 

    I don’t count my blessings 
    but recount the unexpected goodnesses 
    of the day: 

    Teachers who greet me with coffee, 
    Students who tackle haikus with onomatopoeia, 
    My nephew in his baby Yoda birthday bathrobe, 

    Shall I count the blessings I witness 
    Or count the blessings I grant
    *
    Iona Senior Center 
    Karin, a soprano taught the patients a canon  

    All things shall perish 
    From under the sky 
    Music alone shall live 
    Never to die 

    Bill, a once-upon-a-time tenor sang a solo 
    And wept 

    Karin wept 
    Cecilia wept 
    I wept 

    Weeping is its own music

    Did we weep at his intention or  
    The fact that Bill never spoke but could sing, 

    Did we witness a blossoming
    In radiant vibrato 
    Or an operatic prayer? 
    ;

    Days zoom,  a self-steering 
    Tesla car on New York Avenue 
    Crashing into Wendy’s

    I want to stay 
    in the belly 
    Of a birth canal 

    I want to stay an idea 
    or polished icon 

    Poems published
    work done 

    I don’t feel ready for the world 
    Masked in black brow frames,  

    Camouflage covid mask 
    Smudging my lenses, 
    my discontent breath, 

    Survivor still 
    in a city with a disgraced Popeyes 
    Chicken franchise

    Full of rats running 
    through floorboards, 

    Anti-Vaxxers 
    Busboys & Poets open micers
    Pontificating misinformation,  

    shivering syllables of  no, no, no 
    shaking every bone of me 

    Sunlight is snipped 

    I am enveloped by shadows

    Essex, help me count my blessings… 

    Regie Cabico is the first Asian American and openly queer poet to win the Nuyorican Poets Cafe Grand Slam and is the Executive Director of A Gathering of the Tribes. His collection of poetry, A Rabbit in Search of a Rolex was published by Day Eight Press in 2023. He is the Kennedy Center for The Performing Arts slam poetry teaching artist and publisher of Capturing Fire Press.

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    Regie Cabico is a resident of Union Market.

  10. “Aubade with Grain, Gold, and Feather” by holly mason badra

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    Aubade with Grain, Gold, and Feather

    Morning touches the cottage window.
    We wake to the sound of cows grazing—
    this idyllic pastoral.

    We are learning to listen
    to each other’s silences.

    To ease the landscape
    of the mind.

    Two calves touch heads,
    siblings whispering.

    Their bellied songs hold us
    where we are gazing.

    Horses at the fence
    flex their muscles,
    hooves in the grain.

    The word pasture sounds like pastor.
    I have better experiences with the first.

    The barn cat drops a feather at the door.
    What was once in flight
    is now grounded.

    I recall the angel figurine
    in the flower display at Baba’s funeral.
    Her wings lined in gold.

    I kept the small statue
    to remind me of Baba’s
    all-encompassing calm.

    A feather of a man.
    Light, soft, ephemeral.

    Radiant, too, like the peacock’s plumage,
    and a sense of majesty to match.

    The angels of my childhood
    are tarnished with exclusion.

    I’ve met earth angels since then.

    The woman on the metro
    empathizing with me
    after a night gone not so right.

    My nephew
    when he offers me a kiss without request.

    My beloved
    who reminds me to be here now.
    She says, “Don’t go down the rabbit hole.”

    Return.

    *

    A bird has built a nest on the deck.

    I open the door—
    small chirps asking.

    We are all born
    with this soft hunger.

    Hold it in your hands.

    Holly Mason Badra received her MFA in Poetry from George Mason University. Her work is published in various journals. As a Kurdish-American poet, her recent projects focus on highlighting Kurdish women writers. She is the Associate Director of Women and Gender Studies at GMU.

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    Previously appeared in Meridian. Reprinted with permission of Meridian.
  11. “Gracias Pedro Zamora” by Adrian Gaston Garcia

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    Gracias Pedro Zamora

    In the summer of ‘94
    With stolen cable
    You entered our living room 
    Our bodies spread across carpeted floor 
    With rug burn staining our elbows and knees
    We watched you 
    Our eyes glued to the screen. 

    Your perfect hairstyle
    Like the models in barbershop posters and magazines
    Brought butterflies to my tummy.  

    Your bushy eyebrows
    Matched my own
    So much so that I started to love them. 

    Your contagious smile
    Would spread across my own face
    And no matter how hard I tried, 
    I could not hide it away. 

    Your accent gifted me giggles
    It shared the same sounds of family members whose tongues
    Also spoke Spanish 

    You looked familiar 
    So I would make believe 
    That somehow we were cousins
    That in a few years, when I got older, 
    I would look like you. 

    And without even knowing it, 
    Seeing you 
    Helped me see a piece of myself. 

    I remember in that episode 
    I found out that you were gay and had HIV
    And at that time, being seven years old, 
    I thought it was the same thing. 
    As you talked out loud, about your life
    I could barely understand 
    But for some reason 
    I felt that my very own secret was being exposed
    So I learned to fear you.

    But the season went on
    And both my crush and secret just kept getting bigger
    You eventually won my heart.

    It was because of you that I first saw two men fall in love 
    And get married
    Celebrating with a wedding
    That caused a lump to live in my throat. 

    When the news broke that you were sick
    So did the lump 
    That opened the floodgates 
    I could not explain to 
    The outside world 
    because I didn’t want to be associated with you.

    I cried when they announced your death
    For some reason, 
    I thought I was supposed to meet you.

    I am not sure if you ever knew the impact 
    You would have
    How many other young gay boys you go on to inspire
    Educate and save.

    I still get those butterflies in my tummy
    Whenever I see your photo. 

    I know now that we are family
    You were just ahead of the times.

    Adrian Gaston Garcia (aka AGG) is a queer Latine storyteller whose mission is to share narratives that build community. He currently lives in Washington, D.C. Adrian fuels his creativity via the performing arts, specifically theater, improv, and spoken word poetry. His work is largely based on his experiences and the intersectionality of his identities. It is a shout out to all the queer brown boys who choose joy as their form of resistance. Adrian is the co-host and producer of Los Bookis Podcast, a podcast for queer Latine bookworms who love queer Latine stories.

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    Adrian Gaston Garcia is a resident of Columbia Heights.

  12. “Bipolar Lady’s Prayer (to Dymphna)” by Casey Catherine Moore

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    Bipolar Lady’s Prayer (to Dymphna)

    Our sanity, who art in the clouds,
        shrouded be thy name,

    Insanity comes, it will be run,
        from the souls of your feet ‘til your mind’s undone.

    Give us this day our daily drugs,

    And forgive us for misunderstanding our wrongs,
        as we forgive those who misunderstand us.

    And lead us not into obsession,

    But deliver us from oblivion.

    Amen.

    Casey Catherine Moore is a bipolar, bisexual poet, writing coach, & educator. She holds a Ph.D. in CompLit from U of SC, focusing on Latin poetry, invective, & gender studies. Her first poetry collection, Psyche, is a mythology and disability-inspired retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth (Anxiety Press). She co-produces/co-hosts Homo Stanzas, a queer poetry/comedy series, & Electric Euphoria, a queer and neurodivergent series, & hosts open mics at Busboys & Poets Brookland. Her performance credits include The Kennedy Center, Poetry Out Loud, The Nail Salon, Capturing Fire, & the 2022 Medicare for All Rally in DC.

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    Casey Catherine Moore is a resident of Cathedral Heights.

  13. “December 4th, 2022 at 8:59pm” by Rachel L. Dixon

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    December 4th, 2022 at 8:59 pm

    i’m on the bus headed home from new york
    sitting next to my best friend 
    we just celebrated her birthday 
    and it was a beautiful weekend 
    it always is golden surrounded by the love good friends provide
    I don’t know whether its the bus that makes me melancholy
    or being a permanent 7th wheel. 
    I spent all weekend harmlessly flirting with their significant others 
    we laugh about it 

    i sit on the bus and my friend cries a little
    because her girlfriend lives in the city 
    we don’t know when she’s going to leave me to go pursue her life up there
    but she will 

    the level of anonymity generated from being another person in transit is freeing 
    today I wandered through a neighborhood I might never see again 

    a prayer attempts to leave my lips here in the dark 
    I want to fearlessly run towards the rest of my life

    I got a tattoo a few days ago 
    my first one that isn’t hidden 
    a stamp of approval for my own creative spirit 
    I prayed to my grandmother before the needle met my skin,
    Is it alright? 
    because it’s of some lemons 
    she had a lemon tree in her backyard when I was growing up 
    it grew lemons as big as your head
    juicy and sweet and when you have lemons
    you must make lemonade

    the people who bought her house tore down the tree

    but she answered yes 
    so it will live on me, forever 

    my birthday is next week, in just a few days 
    I don’t know what this next year will bring
    but I pray to my grandmother 
    I don’t have any answers 
    I’m trying to be okay with that

    Rachel Dixon is a theater artist local to the DMV area. She works as a teaching artist with Arena Stage, as well as the Managing Director for We Happy Few. Her other written work has been published in New York publication, TheaterHound.

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  14. “This Smile (after Mary Bowman)” by Chris Thomas

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    This Smile
    After Mary Bowman

    This smile right here ain’t no accident.
    On purpose is this smile.
    Intentional, charismatic, focused,
    This smile is sexy as fuck.

    Bare feet rooted in soil,
    Ready for the world is this smile.
    Ancestors rejoicing,
    Wildest dreams coming true.
    This smile is life everlasting.

    This smile has a past,
    But is present with a future.
    This smile exists!

    “Be determined,” said this smile.
    “Ain’t nobody got nothing on you,” fervent is this smile.
    “Yes, Mx. Cunty Hunty,” werk this smile.
    “All I see for me is better days,” shouts this smile.

    This smile is affirmation.

    I know you love this smile.
    Not as much as me.

    This smile is confident,
    Learned to let go,
    Is forgiveness,
    Dances like no tomorrow.
    Freedom is this smile.

    This smile is important,
    This smile is kind,
    This smile is smart.

    Looks in the mirror and sees my mama
    This smile.

    I’m here alive with this smile.
    I’m a survivor, fall to my knees,
    give thanks for this smile.

    Never giving up this smile.
    Unapologetic is this smile.

    Never turned its back,
    Looks forward with this smile.
    Grateful grateful grateful is this smile.

    I cried with this smile,
    Became one with this smile,
    Stopped pretending to
    smile with this smile.

    I fought for this smile.

    I love this smile.

    By Chris Thomas
    Copyright© 2023

    Chris Thomas is a Queer Black Non-Binary individual wielding words to champion Child Abuse Prevention, LGBTQIA rights, and Mental Health Awareness. Recognized by NUSPA in 2015, C. mesmerizes audiences as a performer and leads at venues like Angelina College, Georgetown University, Jefferson University, and Howard University. Collaborating with NVAFA and Carlyle House, they curate events celebrating African American excellence. Their workshop, Writing to Wellness™, empowers healing through poetry amid trauma. Advocacy spans educating adults on responding to Child Sexual Abuse and board service.

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    Chris Thomas is a resident of DC.

    Author of Reclamation; reprinted by permission of the author
See poems from: 2023 2022