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 2022, Pride Poems featured poems on the theme of Queer Love. Participants were asked to interpret the theme widely, writing about romantic love for spouses and partners, or love of family members, pets, or friends. Thirty poets were selected, and the videos in which they read their charming, often poignant love poems ranged from approximately six minutes to less than a minute in length. As co-curator Kim Roberts stated, “Because the pandemic has been such a difficult time emotionally, it’s been a great relief to focus on love!” Featured poets included university professors, National Slam champions, the co-chairs of DC OutWrite Festival, editors of literary journals and notable anthologies, and winners of national literary awards. They ranged in age from their twenties through their seventies.

  1. “Let Me Not Forget Me Not” by Tanya Olson

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography

    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.

    • Find Tanya online:
    • -
  2. “Sometimes Sexual Healing Requires A Blindfold” by Regie Cabico

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography

    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.

    • Find Regie online:
    • f
    • i

    Regie Cabico is a resident of Union Market.

    Reprinted by permission of the author.

  3. “The Garden of My Agony” by Danielle Badra

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography

    The Garden of My Agony
    Always. Always say always.
    Only today can we say our story.
    A thousand small Persian horses sleeping
    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.

    • Find Danielle online:
    • -
    • f
    • i

    Previously appeared in Outlook Springs and the book Like We Still Speak. Reprinted with permission of The University of Arkansas Press.

  4. “At Mount Cristo Rey” by Robert L. Giron

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography

    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
    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.

    • Find Robert online:
    • -
    • f
    • i
  5. “Uncontained” by Tanya Paperny

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography

    I feel myself filling up
    organs greeting each other 
    as the ship gently rocks
    then quickens
    the open mouth
    of the water’s pour
    my attention
    cancelling out
    but the hum
    of our eye contact
    but perhaps it’s not
    water I’m collecting
    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
    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.

    • Find Tanya online:
    • -
    • i

    Tanya Paperny is a resident of Edgewood.

  6. “Love In The In-Between” by Dwayne Lawson-Brown

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography

    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.

    • Find Dwayne online:
    • -
    • f
    • i

    Dwayne Lawson-Brown is a resident of Douglass/Congress Heights.

  7. “Waiting” by Holly Mason Badra

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography

    Winter branches

    the darkening sky.
    In trying to be tender,
    I slice a pear
    and add cinnamon. 
    The gate swings on a hinge.
    a crescent moon:
    the beloved’s ear.
    And in her
    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.

    • Find Holly online:
    • -
    • f
    • i
  8. “My Partner Teaches Me To Speak” by Emily Holland

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography

    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.

    • Find Emily online:
    • -
    • i

    Emily Holland is a resident of Adams Morgan.

  9. “Making Love” by "Tony Keith, Jr."

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography

    Making Love

    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.

    • Find "Tony online:
    • -
    • f
    • i

    "Tony Keith, Jr." is a resident of Marshall Heights.

  10. “Too Pretty” by Sunu P. Chandy

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography

    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. 

    • Find Sunu online:
    • -
    • f
    • i

    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.

  11. “Horizon” by Natalie E. Illum

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography


    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.

    • Find Natalie online:
    • -
    • f
    • i

    Natalie E. Illum is a resident of Shaw.

  12. “When you’ve got the bugs” by Marlena Chertock

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography

    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.

    • Find Marlena online:
    • -
    • f
    • i

    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.

  13. “Smoke From Mirrors/Ruins Under the Roller Coaster” by Yermiyahu Ahron Taub

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography

    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
    I had no choice.  Refusing the veil of mangled cotton candy,
    I glided into the sheath of my solitude, the thorn carpet of my

    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).

    • Find Yermiyahu online:
    • -
    • f

    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.

  14. “I Want Your” by Tafisha Edwards

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography

    I Want Your
    after George Michael

    sexis 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

    your marrow

    as promise:

    Darkling, I listen/

    with my body, I thee worship,

    your sex like Hailey’s Comet; Aurora

    Borealis; Ouroboros;



    Destiny4th of July firework

    and nipple piercings like

    bullets in my mouth,

    your sex as distraction;

    as heart

    beat chant

    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 footon my faceand my footon 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 handsspread my legs

    a love letter


    for you

    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 Journal, Poetry Northwest, Washington Square Review, Winter Tangerine, and other print and online publications. 

    • Find Tafisha online:
    • -
  15. “Trying to Sit Up” by Brandon Blue

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography

    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.

    • Find Brandon online:
    • i
  16. “Like/As” by Kristen Zory King

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography


    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.

    • Find Kristen online:
    • -
    • i

    Kristen Zory King is a resident of Mt. Pleasant.

    Previously appeared in Rejection Letters. Reprinted with permission of the editors.

  17. “Sidle and Fold” by Hiram Larew

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography

    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.

  18. “adventures of the third limb” by Saida Agostini

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography

    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.

    • Find Saida online:
    • -
    • f
    • i

    Previously appeared in let the dead in. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

  19. “Meeting” by Joseph Ross

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography

    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).

    • Find Joseph online:
    • -
    • f
    • i

    Previously appeared in Ache, 2017, published by Sibling Rivalry Press. Reprinted with permission of the author.

  20. “Winter Hours” by Francisco Aragón

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography

    Winter Hours


    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).

  21. “Tinguage” by Natasha Sajé

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography


    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.

    • Find Natasha online:
    • -
    • f
    • i

    Natasha Sajé is a resident of Cleveland Park.

    Previously appeared in Vivarium (Tupelo, 2014). Reprinted with permission of the author.

  22. “Ghazal: San Jose” by Jona Colson

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography

    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.

    • Find Jona online:
    • -
    • f
    • i

    Jona Colson is a resident of Dupont Circle.

  23. “Missed Call” by C. Thomas

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography

    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!

    • Find C. online:
    • -
    • i
  24. “Dedication” by Michelle Ott

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography


    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.

    • Find Michelle online:
    • -
    • i

    Michelle Ott is a resident of Van Ness.

  25. “Bedford-Nostrand” by keondra bills freemyn

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography


    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.

    • Find keondra online:
    • -
    • i

    Previously appeared in Things You Left Behind. Reprinted with permission of 67th Street Storytellers.

  26. “This Is Not A Love Poem” by Kathi Wolfe

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography

    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.

    • Find Kathi online:
    • -

    Previously appeared in Mollyhouse. Reprinted with permission of the editors.

  27. “Love Poem: Satyr” by Malik Thompson

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography

    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 chainof 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:
    • i

    Malik Thompson is a resident of Mt. Pleasant.

  28. “Some Nights” by Dan Vera

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography

    Some Nights

    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.

  29. “Butterfly Pea” by Kim Roberts

    View Poem TextView Poet Biography

    Butterfly Pea

    When I first saw a photo
    of a butterfly pea, I was pulled
    by the blue: deep, saturated,
    the color of twilight. Blue
    around a white center.
    Then the Latin, clitoria ternatea,

    yes, shaped like a woman’s sex,
    the tube-like calyx
    of five sepals partly fused,
    surrounded by the vivid cobalt
    of a large rounded banner,
    two furrowed wings, 

    and two wrinkled white keels.
    When my girlfriend next caresses
    my wings, will I close my eyes
    to that twilight blue? When I
    press against her keels,
    will she break open in blossoms?

    Banner, wings, and keel:
    this is how we recognize
    the flower of the pea. My girlfriend
    is a species of pea. She teaches me
    facts about the dusk, its
    variations and anomalies.

    The blossoms, edible when tender,
    turn rice indigo; when lemon is added,
    the color changes to magenta.
    Texture of silk, faint aroma,
    the weight of her as she presses
    against my hand, the ripe weight.

    The fretwork of furrows
    on that crepuscular blue,
    nightfall’s legs spread open.
    Used to enhance memory,
    to relieve stress, sometimes
    to amplify a woman’s libido,

    it grows on a twining vine
    in dry and rocky soils.
    Tender folds gather
    on its flying concave banner:
    whispers loiter there,
    secrets on the tongue.

    Kim Roberts is the editor of the anthology By Broad Potomac’s Shore: Great Poems from the Early Days of our Nation’s Capital (University of Virginia Press, 2020), selected by the DC Public Library and the East Coast Centers for the Book for the 2021 Route 1 Reads program as the book that “best illuminates important aspects” of the culture of Washington, DC. She is the author of A Literary Guide to Washington, DC: Walking in the Footsteps of American Writers from Francis Scott Key to Zora Neale Hurston (University of Virginia Press, 2018), and five books of poems, most recently The Scientific Method (WordTech Editions, 2017). Her chapbook, Corona/Crown, a cross-disciplinary collaboration with photographer Robert Revere, is forthcoming from WordTech Editions in 2023.

    • Find Kim online:
    • -
    • f

    Kim Roberts is a resident of Park View.

See poems from: 2023 2022