DC Pride Poem-a-Day is proud to present 30 new short videos, in celebration of National Pride Month. Each video features a different poet from the greater Washington, DC region, reading a poem on the theme of heritage. Videos highlight the talent and rich diversity of poets from the nation’s capital who identify as LGBTQ+.
“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
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:
“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
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
over my breasts
these keys & letters
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.
“The Garden of My Agony” by Danielle Badra
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.Previously appeared in Outlook Springs and the book Like We Still Speak. Reprinted with permission of The University of Arkansas Press.
“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
to follow Orpheus
out of the pit and
I snap the shot,
—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.
“Uncontained” by Tanya Paperny
I feel myself filling up
organs greeting each other
as the ship gently rocks
the open mouth
of the water’s pour
but the hum
of our eye contact
but perhaps it’s not
water I’m collecting
of hydraulic fluid
for boundary crossings
those damn scientists
can’t seem to agree upon
which will soon
rush out of me
at your push
read the water level
at the nipple
that it’s time to uncork
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.
“Love In The In-Between” by Dwayne Lawson-Brown
Love In The In-Between
My partner wants to steal my dresses
Wear them around hips I long to hold close
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
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 Lawson-Brown is a resident of Douglass/Congress Heights.
“Waiting” by Holly Mason Badra
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
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.
“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.
“Making Love” by "Tony 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,
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.
"Tony Keith, Jr." is a resident of Marshall Heights.
“Too Pretty” by Sunu P. Chandy
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.
“Horizon” by Natalie E. Illum
I will know when our apocalypse is over
by the number of skyscrapers we have
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.
“When you’ve got the bugs” by Marlena Chertok
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 Chertok 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.
“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
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).
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.
“I Want Your” by Tafisha Edwards
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
Darkling, I listen/
with my body, I thee worship,
your sex like Hailey’s Comet; Aurora
Destiny4th 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 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
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:
“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.
- Find Brandon online:
“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.
“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.
This poem first appeared in Freezer Burn. Reprinted with permission of the author.
- Find Hiram online:
“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.
“Meeting” by Joseph Ross
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
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.
“Winter Hours” by Francisco Aragón
at him, curled
in a large, plush
in sable fur,
just beyond, the angora
nosing the fabric
of his shirt,
a porcelain vase
beside the folding
with silk, his eyes
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.
Previously appeared in After Rubén (Red Hen Press, 2020).
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“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.
“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.
“Missed Call” by C. Thomas
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.
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!
“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.
“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.
“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.
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“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 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.
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Malik Thompson is a resident of Mt. Pleasant.
“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.
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Dan Vera is a resident of Brookland.Reprinted with the permission of the author.
“Butterfly Pea” by Kim Roberts
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.
Kim Roberts is a resident of Park View.