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TWO POEMS by Jabari Jawan

broken-skin hymn for the half-salvaged

in your classic // white // triple xl t, // timberland work boots // & nothing else, i drop // to my knees // like a shanked // coyote // to tease you. i traverse // twerk // then lift my hands // like we’re in // a club. // this is onyx & rust. // burlesque de muchachos marrón. // no gringos // here. // speakers blaring reggaeton, // we twitch hips // convulse the spirits. // we move // like a wrecking crew. // we grind // ourselves // a new, // godless // element.


nipples kneading // my back, i switch // positions // to face you. // you cup // my face // like your own. // el reflejo // would // if it could // touch. my face // is dark, // doubling vision // in your palms: // narciso. // to joke, // you handed me // your number // written // on an empty // trojan sheath. // hombre crudo, crudo. // ladrón. // he // who gifts // what is not // his. i hold it // close // like a throat // full // of topaz. // only, less // precious like //


salt // around the rim. // my margarita // turns to cocaine. // you're a drug, // my lord. you beckon for me // to come // but after all // the twerking // my legs won’t work // so i slither // to you instead // yellow-bellied // & touch-starved— let me // know: i’m your bottom // bitch. // lone // black // water snake: // guiltless // & garrulous with // hissing. s-s-sin. // s-s-sinvergüenza. i like it though.

for those who harbor honey in their thighs

after Morgan Parker

all the masc niggas joke i’m shaped like venus hottentot. they tell me to drop

it like it’s hot they tell me to find a new way to bleed they tell me

i should be honored they want to breed me raw— my god

is a landlord banging on the door he is a lecherous

old man who wants my blood-money & he mad

because this body everyone & their mama hate = no rent

i’m spent— i tell this to everyone

but they never listen most days i feel

like rashawn my body hacked at & laid bare

in these streets these niggas empty

into me i’m emptied into trash bags & strewn

across boroughs like a scavenger hunt—

i know i’m being h(a)unted because i’m black & quare

in america this means hurt this means hate this means

i’m spent spurned spread-eagle

at all intersections of this country often i get this image

of a white woman with perky breasts pink nipples kneading

the thin fabric of a tank top— this, too, is a form of longing

to be this life would be better if i were their fantasy

& not their enemy can i really speak? i stroll

the streets feeling like a quare piece of meat at night even

the waxing crescent is a curved white cock— a pallid phallus

just above my head they are splaying our blood

thin in dance halls strange fruit fest

-ooning the floor like limp red boas i’m spent i’m trying

to find a new way to bleed even the ones who breed me

do not care for me most days

i’m their mood ring they wear me

well & show me how they are feeling with their bodies i smear

coconut oil on my hind legs for them & in return they give me

friction to be black quare & american is to always be

somebody’s gaping nexus their looming fruit

& that’s just the tea that stings like a serpent’s tooth


JABARI JAWAN (he/him/his) is “Quare (Kwâr), n. [...] one who thinks and feels and acts (and, sometimes, ‘acts up’); committed to struggle against all forms of oppression—racial, sexual, gender, class, religious, etc” (Johnson 2). He is a black Xian man, poet, womanist advocate (as opposed to “ally”), and teaching-artist from the south-side of Chicago, IL. Jabari’s grandfolks hail from northern Mississippi, therefore, his blood is Southern. Aside from poetically waxing and cutting up on Twitter @thedarktrapeze, Jabari loves God, Baldwin, Talenti’s sea salt caramel gelato and his mama. He currently lives in Phoenix, AZ where he sometimes serves as a consulting teaching-artist and workshop facilitator for Black Poet Ventures. Jabari’s poems either appear in or are forthcoming from Peregrinos y sus letras and Vinyl. A 2017 VONA/Voices fellow, he will be attending a week-long poetry workshop led by Patricia Smith in late June at the University of Pennsylvania and will be studying abroad in Prague in July. You can donate to his cause here.


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