Volume Four, Issue 4

Shakeema Smalls


when i am alive
the whole, wide
world becomes
unchanging hand

my prayers are
for dusk
crypto-metaphors for
wondering if god
is afraid of the height

every time i went
downbeat, i swore
it made sense
to let my tongue
rest, for what my body
did not do.

i prayed
in the temple in the valley in
the post-genetic crisis i
was cool water in the valley in the
shadows and could not find god,
above all, in the valley.

tended to my own. in the
street, i was a woman
among the gutted. i was
tired of hearing y’all pray
to anyone but me, a woman
in the valley.

all there. wasn’t I?

every song i taught my body
a worship somehow body
does not forget worship
in the valley.

but i tire of them
talking about shadows when
my body
is a valley.


couldn’t find a love song
on the downbeat until

i heard them praying
about me. a rage-god
an undelightful memory
holy and unrepentant.

suddenly i dreamt of wars
and bloody flags
and pigeon-toed god
walking through the valley
hassling their words,
tongue muting every vowel
and hallowing my name.

oh, woman.
what a Good God.

-a list of paradoxes.

We, the invaded
for men with need for country.

We, the women of background noise
And rectified class (alliances)

heavy-tongued Fante girls,
we all act funny and divine.

As history, as mythology
as corporeality, as coming-

up, fighting. Stone pits
between our bare teeth,

like mad women——

Riot laugh. Gutta song.
Unborn sons and daughters

Of 2nd Dynasty baby mamas
We, Of The Hard-To-Kill

backwoods lungs
& pedal pushers

the griots of warm thighs &
cool benches in summer

syrup-laden petitions
& gully wata

will not suffer amnesia.

Shakeema Smalls: "I am from Georgetown, South Carolina by way of Brooklyn, New York. My work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and I have been published in a variety of outlets including Blackberry: A Magazine, Tidal Basin Review, The Fem, The Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Radius Lit, Free Black Space, Vinyl Poetry & Prose, and Sugared Water 005, among others."

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