Volume Five, Issue 3

Ashley Elizabeth

Chile, it’s finna be lit

Chile (n.):
             a phonetic spelling
             of child, representing dialectical speech of the southern us
             African American Vernacular English

Finna (v.):
             a phonetic spelling
             representing the African American Vernacular English variant
             of “fixing to”,
             marks the immediate future,
             indicating preparation or planning
             already in progress

Lit (adj.):
             Slang. amazing; awesome; cool (used as a general term of approval)

Thank God. I don’t have to hear another white woman say
             I don’t understand these children
             These children need to speak proper English
             Who isn’t teaching proper English to these children?
             Why don’t these children know any better?
             They need to learn proper English
             What are they saying Miss Ashley? I don’t understand.
             Translate it for me, Ashley. Tell them how important it is
             to change their language. They can’t sound like that
             and you know it. You don’t sound savage. Tell them.

Does a definition change things for you now, chile?
Make you feel good you can look it up in a book?
Make you feel good you can learn our language without trying?

We can’t keep shit for ourselves,
always full of invasions—cratering countries not enough no more, huh?
You really gotta take more of my mouth?
My ancestors’ tongue
mere appetizer for you
When will you be full?

And the next time you try to fight the way we talk, chile?
I’m finna refer you to a history book
to relearn your history.

It’s your fault I talk like this
Why I have a white name
Why you don’t even know what I really sound like
Why I’m forgetting what I sound like, and it’s my own damn gab.
I code switch like I get paid for it and I sure as hell don’t.

Ms. Becky, next time you ask me something like that,
I’mma refer your dumbass to HR.
All you gotta do to understand our children
is want to listen.

It was a bad day

so I pout as I load the dishwasher
order food so I don’t have to cook
scream into a pillow
mute my computer while I’m teaching
to scream to the brick wall behind me
dance to my favorite song fifty-seven times
and I still don't kill anyone.
I don't have the right skin
for my screw ups to be brushed under the rug,
given benefit of the doubt,
to be innocent until proven guilty.
I have bad days all the time
but not once have I wanted
to be an executioner.

ain’t y’all tired?

it's so uncreative
everybody and they mama done called me a nigger
people zoom-bomb shows and call my sisters niggers
white men when they love me get called a nigger lover
white men when i dont love them & they don't get no ass call me a nigger bitch
white people wanna be niggas
until it's time to be niggers
want to use the n-word i mean nigga so bad
dance and rap along screaming nigga
and claim you don't mean it

claim you have a black friend
claim your black friend lets you say nigga
claim you know what the wizarding world of nigga is all about
because you read a book about niggas before
because you have a black friend
because you fucked a black girl
and never asked if her hair was hers

i say nigga
i mean homie
i say nigga
i mean friend
i say nigga
and i mean damn nigga

you say nigger and mean filth
you say nigger and want it to hurt.
you say nigger and mean you want me to be your nigger

you calling me that word ain’t gonna make you feel better
about being on your knees
ain’t gonna learn you how to stand on your own two feet.

Being a nigga aint shameful.
Being small
when you could be so much more
without holding our heads underwater

Why it doesn't matter

he was just a kid
tell me someone who's brother didn't torment them

don't worry;
i'll wait.

my torment is still torment, just different torment;
not your typical torment

we have the house to ourselves
dad night-shifts; mom works upstairs or reads or sleeps

or simply doesn't care what her children do
and i have my own computer

no one tracks browser history
asks what i am up to

so they do not see what me at eight sees:

i have no voice, cannot speak up for myself
don't want to risk another stutter at wrong moment

i do not know this is not what brothers do
but i do know why i shy away from men until much later

he was just a boy
and i his younger sister who doesn't know better

Ashley Elizabeth Evans: “I am a writing consultant, teacher, and multi-genre writer. My work has appeared in SWWIM, Santa Fe Writers Project, and Kissing Dynamite, among others. My debut chapbook collection, you were supposed to be a friend, is available from Nightingale & Sparrow. When I am not teaching, serving as assistant editor at Sundress Publications, or working as a co-founder of the Estuary Collective, which provides low to no cost programming and a safe space for BIPOC writers, I habitually post on Twitter and Instagram (@ae_thepoet). I live in Baltimore, MD with my partner and our cats.”

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