Poetry

The Block Where All the White People Live

Context:

The South Bronx is notorious for its high rates of asthma among racial minorities as a result of their proximity to sources of air pollution. The combination of the poverty-stricken area and historical displacement exposes people of color to health hazards that are rooted in discrimination and negligence. (more…)

Refusing the Melting Pot

Growing up in the Bronx,
I confess that it was hard for me
to love those blocks,
that never had as many parks
as empty fenced-off lots,
and my mama couldn’t
trust the schools
were a good place to
be taught.

Those blocks where
Halloween was one of the scariest
days of the year,
and at all costs
we kept the door locked.

To this day
I don’t enjoy the holiday
I prefer my candy store bought.

It was hard to love
that Section 8 apartment,
with so many roaches,
no amount of traps or poison
could stop.

I think I’ll always hate them
for the many ruined
cereal box.

I loved the car we had,
til it got jacked
and stripped for parts.

The cops later found its
empty carcass,
told us we should probably
find a better place to park.

It was hard for me to love those blocks,
that will probably never have as many parks
as empty fenced-off lots,

But I was grateful for the men
who gave me pastelitos and frío-fríos,
even when I didn’t
have enough change.

For my Dominican barber,
who gave me a dope fade AND
Some M&M’s if I sat still and behaved.

I was grateful for the bodegueros
who treated me well,
and knew me by name.

For the babysitter who didn’t charge
my mom more when she got off
from work late.

Lately,
gentrifiers have been
coming into the Bronx
after decades where our borough
was left in
the hard knocks.

It’s raising rents and closing businesses,
but it’s our community that really suffers,
as we slowly get displaced into White America’s
abandoned suburbs.

Our lives made further diasporic,
coming to feel singular and outnumbered.
A culture scattered, lost
to the forces of
hegemonic urban planners
and police scanners.

For all my life,
it’s been hard for me to love those blocks,
but I grew up in the Bronx,
and I don’t want us to lose ourselves
in America’s
white-washed melting pot,

le falta sazón

by Henry Gonzalez

Photo by Bianka Bell

All For You

I’m sarry Mista Roberts,
I only had one job and that was to press a button
You missed a meeting today because you sat in the elevator for 20 minutes,
Waitin on me to press a button

Yo head down looking at your phone
You neva knowin if you goin up or down
Yah just there standing waiting on me to do my job

But
I can explain
My baby she couldn’t breathe
She was sick the food she been eatin and drinkin
It made her sick but I couldn’t take care of her
Cus I had to be here

So now she dead
Somethin in the food
Somethin in the water
Somethin killed her and it wasn’t natural
All the kids around sick
All my babies sick
Well one dead

So please don’t take my job
This how my kids buy their poisons
How I buy the caged chickens instead of the free ones
This how we die,
Buying caskets in paper bags with smiles.
I’m sarry Mista Roberts
My problems not yo problems

From the Nigga that presses the buttons

 

Black Rose

Colour Line – A Monologue

Bianka Bell

 

See this line here?

This is the line in which I was born

Like a river it carries me

Straight, but only for so long

You see, a choice is needed to be made, always

Left, or right

But never both

For it is impossible

To go in two directions

At the same time

 

You see, this line defines me

Not only that, but it constrains me

Not only that, but it strangles me

Forcing me to will in its ways

 

But NO, this line encourages me

Its pinching clamps daring me to venture out

 

But if this line is earth, I am its subject

You see, it will allow me to escape

To explore

Anywhere I must

Anywhere I feel

To discover what would be

False connections

 

Because this line teases me, you see

It laughs, spits in my face, and steps on my soul

As I search for my soul

For what is and what’s not

For what I am to thee

 

It has a hold on me, this line

Like electromagnetic energy

Because, like earth, it uses its gravity to remind me

That I need not explore

And I needed not wander

And I need not wonder

For I was born on this line, and this line is where I shall stay

That anywhere else, I simply do not belong

 

It shows no empathy, this line

For it is a mere unit of measurement

180 degrees of burning fire

Fueling a fire inside of me

So hot the devil asks for forgiveness

 

Because that 180 degrees cannot be so mere

If it leeches onto its subjects

Latches onto their backs

And pulls them in

Tighter and tighter

Each time the dare wonder

“What could be?”

 

And that is me

The wanderer

The wonderer

The traveler-to-be

 

This line prompts false hope

Augments curiosity

Ultimately eliciting misery

 

This line tears hearts

Eats souls

Destroys dreams

 

And yet,

No matter how strongly we resent it

Or how deeply we hate it

Or how many times we attempt to part from it

We know, deep down

That we need this line

 

With its honest deceit

With its burning protection

The line shields us

 

From the harshness of the world

From the inconsistencies of ourselves

From the susceptibility of perpetual discontent

The line is our supreme guardian

Or maybe our greatest source of destruction

So, stay on your own line

Or maybe don’t

Just don’t be shocked

When you choose the wrong path

Or the right one

 

Because the line comes back, inevitably

Because, you see

 

You can venture away from the line

But the line will always hold firm within thee

Forbidden Fruit

You gloried in the consumption

Of my Black cookie crumble/

That Milkshake

You beckoned to tame/

From that 50 Cent music video.

While you watched with self-indulgent eyes/

Your mind quickly sifted out the gold from my chains

And sucked off my bubble gum lip gloss.

Your mother arrived through the foyer/

You turned the channel

To Gilmore Girls,

As(s) the memory of those

Candy girls shook their “Black Cards”

Back into the void of MTV.

 

Aurielle Akerele

 

Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

Talk to Me.

Talk to me

 

Please

 

Talk to me

 

I promise I won’t bite

Fight

Attack you in the night

In fact

When I walk alone in the dark

I too carry a flash light

 

Talk to me

 

Please

 

Do not be alarmed

By the bronze of my exterior

It was simply the product

Of being left out

A little longer than yourself

In our mother’s vision

OUR mother

But it wasn’t unintentional

She said life would be too dull

If we all came out

Exactly the same

So she made my hair a little thicker too

And told me I was beautiful

I wish she would have warned me

To be cautious of my siblings

 

Talk to me

 

When I walk by my sisters and brothers and others

I never know

What to expect

Some act as if they have heard about me,

B,

Before even having uttered a word in my direction

They’d have to look me in the eye to do that

 

Talk to me

 

In seventh grade biology they taught me

That there are 206 bones in the human body

And that the liquid of our blood

Is called plasma

And I remember

Being so infatuated by that

‘OUR blood’

Said the teacher

And so I looked around the room

And I saw one collective entity

US

I felt warmth

A sensation I’ve never experienced in a history class

 

TALK TO ME

 

I move out of the way

When you walk in my direction

Sixty years ago

It would’ve been you

That deters my imaginary advances

Two separate responses

To the same system

Of oppression

 

TALK TO ME

 

It’s 2016

When we discuss institutional privilege

In one hundred level sociology

You roll your eyes

And smirk along with the person to your right

As I sit on your left

Do you not understand?

You are a part of the problem

 

TALK TO ME

 

All I’ve ever wanted was for you to know me

 

TALK TO ME

 

Why must I beg?

 

TALK TO ME

 

Maybe if you did

You would understand

Why I’m so desperate

 

Talk to me.

 

 

 

Bianka Bell

 

Land of Five Rivers

He was captivated by my swearing in a different language, foreign to the ears of many,

But after a moment, he would question my respect towards those rude, older men

Who told me to not talk back after they had spoken to me

He asks me why I act this way, what is my culture?

If I tell him where I am from

What my culture is,

Will he understand me?

Will he understand me, when I tell him

About the phulkariyan flying away

In the harsh winds

During a warm spring day?

Or when I explain to him

The art of falling asleep after a long day in the wheat fields,

While a jaago procession, filled with girls as young as newly-bloomed flowers

And aunties aged like wine

Sing at the top of their lungs in the distant background?

Or even having to fight with the stingy bazaar-wale,

Trying to sell simple jhootiyan for prices exceeding their worth?

What if I told that him, where I’m from,

My identity is constantly questioned,

Because my religion is different from that of the majority?

If I told him about Punjab,

My motherland,

Will he know about the time

When the Indian government stormed the holiest place in the state,

Causing the rancid smell of blood spilled

Of those who fell victims to the proceeding riots

To fill the air for years after?

Or maybe when

They gave pesticides to the farmers

Killing their livelihood?

Will he know what it’s like

To attempt to avoid the demons

Lurking after nightfall

On the hunt to fulfill their lustful desires

By taking away the innocence of women, the same age as their sisters?

Will he know the struggle

Of trying to not put your family to shame

As you try to be your own person?

Will he ever know the struggle of my people, my women?

A man, as white as the creams women like me are forced to rub into our dark ashy skin

To match the Eurocentric standards of beauty,

The pale skin, the bleach-colored body hair,

Different from the reality of

Skin colors ranging from caramel to dark chocolate,

Body hair, as thick as grains of the basmati rice grown in our fields,

Covering the entirety of our bodies

This man,

He is not from the land of the Five Rivers

He will never understand.

– Nisha Kaushal

anatomy in a mirror

(I really like playing with dialects and “improper English” because declaring black or “spanglish” English as “improper”  in comparison reinforces ideas of white hegemony and the colonizing of language and expression. Proper vs improper is bullshit. I is because I am, feel me?)

 

 

tia fills my lips.

mami squares my jaw.

abuela kinks my hair.

generations connect these brown valleys

on my skin—

identities in my finger tips.

 

i am

them

                              in me.

i is

                              so full

                              with us.

 

 

by vg

(Vanessa Gutierrez)

 

Artwork by Aylin Kavrakov

Artist Spotlight: #LoveHustle

lovehustle

 

“see here you mosaic being. brilliant. see how you are celebrated here. shown up for. gathered around and given permission to take up space.

there is so much to see here, it is one wide mirror. in one even wider world- that does indeed, have room for you.”

– Maya Osborne

#LoveHustle is a brand new series of the vibrant and soulful photography of street photographer and documentarian: Jen Diaz. The photographs are paired with brief #LoveHustle poems by poetess and Bard graduate, Maya Osborne. In the words of Osborne:

“#LoveHustle is an artcentric conversation about articulating how we each passionately pursue our dreams while living our best quality of life we can create for ourselves.”

New elements of the project will unfold as they continue to produce throughout 2016. It will capture the special moments of contemporary urban artists, their pursuits, and their varied dances of balancing life, love, family, dreams and relationships.

 

You can follow the project by staying connected through their official website, www.lovehustle.com

& by following #LoveHustle on Instagram &/or Twitter

 

Bianka Bell