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.

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

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




Talk to me


I promise I won’t bite


Attack you in the night

In fact

When I walk alone in the dark

I too carry a flash light


Talk to me




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,


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


I felt warmth

A sensation I’ve never experienced in a history class




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




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




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




Why must I beg?




Maybe if you did

You would understand

Why I’m so desperate


Talk to me.




Bianka Bell