Kemi Alabi, 2 Poems

Mr. Hotep Says #BLACKLIVESMATTER and He’d Kill a Dyke


The dyke within
tires of
the nigger without,

sick of rope
when the brick
calls her name.

Same blood,
same alley,

wrong hands,
wrong headline,

wrong barking pack
circling the same

same body
split, cracked

Wrong balm
on the sin,

wrong North
guiding the killer’s
new heart,

wrong village
with forgiveness,

same torches
the door.

All the women
in this body
burn at once,

no matter
how wrong
the fire,

& oh god,
the sound:
a chorus,

the notes,
in sum,

a dirge
for killer’s

as they
surely break

for a lover
with half
this face

and twice
the room
for flame.


Catatonia Mercy or What I Learned From Mother


i was raised by the ghost who haunts the house i grew up in / she calls at least once a
week / are you okay? / yes it’s sunny   i say from the closet / curled between a suitcase
and the wall / she’s fourth generation spoiled fruit ‘neath the poplars / born in the
basement of a bombed out church / i’ve inherited the snapped neck   the smoked lungs
the terror / have you eaten? / the ghost smooths her dress over a billowing cough / yes
i yell through two fists stuffed in my mouth / i don’t ask about Charleston / if she too
tastes the bullet meal / are you lying?   her voice is a whole choir burning / i don’t know
my voice is the shot that missed the child / we survive   the ghost mistakes her chill
for breath / i know   i lie   staring straight through my chest / and we   the lucky ones /
haven’t known greater mercies   than this