9 Poems You Shouldn’t Die Without Reading

1. “Untitled”
how far have you walked for men who’ve never held your feet in their laps?
how often have you bartered with bone, only to sell yourself short?
why do you find the unavailable so alluring?
where did it begin? what went wrong? and who made you feel so worthless?
if they wanted you, wouldn’t they have chosen you?
all this time, you were begging for love silently, thinking they couldn’t hear you, but they smelt it on you, you must have known that they could taste the desperate on your skin?
and what about the others that would do anything for you, why did you make them love you until you could not stand it?
how are you both of these women, both flighty and needful?
where did you learn this, to want what does not want you?
where did you learn this, to leave those that want to stay?
-Warsan Shire

2. “A Poem/Because It Came As A Surprise To Me”
(an invention of saul
as played to perfection by the pope)
is two people
of similar sex
that’s all
-Nikki Giovanni

3. “Amethyst Rocks”

I stand on the corner of the block slangin’ Amethyst Rocks
Drinkin’ 40’s of mother earth’s private nectar stock dodging cops
Cause 5-0 be the 666
And I need a fix of that purple rain
The type of shit that drives membranes insane
Oh yeah I’m in the fast lane snorting candy yams
That free my body and soul and send me like shazzam
Never question who I am
God knows
And I know god personally
In fact he let’s me call him me
Yea I’m serious “B”
Doe gone niggas plotted shit lovely
But the feds is also plotting me
They’re trying to imprison my astrology
Put our stars behind bars
Our stars and stripes
Using blood splattered banners as nationalist kites
But I control the wind, that’s why they call it the hawk
I am Horus, son of Isis, son of Osiris
Worshiped as Jesus resurrected
Like Lazarus
But you can call me lazzy, lazy
Yea I’m lazy cause I’d rather sit and build
Than work and plow a field
Worshiping a daily yield of cash green crops

Too bad they don’t teach the truth to their kids
Our influence on them is the reflection they see
When they look into their minstrel mirror and talk about
“Their” culture
Their existence is that of a schizophrenic vulture
Yea there’s no repentance
They are bound to live an infinite consecutive executive life sentence
So what are you bound to live nigga
So while you’re out there serving the time
I’ll be in sync with the sun while you run from the moon
Life of the womb reflected by guns
Worshiper of moons, I am the the sun
And WE are public enemy’s number 1
1-1-1 ….. 1-1-1
-Saul Williams

4. “Long Way Home”
john lord knows you still vexed___reckon me too if my wife stole
off durin sleepy night___ god an de devil only souls up at dat hour
even if i knows she bout to be sold south___ even if i knows she
was leevin___ an you did___ you so troubled when i talk about leevin
call me a fool___ call me cudjo___ five years wid you john___ yo wife
bout to be sold away___ jus cus you free dis don’t worry you none
you laugh___ dunno if i’d miss yo laugh if i was in de south tho
thank ya jesus gotta room in philadelphia john___ aint big but clean
nuf room for us___ some chirren too___ yo baby___ i aint too old jus yet
jus round thirty-one___ i think___ make us a home john___ one
where we’s both free___ free from de lash’s shadow free like de lord
mean___ got dis suit fo ya john___ aint nobody worn dese clothes befo
walk proud in dese clothese___ dese is free mans cloths
-Quraysh Ali Lansana

5. “Raised By Women”
I was raised by
Chitterling eating
Vegetarian cooking
Cornbread so good you want to lay
down and die baking
“Go on baby, get yo’self a plate”
Kind of Women.

Some thick haired
Angela Davis afro styling
“Girl, lay back
and let me scratch yo head”
Sorta Women.

Some big legged
High yellow, mocha brown
Hip shaking
Miniskirt wearing
Hip huggers hugging
Daring debutantes
“I know I look good”
Type of Women.

Some tea sipping
White glove wearing
Got married too soon
in just the nick of time
“Better say yes ma’am to me”
Type of sisters.

Some fingerpopping
Boogaloo dancing
Say it loud
I’m black and I’m proud
James Brown listening
“Go on girl shake that thing”
Kind of Sisters.

Some face slapping
Hands on hips
“Don’t mess with me,
Pack your bags and
get the hell out of my house”
Sorta women

Some PhD toten
Poetry writing
Portrait painting
“I’ll see you in court”
World traveling
Stand back, I’m creating
Type of queens

I was raised by women
-Kelly Norman Ellis

6. “I Write”
Because somewhere in Soweto there is a small, brown girl who looks like me.
Her hair sings with the sun.
She is wearing clothes with no name.
She is beautiful.
She is hungry, like her sister in South Carolina.
They are cold, and possibly my cousins. They are hungry.
I cannot finish my family tree. It stops somewhere in South Carolina.

Because somewhere in Atlanta, there is a soldier named Mutulu.
He lives in a cage. His dreadlocks do not see the sun.
He is wearing clothes with numbers.
He has not touched a breast in fourteen years.
He is lonely.

Because many brown people do not own guns.
Because they may not use them if they did.
Because between candy bars, Sundiata chain smokes his way through the day.
Because Assata and Nehanda cannot come home.
Because some of us collect stamps instead of weapons.
We are foolish.

Somewhere in St. Croix, there is a fine Black man.
His eyes dance. He wears nothing.
He is at least as beautiful as god.
I am afraid the fine man and god will hurt me.
I cannot submit. When I get on my knees. I am wordless.
When I lay under him on hot nights, trying to receive all that is good in him, I scream too loud. Then, he thinks I belong to him. He is strong.
He cannot love me. When he leaves, he takes god with him.
We are hurt.

Somewhere in San Francisco, there is a father
confusing his daughter with his wife. His breath stinks.

Because his little girl learns about lust between her father’s legs.
Because he waited for her inside her house and did not stop when she cried.
Because an old woman cannot walk down the street alone at night.
Wearing whatever she pleases. We are cold.

Somewhere in Chicago, there is a small black boy who did not make it through the night.
His hands are soft. He is wearing a toe tag. His mother has been crying for years.
Because he does not belong in a refrigerator.
Because no sterile white sheet can cover his pain.
Because life and death hurt.

7. “My Love Affair with Jamaica”
has always been double-edged
two ends of a pimento candle
burning towards a slender middle
the indulgent heat pushing me off-center
on this island
there has never been safe ground

The flat-cut of Liguanea
contrasting with the fluid shape of indigo mountains
Gordon Town farming the blue-black faces cleaning
dirty windscreens on Hope Road
the hunger in their eyes eerie at twilight
the dead breathing wistful flames at night
rolling across childhood memories
the raspy sound of my brother’s breathing
reminding me that I must never rest
the uneven iron bed was never big enough
to hold my dream–my fears
sweating through the polyester nightgown
water will always find its own level
my grandmother whispers
sleep now–before the new day come find you
still looking into yesterday
Jamaica has always been harsh
hard words of rigid correction
connecting with the side of my head
two fingers of water above the rice
turn down the fire when the pot start boiling
gal picky must learn fi wash them dirty under-clothes

The white uniforms hid the welts on my legs
the blue ties tempered the catholic purity
soft sister-hands encouraged the metal rosary
B+ is never acceptable in Math
you want to sell cigarettes on the roadside?
finish you homework
and come get a piece of cornmeal puddin’

The land has always been lush
coconut husks split open to the rush of a moody sea
Sunday afternoons on the endless sand
pre-adolescent belly bottoms slit to reveal the red fruit
puppy sweet–but angry in captivity
has always loved me from a place of random beauty
women with wide cassava hips
and full star-applelips
women with strong hands
reaching beyond their own fears
to give their children courage
teaching them to stand straight-backed
in the absence of fathers who visit
with the smell of white rum in their words

My father has never loved women
with soft hands–my mother will show you the scars
still wrapped around her solid middle
banning her belly tight against visibility
this child will never be silent
I speak now because my grandmother game me tongue
I speak now because Jamaica has always given me
crosses I will have to bear alone
the only compass my mothers needle-sharp pain
shooting proud across my back
marked like a crab
Jamaica has always been able to find me
a thorn among the bloody hibiscus blooms
my Jamaica has always been
the hardest poem to write
-Staceyann Chin

8. “The Sound of Burning Hair”
Dropping a bomb
Is not the same
As throwing it
One can be
A nervous mistake
The other a dead intention
So they knew when they leaned
Their ticking arms
Out their flying doors
That bullets would never be enough
That bullets could tear
And nightsticks
Could render unconsciousness
But what would debone
Tough dark meat
From nimble arrogant quick healing joints
They knew when they threw it down
That bullets might slice a path
Through some unruly poppy untamed heads
But what would singe it off
Beyond skin and scalp
Under airshafts and past regeneration

Fire would
Fire could

So by all means
Let us throw fire
-Nikky Finney

**As a special addition, a poem by yours truly:


Tossed and turned
Hours last night
To get out of head
Poem I did not want to write

Heart songs I refuse to sing
“We shall over come”
Foolish at moments like this

Voices descend
Ball up fists
Knock at Justice’s door
Say legalized lynching can’t be anymore

Days of turning blind eye to
History have got to cease
No more innocent necks
Strung from Lady Liberty’s sleeve

Bitter from giving our tired
Our poor
Our huddled masses
Yearning to be free

“Heritage not hate”
Motto—Ku Klux Klan

No heritage for people who look like me
Melanin deficient or not American at all

Kill enough niggers watch them all fall
Kill enough spics watch them all fall
Kill enough chinks watch them all fall
Kill enough reds watch them all fall

Kill enough hope watch them all fall
Kill enough dreams watch them all fall

Foundation over bruised face
Ugly truth
Made-up eyes

-Ms. Malcolm Hughes


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