bushwick, 2017.


you walk out of the house
face painted in childhood murals
always RIP & 40oz. altars.
now hype spots for tourists
who, in derangement,
turn your shrines into
neighborhood character.

the home listings read:
‘Wonderful place to raise our kids’
‘Nice place to take a shower in the sunlight’

you wonder
if people still wash their asses outdoors
& whether the children are okay.

there will always be memorials.


the first boy.
    he had to be told
    that pussy don’t smell
    like burnt weave
    & old sunflower seeds.

    it’s 2nd quarter
    he knows how to
    weave cord
    keychains & twist
    outs. they beat
    him till he had
    chainlink tattoos.


which negro spiritual
do we sing at yt cookouts
when faced with
polenta &
textured vegetable protein
speculatively cooked
in discarded pork fat?

certain that there exists
a word
for wading out too far.
not drowning. but integral
integrity integration
ingratiation inflammation
inoculation irradiation



I was at Plymouth Rock in 89
N heard all the banter
Right from the stage of
A basehead’s uterine lining.
I been a snitch since 88,
My eyes on the scuff marks
Of her sneakers
Legs way up in the air
And bowed in not-so-first love.

Primero, my father says.
Silly men do have strange memories.
But I was there
When the ship bumped
And the shit went down
N so when I talk about history, kid
You need to listen.
You got this game for free.

you got a lot

of people
fucking for ten-fold blessings.

in a manner of speaking,
every prosperity gospel
Is attuned to the saints
that deconstructed it.
mass media-in-res
hearings at the Throne
too many questions

our lord wonders
how a nation of men
comes to covet itself.

looking down upon us
children of the fallen
in all our prayers,
the smell of our

early morning tongues
braising the ears
of our protectors.
a holy ringing.

all of our kings
backpedal softly
across the chests
of our children
braided rugs,
& self-loathing.

we never answer our blessings.
our shoes become untied
every step
towards the father,

liniments of verse
charted across our arms in vegetable ink
& trap soul discographies.

waiting to bury our rulers,
we got a lot
of hellish dreams
& purple hearts.


hardest stuff to let go.

gonna wake
in a tub full of ice
knees bent for the day
veins shrunken &
no more of your juice
can be had. when,
perhaps, cold isn’t cold
you begin
to miss daylight
your daddy
hollers off
the building stoop
you must need
on your head.
no more. but
you are turning kind
of blue. as if
you are getting younger
& less memorable
& now, you are
your mother’s space.
she carried you
light years before
her whole body
convulsed in withdrawal
but there was no solace
& you had to come
& die proper
in your sleep.
you dreamed so many
of laying into flesh
with everything, ceased
lights no longer burning
your eyes. the last time
you made a wish
on a star.

Shakeema Smalls is a writer from Georgetown, SC by way of Brooklyn, NY. Her work has appeared in Tidal Basin Review, Kweli Journal, The Fem, Blackberry: A Magazine, The Feminist Wire, Free Black Space, Sugared Water, Vinyl Poetry & Prose, and Muse, with upcoming work in Pittsburgh Poetry Review and Radius. 

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