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Avenue

Published April 29, 2020 by April Fox

This avenue ain’t for the downhearted,

the heavy steppin’

This is where people walk who got

five pounds of flour under the stairs

and enough sugar left over

to make a cake

This where folks walk who got a dollar in their pocket

without the corners torn off

already half spent on

nothin’.

This is the bench where people sit and talk

to no one

about they diamond lives and how they mad

cause they don’t want everyone else

to have it too.

This is where they stand up and stretch, put their noses up and look

sideways and down to make sure the nets

they keep around them

ain’t come down.

This avenue ain’t for the folks who walk

authentically, worn-down soles

and battered souls, this is where they walk

on shiny heels, in the light so bright you

can’t see

nothing else.

Making Lists

Published September 20, 2019 by April Fox

When I was 5 or 6 years old,

I came home from school and told my mother

I couldn’t play with Jerome and Michael anymore

because they smelled bad.

“What do you mean, they smell bad?”

“They’re black,” I told her.

“My friend told me not to play with them, because black people

smell bad.”

“That’s stupid,” she said.

“Black people don’t smell any different than anyone else. I think she smells bad.”

When I was in middle school, I walked down the hall with my friend Ceaph

on our way to orchestra class.

He played the upright bass,

I played the violin and viola

and people called me NIGGER LOVER now

when they used to just call me short

and ugly.

Bobbie couldn’t play the violin, they said,

because black people don’t do that.

But those people couldn’t play shit

so what did they know?

Why’d they have to come to our school?

The hallways were getting uglier.

She got big titties cause she’s black. Black girls got big titties.

Skinny white me didn’t have any titties, so that one I thought might have been true, a little bit.

You know what goes on over in Dunbar?

I didn’t know what any of that meant.

They smelled like coconut, Jerome and Michael did.

When I’m anxious, I make lists.

Jerome.

Michael.

Bobbie.

Ceaph.

 

Head Space

Published June 28, 2019 by April Fox

I started packing things away,

for safekeeping

out of sight, out of mind, they say

you know this story all too well.

They were balanced there before then,

precariously at best, but tucked in

to the corners and the valleys

of my head

with space between

for something right

to grow.

And the boxes took up room and the more things stumbled in,

the memories, anxieties, the captured bits of fear that wandered in

on drunken legs and made themselves

at home, the more I

packed away until

the only things

that I had left

were containers

nothing else.

Popular wisdom tells me now that I should find a space and meditate,

self-medicate, deliberate and contemplate the reasons

why

I needed them, the cardboard crates,

the warped attempts to regulate

the artifacts inside my head

that wished me dead

Find a mountain, or a spa, or a therapist to help me

unpack all these things

— all the things!

That suffocated every part of my reality

in the boxes

where I kept them and they tell me I should lay them out,

examine them

necropsies on the damage that I hoarded till it owned me

poke and prod the innards

for some clues

to my demise

And them bury them, perhaps

with some full-moon ceremony, write them down and burn them

or toss them in the sea, but I think

I need the space they occupy

to be vacant now, rather than later and I think

I’m sick of seeing them, and I think

I don’t give a shit

what unpacking them might do, what I might find I accidentally

stuck in there in my haste, and I think

it’s time to simply

strike a match

and watch them burn.

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Phoebe, flying

Published April 15, 2019 by April Fox

This is where she sat,

legs tucked under her, a child

always

perched there in the nest of her lap

Everywhere there are women, now

in big floppy hats and loose cardigans

hair flying behind them

in the wind,

smiling.

The playground this afternoon was empty

as we filed out to say goodbye

I listened hard to hear her laughter

and the silence pulled me on.

Vacancy

Published April 8, 2019 by April Fox

They like to tell you

on TV

about their grief:

dramatic renderings

of their reactions

a symphony of self-indulgence

“I heard the news and I screamed

I cried

I just broke down sobbing

I was screaming

so loud, I was

I

I

I”

I am standing in the grocery store

silent

I lost that part of my voice and I am

trying

to keep my legs and I can’t

breathe

because the cereal he ate

when I was small is gone

They don’t have it anymore,

this artifact of him

and I see him in the Special K, the Lucky Charms, the Froot Loops

I see him lying there with no heartbeat and no teeth

I see the vacancy like a spotlight and there is no air left

for screaming sobbing crying

for walking past the void

and into life.

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