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Published January 7, 2021 by April Fox

You don’t have to be gentle
with everyone.

You don’t owe it to the boot that stomps your face to smile
through broken teeth.

You don’t have to prove yourself again and again
and again
worthy of the praise of those who aim
to crush your larynx closed; you don’t

have to
stanch your rage to be accepted in
polite society
Manners are for tea time
and waiting in line for the sink.

You don’t have to look away avert your eyes pretend that you don’t see
Just because you can
Just because you get to.

You don’t have to be the one to plug the flowers into
the mouths of the guns while the bullets fly
and the bodies fly
and the flags fly
and the buzzards fly and wait
to pluck your eyes out
as they melt into the ground.

You don’t have to be gentle, but you are
because it’s counter what they’re doing
and so you’re not like them, but understand
You are the teeth
Or you’re the boot
Or you’re the laces
tied up tight.

January 2021

Published January 1, 2021 by April Fox

Look at us, scorched and scornful

black-burnt stick-limbs scratching messages on the walls,

pencil scrawled profanity to make you

stutter and avert your eyes

like you never thought those words

in pleasant company,

gloves stretched tight white painful across your knuckles

buried deep behind your teeth, tasting

blood at the back of your tongue, fighting


not to swallow. Look at

us, small and sinful

brains gone flaccid, atrophied from

lack of use and no desire

to exercise

they tell us






like you can’t even

make a spark

to light the way

Look at us, sunken-eyed and dark below

so goddamn depression-beautiful

we’ll let you know if we need anything

thanks so much for reaching out

the platitudes drip dirty water

down our chins

“If only we had known” and in truth

your arrogance

is all that separates us.


Published January 1, 2021 by April Fox

I am not


to look at the place

you left your shoes

(I see them at night, behind

my shuttered eyelids, I picture


side by side, one laid over sideways

discarded with the laces

struggling to catch up)

I have a towel, here

I have hot coffee

you can have my robe.

The waves creep in and I know it’s not the ocean


you never made it there, and still

-and still.


Published July 2, 2020 by April Fox

I said this

then I forgot what it meant in the haze

of lost remembrances and words skewed catty-cornered

from the way they should have read

In my myopic misanthropic misalignment of the margins I

let slide the focus and the letters I was

sending in my head slid

off the page

burnt down to ash

and then to ash and then to

ashes as they scattered but the fragments

of the bones, they stayed behind

too hot to touch, still a spark

I said

I think I’ll leave you here

to start a fire.


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


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.






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


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.


Phoebe, flying

Published April 15, 2019 by April Fox

This is where she sat,

legs tucked under her, a child


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,


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.

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