Get our latest essays, archival selections, reading lists, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Everyone danced over graves
and ain’t no the rhythm of the songs.
I smelled no rot this summer.
But saw dead bodies everywhere.
Masking that smell was wet dog
and peonies and spray paint.
The heat ain’t even feel the same.
Like they learned to hang
up a fake sun and told it shine
I listen to prayers made out of drywall,
hear it written down activism.
I’m waiting on that perfect world
where folk don’t die and wake for
sunrises and eat their favorite meals
till it ain’t their favorites anymore.
But in the meantime, I’m tryna vanish.
Just transparent enough to weave
Double-cross and ankle snatch
I ain’t dead and in this form,
I can matrix my way out of your bullet.
Bite down and hold it between my teeth
if I had to. I’m tired of easy deaths. If I die,
the town is coming with me.
I’m gonna ascend with my whole block. Fuck dat
40 and a mule. I want hooks fish n chicken
’round the corner. I learned best to pillage
the city than to watch you pillage my kin in it.
Fuck I care for what can become Rome
built in a day? I refuse to rebuild life
upon glass, upon false still water.
Your peace is a rotting wood covered in paint.
I refuse to have my blessings bargained for my blood.
What my God desires of me is defiance.
I adorn all my loved ones in flowers before
burials, above ground I kiss their living cheeks.
I make love before rigor mortis.
I won’t seek my peace after I die
I won’t let you kill me.
I won’t become a statue martyr.
Lay comfortable over
that underworld soil,
drink from the River Styx.
But I, the alive, cannot go there.
Isha Camara is a writing, performance poet and visual poet from South Minneapolis. She earned her degree in Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a First Wave Alumna. Her work has been featured or is forthcoming in Southeast Review, Muzzle Magazine, Boston Review, Wisconsin Life, and Palette Poetry.
Vital reading on politics, literature, and more in your inbox. Sign up for our Weekly Newsletter, Monthly Roundup, and event notifications.
Protests in China are shining a light not only on the country’s draconian population management but restrictions on workers everywhere.
Support us with a donation this giving season.
Robin D. G. Kelley on the midterm elections.