Despite being well spoken, and a law abiding citizen.
--Even though I assimilate.
I keep my appearance prim and proper.
But it is still never enough.
I laugh, so you believe these are tears of joy.
So tell me,
Do I, too, sing America?
Tomorrow has come and yes I sit at the table, Mr. Hughes.
No one dares tell me, “eat in the kitchen” now, at least not to my face.
They rather passive aggressively tell me, by passing me over,
Or have me second-guessing my worth.
Because somehow what you tell me, and your actions do not line up.
So tell me,
Do I, too, sing America?
In a place where many have died to help build,
and many have died for change.
Where many have been sacrificed,
who look just like me.
For causes greater than us all, but somewhere those legends get lost.
When wars are made, or my help is needed you want me to sing America?
And yet when I need help where is America?
See how beautiful I am,
See how brilliant I am.
I don’t need you to tell me if I sing America because I do
No matter how many of “me’s” are slaughtered,
One day you will see,
That I too sing America, because America is me.
His time had come
Black men die everyday
And I always wonder
If ghost felt the bullet
Take his life. Felt that
Spinning lead expand then
Melt into his medulla oblongata
I wonder if he knew that his
Time had come
Did he hear the trigger squeeze
Cocking hammer then high
Caliber bang that initiated
The sounds of screams and shattering
Glass and the crush of his cartilage
To ascend his soul did the Saints know
His time had come?
Did he smell his burnt flesh
The fresh gunpowder from
The ejecting cartridge
Made of the brass that tap danced
Atop the cold cement and roses in the
Were the planets involved?
Were the stars aligned?
Did the galaxies shift?
Did the universe know?
That his time had come
I have a right to bear arms
I have a right to be loud
I have a right to rock unruly hair
And baggy clothes
I have a right to an education
And to quality food
I have a right to equal opportunity
And college acceptance
I have to right to shop
I have a right to spend
I have a right to not be questioned
I have a right to walk down the street
I have a right to speak my mind
I have a right to challenge society
And I have a right to lead society to a better way
I have a right to be here
I have a right to be alive
I have a right to breathe
I have a right to drive
I have a right to pursue my dreams
I have a right to follow my heart
I have a right to clean streets
And safe homes
I have a right to end a 300-year oppressive cycle
I have a right to listen to music
I have a right to speak in slang
I have a right to fit my own standards
I have a right to be Black
North East Corridor musings for New Jersey
I pass all the old factories that used to symbolize optimism,
Bombed out brick buildings of Harrison,
Where people made economies,
Green grassy yards in Spring,
American Legion Halls,
Long roads with one street lamp,
Diverse neighborhoods in Elizabeth,
Parks and dirt soccer fields,
Signs of middle class wear and tear,
Faded burn marks of melting pots,
Fly somewhere from Newark,
Fry somewhere in Newark,
The friend you never see,
Wanting the best for them,
Cry for the people,
On the commuters’ trail,
Writing while the train shakes my notepad,
Scribbled words that match the stop sign graffiti,
New Brunswick mind expansion,
Grease and grades,
A skate park designed by policemen in Edison,
Even the traffic lights,
Empty lots all along the way,
Developers lick their lips,
Suburban urbanized living,
Where are the hot spots of Metro Park,
Where can you be safe?
Be set free?
Downtown post-apocalyptic store fronts,
Nothing to keep you full,
Walls around Princeton,
Too old to climb,
The siege has ended,
Money polishing money,
Buy some heroin in Trenton,
Some time in Hamilton,
Watch the ground crust over and the malls spring forth,
Black holes of communal development,
You can ride the train anytime you want,
It only costs fifteen bucks,
And some humanity,
Wendy C. Williford
The Sanctimonious Lament of the Cake and Punch Girl
It’s just a favor, you remind yourself while gripping the cold stainless steel knife. Always a bridesmaid but never a bride. A terrible lament, but whoever first uttered it never had to be a cake and punch girl.
“Slice the cake, pour the punch, not too big a slice, there has to be enough for everyone; if you run out of ginger ale or pineapple juice, there’s more in the kitchen.” “Have Aunt Gladdy get it, though. Don’t leave the table.” “And be a dear, remember to smile and look happy.”
You’re on the verge of slapping the next aunt who gives that look of pity with raised eyebrow and asks when it will be your turn. “I’m only twenty-seven!” you want to shout, and “I’m not that old!” Are you? It’s the fear of trial and subsequent jail sentence that prevents you from stealing a peanut from the cheap crystal bowl and stuffing it between the middle layer of the whiter than white wedding cake. What exactly happens when someone has an allergic reaction to peanuts? For as long as you can remember, Aunt Hattie has carried an EpiPen in her purse. You wonder if Aunt Hattie remembered it when she changed purses to match her shoes, the ones she wore at Great-Uncle Frank’s funeral, but cleaned up to look like new.
“Slice the outer edges first, make a circle, then work on the next inner circle.” “Don’t let your fingers smudge the icing when removing the top tier.” “It’s saved for their first anniversary.” “You’re not licking your fingers, are you?” “Oh God, where are the new champagne flutes?”
What sick sense of obligation possessed you to volunteer for this? You’re the youngest of twelve female cousins, the last of the unmarried tribe, the last to think about babies, the last one on their minds when looking for bridesmaids. Of course being youngest had some advantages – you were always the first in mind for flower girl when the oldest three got married. That, however, was twenty years ago, that was second grade. This is Janet’s second wedding and second weddings mean budget. Sure, she could afford the caterers, but skimped on cake and punch server. You are the natural choice. “You did so well at Katie and Blair’s weddings.” But that was high school.
“I can never remember: is it two ginger ales to each pineapple juice or the other way around?” “Go ask Aunt Jean, Aunt Lynn is too stressed to think.” “No, no, no, no, no, no, smaller slices. Think small cube, about yay big.” You eye the bridesmaids, sitting pretty in a row, perfectly manicured hands and new gold tennis bracelets on their wrists (the obligatory bride’s gift), matching their beautiful new strapless burgundy gowns. Janet has good taste this time. You look down at the shamrock green dress, the multi layered taffeta skirt, tight around the chest, borrowed from one of Daphne’s bridesmaids (circa 1993), and notice a greasy smudge of butter-cream icing on your hip. You take a napkin and wipe it away, then move the clasp of the man-made pearl necklace to the back of your neck. Maybe you can use the pearls in your Halloween costume in the fall.
“Are you making sure everyone’s using the little spoon for the peanut bowl?” “Don’t let them use their fingers. You know I love this family, but who knows where their hands have been.” “I really thought the champagne would last longer than this.”
Janet even sprung for the bridesmaids to have their hair done. You had to make do with hot rollers and Bold Hold. You didn’t even know they made it anymore. You look suspiciously over to the groom’s table with Doug’s two tiered chocolate cake, lovingly sliced by his pretty, fresh-faced cousin, lovely braid down her back, bangs prettily drooping over her eyes in the latest teen fashion, not forced into some used monstrosity of style, comfortable in her stylish JC Penny dress with beadwork down to her knees. Damnit, is that a gold tennis bracelet?
“Charlotte’s twins are on their third piece. Don’t let the children talk you into seconds.” “Do you seriously want to know how much this cake costs?” “I swear, if Burt makes one more remark about Janet wearing white I’ll smack him.”
Your foot patters, cold steel in hand. You can’t decide if it’s the champagne you snuck into your crystal cup or the handful of butter mints you stuffed into your mouth that’s flushing your cheeks. The band is covering a Bryan Adams song. A few of the cousins are dancing, the others are at their tables enjoying their fish or chicken. The five-year-old flower girl lies on the floor next to Janet trying to wiggle out of her white tights. She’s on the verge of a fit. You clinch your fists, willing it to happen. The six-year-old ring bearer’s in the corner, picking his nose and rubbing it on his rented cummerbund.
Uncle Ray takes the last open bottle of champagne, swears he’ll refill the newlyweds’ glasses. Any moment now Jason will stand up, push the coat hem of his tux over his hip, hold up his glass and give his speech, no doubt including an anecdote about Doug, spring break, and a stripper. If he’s a clever storyteller, he’ll throw in a twist about a transvestite. Everyone will laugh, Jason will clear his throat, “no, seriously…”, and the story will turn sentimental.
Yawn. Slice the cake. Pour the punch. Smile.
“You’ve lost your shoes.”
You look up. Alex, Doug’s oldest nephew, stares at you, nervous smile, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down. He then eyes your bare toes and the green pumps you slid under the table.
“Does it matter?” you snort, Bold Hold bangs falling against your eyebrow.
“Are you allowed to dance?”
You put the last piece of cake on the plate, lick your finger, place the cold steel down and slip your shoes on.
Smile. Be happy.
While all my fellow humans hope to
Enter heaven after they die, I am alone
Living in paradise already:
An earthly realm I have built myself
With the light from Lapland, where the setting sun
Shines with the morning glows above golden snow
The air from Shangri-la, where the yin
And yang are in pure and perfect balance with
Each other in every grass, every cloud
The water from Waterton Lakes, which
Reflect the mountain of trees as clearly
As the mountain reflects upon the clear water
That’s all my spirit needs, not the fragments
Of the meaning about Eden long lost
But the whole backyard within my solitary heart
Christina M. Rau
Sometimes there are two sails inside us.—Nick Flynn
Sometimes there are two anchors
inside us. The iron one
drops to dredge. It sets.
Rust builds from seaweed.
Salt settles through
slashed scars, weighing
down the heavy hook.
Stuck. Sinks deeper. Sticks like a barb.
The other anchor is not
iron. Its specific material
changes each time we
name it. Tugging will not
set it free. Days of storms
won’t make it budge.
Far from the oxidized rotting mess,
this one glimmers in its want,
screams in its stay,
shows that settling in is not
the same as wasting away.
Kevin Christopher Grant is a New Orleans native, but currently lives in Southern California where he works as an independent filmmaker.
Kayla Thompson grew up in St. Louis, MO and graduated with a BA in Cultural Anthropology from Webster University. She currently teaches 5th grade in St Louis.
J. Donnelly writes and lives in Astoria NY. He has a chapbook titled “The ECW and other poems” digitally available through Amazon, but if you get in touch with him he’ll give you a free copy.
Wendy C. Williford is a native Texan who began writing stories as early as the 5th grade. By the time she was 17, she had written her first unpublished novel, a broad collection of poems, and was awarded poet laureate of her graduating class. Since then, she has written dozens of short stories, poems, and a screenplay. She received a BA in History with a minor in Creative Writing from Stephen F. Austin State University in 2007. Currently, she is working on a novel set during the Scottish War for Independence.
Ms. Williford has works published in Ascent Aspirations, cc&d Magazine, Allegory, The Wordsmith Journal, Gravel Magazine, Sanitarium Magazine, The New Plains Review, Down in The Dirt Magazine, Livid Squid, Floyd County Moonshine and The Vermillion Literary Project. She has stories also appearing in Bare Minimum and Art Is Not Meant To Be Touched anthologies. In 2014 she co-authored Time Out of Darkness. She blogs about her experiences as an author and writer at http://WendyCWilliford.com.
Changming Yuan, 8-time Pushcart nominee and probably the world's most widely published poetry author who speaks Mandarin but writes English, grew up in a remote village, began to learn English at 19, and published several monographs before leaving China. With a PhD in English, Changming co-edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Qing Yuan in Vancouver, and has poetry appearing in 909 literary publications across 30 countries, including Best Canadian Poetry, BestNewPoemsOnline and Threepenny Review.
Christina M. Rau is the author of the chapbook For The Girls, I (Dancing Girl Press, 2014) and founder of Poets In Nassau, a reading circuit on Long Island, NY. She teaches English atNassau Community College where she also serves as Editor for The Nassau Review and Coordinator for the Creative Writing Project. Her poetry has appeared on gallery walls in The Ekphrastic Poster Show, on car magnets for The Living Poetry Project, and most recently in the journals Technoculture, Crony, and Redheaded Stepchild. In her non-writing life, she practices yoga occasionally and line dances on other occasions. Find her links on http://alifeofwe.blogspot.com