2021 Editors' Choice PoemsWeek 2
Poetry Month Contest
Submit 1-3 poems of any form or style that speak to Remembering/Reckoning as a response to the traumas of 2020
by Amber Moss
When I visit graveyards, I gaze at the unwalled patches of the lot, scanning over the names of bodies submerged underneath calla lilies and peonies. I close my eyes and wait to feel the souls relinquished by God. Every body leaves behind a spirit. Words from my grandmother who swears she can feel the flick of her mother’s finger whenever she sprinkles too much salt in her grits. Maybe she’s right, and that warmth I feel when I lie down in a wilting garden is really my departed childhood friend holding my body against hers. Years ago, I adopted a vegetarian diet so I wouldn’t die from eating tainted slabs of meat. Death seemed too near and my only option was to push it in the direction of the ocean. I’d rather it extract the body of a trout than the Black skin that shields my bones. Every body leaves behind a spirit. Even the Black knuckles that turn the color of faded eggplant once cold. So, I dig my palms into the dirt and wait for the wind to squeeze my ears, announcing another spirit.
Amber Moss is a Black writer and editor from Atlanta. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of South Florida. She is the author of one full-length poetry collection and two chapbooks. Her latest chapbook, Some Kind Of Black, is forthcoming in 2022 (Nymeria Publishing). Her poetry has been published in Bewildering Stories, Little Rose Magazine, Liminality Magzine, Poetry Super Highway, and others.
by Mallika Khan
I do not know loss, but I have lost to God.
Several times. Never by choice. Now, I hold
my Queer under my palm. It squeezes
itself between my fingers, clawing back
across the dining table. A spidery hand
slowly making its way to my mum.
I cannot let my Queer crucify my mum.
We interlock fingers around the table. Thank God
for the meal. Pray for my family to come back
to me instead. I ache from reaching out my hand,
knowing that my aunty will not hold
it anymore. Another death. The grief squeezes
my chest through my ribcage. She squeezes
her eyes shut, quickly. Before my mum
finds out. My gaze pierces my impure hand,
knowing all the perverse love it can hold
when I am with Her. Perhaps, I could ask God
why my Queer carries a hammer and nails. My back
should be hunched over. Instead, I lean back
to find more than a chair. Shame that squeezes
me into a tight embrace. How does it hold
me closer than my family ever would? Surely God
could reconsider this sin. I know my mum
carries my cross behind her. Her hand
covered in splinters. The same weary hand
preparing peace offerings. Meals to bring back
the relatives that denied me thrice for God.
For they don’t know me at all. I watch my mum
ask for mercy with every spoonful of rice. Squeezes
leftover grace into plastic containers for them to hold
onto as they pass over. She tells me to hold
my tongue when they speak death. Her hand
clutches my Queer firmly as they leave. Mum,
I wish I wasn’t something to fight for. It squeezes
out of me, a thought. That turning her back
meant they died for her too. Forgive me, God.
Truth is, I fear I will lose my mum to God
every day. But for now, I hold her hand
while we pray. She always squeezes back.
Mallika Khan is a 22 year-old queer Pakistani poet and artist based in Bristol. They study Psychology with Criminology at the University of the West of England. They believe that where sorrow lies, resilience and strength is always there too; and this is the main focus of their work. Mallika’s poetry has received recognition from Bristol Women’s Voice and Art Within The Cracks, however, this is their debut poetry publication.
More information on Mallika’s work can be found on their website at: https://mallikakhan.wixsite.com/studio