The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Heirloom by Ashia Ajani

This selection, chosen by guest editor Sarah Clark, is from 
Heirloom by Ashia Ajani, released by Write Bloody Publishing in 2023.


“a form of mania supposedly affecting slaves in the 19th century,
manifested by an uncontrollable impulse to wander or run away
from their white masters, preventable by regular whipping. The
disorder was first identified in a medical report that is often cited as
a fanciful case of psychologism” —Oxford English Dictionary
often, i dream of flight.
this makes me susceptible to any
gin-stinking wisdom that comes
my way—

better days are coming.
the drunkards on the corner blow
kisses masked by hiccupped
vengeance, eyes soot-dark
with visions of marronage.
“why you ain’t smiling?
you blessed my nigga” says the man
at the city bus stop.
instinctively, my wings unfurl.
perhaps it's just the smell of last night’s dinner
lingering on his coat,
good feed enticing wayward flock,
but there are always unnamed hungers who
draw us closer to truthsayers;

Lord, i been starving.

stuck in the oil slick, plumage clipped.
eager to find its destination happy,
a patient violence lives at the base of my spine.
desire stands guard against colonial teeth,
says, “run.”
i oblige,
exposing the geography of hurt
across these United States.

Ashia Ajani is a sunshower hailing from Denver, CO, (unceded Cheyenne, Ute, and Arapahoe land), now living in Oakland (unceded Ohlone land). A lecturer in the AfAm Department at UC Berkeley and a climate justice educator with Mycelium Youth Network, Ajani has received fellowships from Just Buffalo Literary Center, Tin House, The Watering Hole and others. Their words have appeared in Sierra, Atmos, World Literature Today, Frontier Poetry, & elsewhere. Ajani is co-poetry editor of the Hopper Literary Magazine and a Fall 2023 Poet in Residence at SF MoAD. Their debut poetry collection, Heirloom (Write Bloody Publishing), dropped April 2023.

Sarah Clark is a mad crip genderfuck two-spirit enrolled Nanticoke editor, writer, and cultural consultant. They are Editor-in-Chief and Poetry Editor at ANMLY, Editor-in-Chief at ALOCASIA: a journal of queer plant-based writing, Co-Editor of The Queer Movement Anthology (Seagull Books, 2024) and the Bettering American Poetry series, and a current Board member and Assistant Editor at Sundress Publications. They have edited folios for publications including the GLITTERBRAIN folio and a folio on Indigenous & Decolonial Futures & Futurisms at ANMLY. Sarah freelances, and has worked with a number of literary and arts publications and organizations, including the Best of the Net anthology, contemptorary, Curious Specimens, #PoetsResist at Glass Poetry, Apogee Journal, Blackbird, the Paris Review, and elsewhere.


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