This selection, chosen by guest editor Sarah Clark, is from Heirloom by Ashia Ajani, released by Write Bloody Publishing in 2023.
the plug won’t
after Mykki Blanco
i grease myself with lipgloss & lotion perhaps a lil blush will conjure color courage to go sit in this nigga’s honda for the third time in two weeks. the weedman is the only man to ever see me with my scarf on. i dip & toe a green line. the intimacy of purchase lingers want on my lips. yes, this too is heady. in the eveningtime, i upcycle heartbreak, try on a new facade of sexycool meant to bring back bliss. eyes low i coax memory to rewrite itself through a wrapped fatty & weighty conversations like did you know so n’ so died? ash fell from the sky when— he didn’t deserve— the doctor says— rent is up another 175 so let me get a 1⁄2 ounce of anything that will pull my mind back from the brink of no return. eager to oblige, weedman hands me a bag of indigo to evince a night sky from beyond my wildest emptiness. both of us Black & hustling, rife with dreams of soulmates evergreen. this be an elegiac alliance. heartache notwithstanding, he beholds my blessings everlasting. lovers come & go but this—this is something sacred. i don’t know where my paycheck ends & his begins, but i love (the idea of) being tethered to something. i am a shapeshifter eroded by grief; render my tenement hollow, let the fullness of me idle below an unseeded frontier to conquer. i call myself a Before. simply ungrounded. how i began? not like this.
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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