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.

meditations on sweetness and other fruits

my mother asks the pronouns of my crush
as a courtesy, knowing which one she prefers.
this gives her hope, girlchildren to aspire to.
nevertheless a persistent stinging, ringing
smoke above the vibrations of the words we
speak to one another. i don’t kiss using the same
tongue i confess in, my teeth always chattering
away a girlhood dispossessed.
always remember: she the accommodating one.
i basketcase know-it-all split between all divinity, fully spatcocked
over glowing coals; i expose my beating muscle to the flame
and the flame, of course, doesn’t hold the salt of me,
doesn’t cook the meat into anything tender.
ain’t no thang cut muscle deeper than a Black mother’s refusal.
i an expensive lesson in expectation—gluttonous
in my shameful desire.
i confess, i prefer fruit.
in the eveningtime, when the heat becomes bearable,
my eyes set on the horizon, twisted with visions of
watermelon women tonguing their signatures across
my inner thighs, the flavor of kumquats descending from my
lover’s lips.
true, i am greedy.
summer arrives with its ephemeral jewels;
succulent peaches, bountiful berries short-lived
freedom ends at the corner of my lip, lest what i
love begs to remain at the border of burning.
with the scent of honeysuckle in my hair
a boi drenched in fallen flowers ripens me ready,
drunk with plum wine, the mere
promise of nectar enough to satisfy a whole
darkness of longing. the slow roast of time
descends on all of us, but for this moment i
live between a fresh kill & a blossoming tree.
no matter. it all matters.
light the joint &
exhale your juicy transgressions into my eager mouth.

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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