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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