1

Fueling The Fire

The same fire that keeps the wolves at bay 

alerts them to your presence 

The same fire that pushes away the darkness 

makes the shadows dance 

The same fire that feeds off the air 

is threatened by the wind 

that heats the night 

is hindered by the cold 

How do you keep the fire going, knowing this? 

Where do you find the fuel? 

How do you stay alight 

in a world that wants to consume you 

  blind you 

  freeze you through & through? 

How do you keep afire in a wet 

      cold 

      dark 

      dangerous world? 

I’ve been searching for would 

but I can’t see the forest for the trees 

I’ve run out of gas 

My wick is too burned out to catch 

& the alcohol 

is too dangerous a fuel 

makes the fire unstable 

burns more than intended 

I don’t like to depend on it 

So, I remain lost in the wilderness 

fire falling 

      failing 

      flickering to fain embers 

searching for the fuel to keep it going in this cold world 

but I am all wet 

      shivering 

      sore 

      weak 

      ready 

  to let the wolves consume 

    the darkness surround me 

    the weather wear me down 

      ready to let the fire die 

I know a phoenix egg incubates in the embers 

but the fire is a double-edged sword 

& I’m afraid of pacing wolves & dancing shadows 

    of going deeper into wilderness with no paths     of burning myself again 

& of darkness yet to come 

I haven’t seen sunshine in months 

I wonder if it will ever come 

I wonder how long I can wait 

how long I can hold out 

  hold on 

how long I can last 

lost in the wilderness 

afraid of a fire that both saves me 

& enslaves me 

    indebts me to its existence 

    exposes me to dangers 

    torments me with shadows 

    taunts me with its frailty 

afraid of a fire 

that burns 

Knowing this, 

how do you keep the fire going?  

Jason E. “Jay” Walker




Perennials, Part VI

Black girl magic 
And the mystical magical 
negro 
They sound related
don’t they?

When you dig 
more deeply 
though, 
you realize that Black girls 
labeled magic 
are recognized 
for the way they marry 
Intellect, flexibility 
and accomplishment. 

The magical negro is viewed 
skeptically 
for the way they display 
these same things 
assumed to be fixed 
when the evidence shows 
flexible, 
knowledgeable 
when learning is 
constantly being sought
and satisfied 
as though accomplishment 
Only comes in singles. 

Hugs to all of the magical 
negroes, 
for it is assumed that we need 
No more

Trust me 
I know

Take that
Perennials




Nicolella, Gamache named youth poetry ambassador, deputy: Annual appointments resume in 2022 after pandemic hiatus

Lourdes Nicolella of the Moses Brown School, 2022 youth poetry ambassador.
(Photo: RI Center for the Book)

Lourdes Nicolella of the Moses Brown School has been selected as youth poetry ambassador and Adi Gamache of the Met School has been selected as deputy youth poetry ambassador for 2022 by Poet Laureate Tina Cane, the RI Center for the Book announced in a statement. Adam Fontaine of Smithfield High School and Cyprus Weaver of Westerly High School received honorable mentions.

“This initiative is designed to bring more poetry directly to our state’s youth and to inspire young people through example. Just as the state poet laureate position symbolically affirms Rhode Island’s support of poetry, the youth poetry ambassador is meant to validate and support the creative potential of our young people,” said center director Kate Lentz in a statement.

The deputy collaborates with the ambassador and performs any duties in her stead should she be unavailable.

Nicolella is a senior at the Moses Brown School where she serves as the editor-in-chief of the literary magazine, Omnia. Her goal as ambassador is to “create an inclusive youth literary community within RI, where young people of all different backgrounds are welcomed and encouraged to use their minds, hearts, and voices as a force for social justice.”

Adi Gamache of the Met School, 2022 deputy youth poetry ambassador.
(Photo: RI Center for the Book)

Gamache said, “Being named the deputy youth poetry ambassador is an incredible opportunity which I will try my best to live up to. To be able to meet and learn and share one’s art with others is a gift few get. More than anything, what I want to do with my poetry is change – if only for a second – the way someone views the world. Perhaps that is how the world itself is changed – with dominoes of repeated hope.”

A launch and reading celebration will take place at the State House Library in late February. Nicolella and Gamache will participate in poetry readings with other youths at additional library events to be announced.

Nicolella will receive a $250 cash prize and an opportunity to record a reading for Cane’s distance reading series “Poetry Is Bread.” Gamache will receive a $100 cash prize. Both will have the opportunity for their poetry to be featured on RIPTA buses as part of the “Poetry in Motion” series.

The 2022 appointments will be the fourth annual (except for a two-year term during the pandemic), following previous ambassador Moira Flath and deputy ambassador Kiani Sincere-Pope (2018), ambassador Catherine Sawoski and deputy ambassador Tyler Cordeiro (2019), and ambassador Halima Ibrahim and deputy ambassador Eugenie Rose Belony (2020/2021).




Omarion Cometh

“I’m here!”

Door banging, stomping sneakers, 

Loud shouts,

Not the Inside Voice.

Be Quiet

T-shirt flung into a dark corner,

Towel airborne, dirty shoes kicked — one here, one there

Soon to be hunted.

Be Still

Water running, splashing waves, air gushing,

Window slamming, then

Silence.

Outside, heads hurting, 

Sore throats, raspy coughs, night sweats, lingering fatigue

And yes, you know the drill.

The body count, staggering hospital numbers and confusing directives

And for those of us 

Who can still breathe 

Be Grateful

“Omarion! Don’t forget to wash behind your ears and lotion them ashy knees!!”




A Reflection on [Mental] Health: January Poetry

A fragile soul so young,

A pleasure center numbed,

How quick I was to hide inside my fears.

The fear of age, rage, and misplaced trust,

The fear of reopening wounds from familial — “musts”.

Through a reflection of self,

I greeted my demon with a smirk,

For I knew the time had come to embrace self-care.

Though I’ve worn down my heart strings and bent their frequency,

Into meandering melodies craving consistency,

I’ve found my soul,

I’ve found my song,

I’ve found my health,

And my healing.




Poetry, #22 Silent Night…: From “The (chap) Book of the Dead”

They said I must be out of my mind

wanting to celebrate Christmas this year,

that survival was all we had

to be thankful for; that the stories

were lies, and worse, hope was harm

waiting to happen. I said, “Shut up

both of you and open your presents.”

See, Jenny used to talk all the time

about this unbreakable composite bat

she saw once. And it’s no surprise

that Stevie’s jokes about shoveling

the driveway with a flamethrower

each winter wasn’t a kid’s dream

of the perfect gift under the tree.

Finding these things was hard enough,

hiding them until the 25th? Almost

impossible. But it gave me something

to focus on other than death. My gift

was seeing their faces look a little

like before all this happened: normal.

I won’t tell them how I risked myself

raiding that strip mall out by the town,

just to find canned milk for eggnog.

The stocking are just socks, plain wool,

but the handguns inside are the gifts

that keep on giving. This year we have

a small piece of a holiday we once took

for granted. We enjoy our time together.

…I’ll tell them about the bite tomorrow.




High School Student Poets: Apply to be RI youth poetry ambassador

UPDATE: Results announced motifri.com/youth-poet-2022-results

Seeking a youth poetry ambassador for 2022, the RI Center for the Book invites applications from high school students who reside in RI. State Poet Laureate Tina Cane will select an ambassador and deputy ambassador with results announced in January 2022.

“This initiative is designed to bring more poetry directly to our state’s youth and to inspire young people through example. Just as the state poet laureate position symbolically affirms Rhode Island’s support of poetry, the youth poetry ambassador is meant to validate and support the creative potential of our young people,” said center director Kate Lentz in a statement.

Depending upon the selected ambassador’s ability and availability, they will receive a $250 cash prize, a guest-writer spot in the Providence Journal “Second Sunday” poet laureate column, an opportunity to have poetry featured on RIPTA buses through the “Poetry in Motion” program, and an opportunity to record for Cane’s distance reading series, “Poetry is Bread.”

Applicants must submit by December 15, 2021: a one- or two-paragraph statement on why the applicant would like to be considered for the position, a letter of support from a teacher or librarian, a letter of support from a peer, and two original poems. All parts of the application must be submitted together.

Applications should be sent by e-mail to kate@ribook.org or by postal mail to Kate Lentz, RI Center for the Book, Pell Center, Salve Regina University, 100 Ochre Point Ave, Newport, RI 02840.

The 2022 appointments will be the fourth annual (except for a two-year term during the pandemic), following previous ambassador Moira Flath and deputy ambassador Kiani Sincere-Pope (2018), ambassador Catherine Sawoski and deputy ambassador Tyler Cordeiro (2019), and ambassador Halima Ibrahim and deputy ambassador Eugenie Rose Belony (2020/2021).




The Four Turtles

by  Isaiah “Sleeping Turtle” Johnson

The cloudy sky in my waking eyes is adorned with blue, gray, and white. The yellow sun blazed in full as I lay in the grass. Bodies of the Indigenous flooded the water. The Great Eagle soared the heavens as the eye of the storm opened at Manitou’s whim. I stood up and surveyed the four directions. The land curves and slithers upon the water like a serpent. The song of the eagle rings true and clear. Two men are in view, the Sagamore educates a Bay Colonist Man:

 “The Earth is our Mother for she gives us all we need to survive. The Sky is our Father; in our tongues, he is Wakan Tanka, Tunkashila, Gitche Manitou, Creator, he is of many names and is the Great Spirit! We pray to the Four Winds and the Four Directions. We are all Creator’s children, his Daughters, and Sons and we should never be fighting!” 

In the hands of the Sagamore are the Four Turtles, one of each age; Infant, Child, Adult, and Elder. Four roped collars connected them. The Sagamore placed the Turtles in the water and removed their collars. As they swam, the Elder Turtle looked back to the shore as the Colonist and Sagamore bid him farewell. The Four Turtles swam into the Bay. I awake in bed.




The Craftsman

He planned to fashion wind chimes
from their chipped long bones and dried sinews.
So many years spent in preparation —
he imagined the night breezes of autumn
producing a wild dark dance between
ulna, femur, and radius.
An elegy, a lament, 
          a lullaby.

And he did. In unlit corners
of his soundless basement. He carved,
drilled, screwed, and strung.
But the music generated
was disharmonious and clumsy,
not at all the melodic tribute he’d intended.
The chimes hung heavy on the branch
and flies chased each other between the empty spaces.
He began again, switching dry spine
with the dull spotted steel of his slicing tools.
Stringing the bloodstained blades, he saw them reflected
in the metal,
each knife an eternal mirrored trap of their open mouths,
hair plastered to cheeks by rivers of their tears.

Their mute screams caught the morning sun just right,
swaying from a rusty hook near his bedroom window
and when the winds of October came at last,
he slept peacefully, lulled into Nod
by their unanswered cries for rescue.

Patricia Gomes is the New Bedford poet laureate. patriciagomes.com




Don’t Hold Your Breath

Imagine 

Finding yourself 

Being pulled underwater. 

The current taking you out

Into the deep.

You

Try your best

To paddle your feet to the surface.

Gasping

Gagging

Eyes bulging for oxygen. 

And the weight of your ankles

Never have the strength 

To shake off the anchors 

Holding you down.

The chain of subjection.

The more you struggle

The more

The rust of the iron 

Cuts into the calves.

Blood introduces the oppression 

Of other predators.

Racism 

Discrimination 

Police Brutality 

Profiling 

Redlining 

Gentrification 

Privatized Prisons.

Lungs filled with ocean. 

Blacked out.

Being pulled Into the outer darkness.

It’s a wonder why 

We are stereotyped on swimming.

Afraid to test the water.

Never taken lessons. 

Always second guessing 

How cold it is

How deep it can get.

How long can you hold your breath?

Until

Emmitt Till is found 

In Tallahatchie River?

Until 

They’re ready to give penicillin 

To Macon County sharecroppers?

Until Eric Garner 

And George Floyd 

Get their second wind?

We put our hands up

To be rescued.

Waving a white flag in hopes

Of a fitted life jacket.

Instead

Body bagged

Toe tagged

Target practice for the next

Victim.

It’s not that we just can’t breathe

But we’ve been out of breath

Since slave catchers and dog bites.

We’ve been 

Back of the Bus tired.

We’ve been

Klan rally gag ordered. 

We’ve been

Vietnam Frontlined.

We’ve been

Flint water poisened.

Hell

Being short of breath

And

Asthmatic 

Tends to be life’s custom.

To be an American 

Is one thing.

To be an African American 

Well…

Let’s just see how long

You can hold your breath.