Featured Poem of the Week

Florence Wanjiku is an exceptional writer with a voice that cannot be matched. She is purposeful in her presentation with her work and she is also rather explicit with details. When she emailed me finally (we’d talked previously about her being a writer for A Cornered Gurl) to say she was ready to jump aboard, I had to hide my insane amount of giddiness. I mean, truth be told, I’ve got a writer’s crush on her words, so I am happy to host them in ACG. Florence’s debut piece, “A black woman’s body” (is vogue) is killing it on Medium and I am sure it’ll do the same here as well. So, without further ado, Ms. Wanjiku, everyone . . .


A black woman’s body

is vogue

They manufacture parts 
of a black woman’s body.
Place her under knife and chain
and watch how naturally anesthetic she is.

A dose of her melanin eludes pain, suffering,
and loss

The attraction to her otherness 
has always been so intoxicating
Her soil forms the earth 
making mountains, deserts
and streams places in which her 
body has traveled 
or being left to dry when she can’t
ward off bees for wanting to colonize
and steal her nectar.

Her body will put women under knife and pain 
just to look like her

Her lips didn’t always seem so appealing 
but of late they make billionaires out of lip kits

Her skin didn’t always seem so appealing 
but of late makes economies 
out of spray tans and tanning salons.

Her body has been hated, paraded, used and abused
It was once used to justify why black women
don’t make Vogue 
but now, they are Instyle,
they are the Covergirl.

Now, they manufacture parts of a black woman’s
body and place them as crowns on others.


Originally published in A Cornered Gurl via Medium.

Featured Poem of the Week

Erica Hu is a lovely poet who presents in-depth storytelling, vivid imagery, and bold phrasing in her work. I have been reading her for quite some time on Medium and was excited to receive an email from her to become a part of the A Cornered Gurl team. She graced us with an awesome debut poem in October, however, this poem below is the one I want to feature. The tone of it is inviting and is a reflection of the author speaking of her grandfather. In short, it’ll pull at your heartstrings. And now, the featured poem, Old Radio.


Old Radio

for my yéyé (grandpa)

photo credit: weiwei

“When the old radio stopped working,
no one knew what to do.”

“And that’s okay,” he says,
“with half a pint of whisky,
I can be on my way.”

Wrinkles on his hand
grow like wild ivy on brownstone.
So at the age of eight, 
I started practicing farewell.
Fearing the loss of recognition,
I take pictures of his green vest,
tai-chi shirt,
birthday cakes,

praying
he stays the same.

But now,
on the westward train,
I’ve lost my mind
thinking about returning
to a place with light
but no truth

and how time is an open wound
that neither festers nor heals.

“It’s not that bad,”
he says,
“after I close my eyes,
at least,
for the first time,
there’s no need to worry about dinner tomorrow.”


Originally published in A Cornered Gurl via Medium.

Featured Writer for November

SP Reis reached out to me just this past week and after I reviewed her profile on Medium, it was a no-brainer to add her to A Cornered Gurl. She is direct, concise, poignant, and rhythmic in her delivery. Her debut poem has all of this and more. You’ll see why I did not hesitate to add her to our community as a contributor. Opening, her first contribution to us, is below.


POETRY

Opening

How to speak of sexuality

Every beginning
comes from an opening.
The bravery to
trust in creativity and,
give love
sacredly.

If Moses parted the Red Sea,
then the watery space in between
found home in the
opening of women
from which life gives
and receives
freely.

If the earth was born of explosion,
then it was born from conspiracy
by chemicals to dive
at a chance encounter
with an opening of
trust.

So if you talk to me
about sexual wanting
do not speak
without the words
open,
sacred, 
trusting and 
free.




Originally published in A Cornered Gurl via Medium.

Crimson Skins (Poetry & Prose) by Devika Mathur: A Review

Crimson Skins by Devika Mathur, Kindle Version available via Amazon

Firstly, I would be amiss if I did not state how honored I was to be asked to review this wondrous work by Devika Mathur. From what I have come to know of the writer, she is steadfast in her talent, dives into the raw and gritty surfaces of her feelings, and has no trouble sharing them with the world. With a style not akin to many writers I have read, Devika expresses herself with poetically sound language and a definite strength in her prose.

The aptly titled debut book, Crimson Skins, begins with “Olive Skin” which is a surefire opener, with power-packed phrases such as “My mother has a concave slippery mouth, untouchable with the slick tunes of time” and “She stitches her concrete bun as a belt of Ganges.”

The first section of poetry gets even better as the writer continues to deeply express herself using a style I like to call “raw surrealism.” “A fixation” is a good example of this. Two lines I found myself reading multiple times because I loved them that much are: “I have seen the postcards of vintage ink our lotus bodies sinking like air” and “You step on to my body, peeling layers of SCARS.” She is no stranger to poignant line breaks and metaphorical stanzas. Many of her poems, from what I have learned, are meant to be absorbed slowly–savored. It would not be wise to rush through them. And really, why would you want to?

“A swan of longing” is another favorite poem of mine. Devika uses a few nature images in this piece, however, the raw and gritty feel is still alive. “Climb up my knuckles, rest on the mount of flaky skin” says so much while not using many words. It’s succinct and compact yet still sends a punch straight to the gut. Another line that held my attention is, “Sew and move up. Climb to my cheekbones, now”–the imagery is intense and active. Reading it took me to another place, one where I would not mind venturing to more often.

Crimson Skins has a variety of work any reader will enjoy. The book isn’t basic and will be able to go the extra mile for years to come. I will be so bold as to say many of the pieces featured in it has the staying power of words by a few greats such as Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, and Virginia Woolf. It ends just as it began, with an intense piece of writing showcasing the writer’s talent.

“The art of silence” is placed exactly where it needs to be–the best for last. “Quietness, comes to me like sex, wild hum in the lost arid air” caught me off guard and I doubled-back to make sure I read the opening line correctly. I did and it is perfect in every way. The ending lines are as follows: “Cities often collapse while searching another one, and here is my tombstone, polished gold grave, beneath twigs of moth.” I read those lines and I know what poetry is. I feel what poetry is. I will remember what poetry is.

Crimson Skins comes as no shocker to me with its high caliber of writing and a plethora of poems and prose to choose from on which to connect. Devika Mathur shows that she is no novice to the world of writing. I look forward to its debut in June of 2020 and will be one of the first to purchase my copy. If you are a lover of poetry and writing that seeps into your skin and rattles your bones, then you should too.

I will be purchasing the Kindle version before the weekend is out, however, I also am going to purchase the paperback version when it is available too. I had the grand opportunity of diving into this work of art prior to its publication and I assure you, it’s worth every accolade it will amass within the first few weeks. Let’s support a fellow WordPress writer, shall we?

Featured Writer for June

Melinda A. Smith burst onto the scene in A Cornered Gurl on May 15, 2020, with A Thousand Arrows which is doing quite well in the publication. Since then, she has been a woman who is sounding off superbly. Her second piece, Hands and Railroads and Rage is an audio poem with a gut-punch that won’t let up and hits the reader incredibly hard. Even with its power and its important subject matter of inequality and social injustice, it is Navy Blue–the rhythmic, lyrical flow of a prose-poem, that has landed her this feature. Her presence in ACG is a profound one and I am happy to have her there. And now, the featured piece.


Navy Blue

The color of burning is not red

Photo by Adrien Ledoux on Unsplash

Homebound your mind comes round to thoughts of me, you entertain. Like rain you let me wash your skin, you let me in, you read my words and sully them with thoughts of sin. Did you ever think that I’m trapped, too? Sure enough, in different ways than you, I suffer, go through days lined with navy blue.

Take your language full of lovely words that border on offensive, absurd, take them like the flowers that wilt beneath the early hours of clocks that give us nothing now but time. You seek out the sublime. Stuck in the life you chose. In me, you see poetry. In you, I see prose. And God himself only knows or is it your whore of a muse? The one you caress, turn around, and abuse. Nothing to live for, nothing to lose. Only those weeping eyelids and navy blues.

But you didn’t count on one small thing, the silence and the songs I sing, the fight I have learned how to bring, it adds up to more than your petty lust. Of phoenix ash and blood that’s dried to dust, of lava seeping forth from crust, of bile and acid awash with shoulds and musts, I’ve seen it all and swallowed them whole. I’ll win here, too, for I have tasted the likes of you, these stringy pieces of tendinous sinew, I’ll pick them from my teeth to chew and face you in a way you never knew. For nothing spurs me more than navy blue.

Mistake not this smile for acceptance or feelings returned. Your vile words may try to burn, I let them for awhile, but now I’ve learned and I’ll fence you off from this red heart. These phrases that cut are just the start. With paintbrush or machete, I’ll construct my art, in pigment or in blood, I’ll create or tear apart. If you’d like, I’ll break it down to the science behind it. If I move too fast, I can explain and rewind it. Buried in me, you’ll always find it — this protective layer of fight or flight.

It’s in us all, nature’s Darwinian call. Preserve the species, one and all, and my cells will follow this creed. They heed, they need, when called upon, they bleed. Trillions of them, as if they always knew. One by one, they’ll turn on you, too. With a tide of physiological anger like you never knew. And I’ll be here, never bothered by the paths you steer, instead turned away from you dreaming, always dreaming of navy blue.


Originally published in A Cornered Gurl via Medium.