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there, on the ground like dirt or a bird

december froze & may thawed, blood

misted, crying for any mother, the boy

who called your mama a bitch bleeds

our love for you, his wings frozen & fighting

the cold wind of our sneakers.

we storm him because we love you

& your mama has fed us & only us

is allowed to call her out her name

because we know her name, Ms. Jones,

& she bad & only we can say that

& when we bad she has permission

from our mamas to beat us like we hers.

we hers like you hers. you our boy.

we pool our punches into the boy

like quarters for a bag of flaming hots.

we make him look like a bag of flaming hots.

lord forgive me, but i don’t regret it.

&, on the real, all these summers later,

i miss it. i wish a little bit to gather around

a man’s body & stomp in the name of love,

beat what he said about my next to blood

back into his vermilion mouth, to make

his mouth a beautiful, smashed tomato.

really tho. Leland, you remember

how we beat that nigga? our middle

school ritual, that thirty-second eternity.

later, i licked his blood off my nikes

& dreamed we were water lilies

holding the water down.

they were around me like


nigga2   nigga3

nigga4  me  nigga5

nigga6   nigga7


& i felt ... safe?

what could be safer

than a circle of boys

too afraid of killing you

to kill you?

the fists that broke my ribs also wanted me to live.

i praise each one true god

for each foot that was not

a sharp anything.

i had always wanted 8 niggas on me (but not) like that.

each hand laid upon me like a rude & starving prayer.

after a while i started to     like it

i leaned into it   unblocked my face

the bottoms of their shoes were the sweet of a well-chewed eraser.

i was their promise. their ink.

you should have heard them laugh

a language so delicious i cracked up cracked grin & all.

i didn’t know

a thing about love

until those boys

walked away

so happy.

my heart pouring from my nose.

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