I am hardly ever a

Burning in the dark,

That Cheshire fire which refuses physics


More so a sickled cell of black,

Sick to stomach and toes

And legs, hands.

Often, in the moonlight tinged twilight

Call of the night,

I am more black than boy.

A place to bed the bullets begging for a body.

That thing.

More stomach to feed than hungry.

Just space.

This body, a storage case,

An obsidian balloon packed to

Bursting at the

Seems like most days I am not myself.

Like I lose myself.

Watch the news to watch myself killed.

Don't know when I will be killed.


Scale these streets in sheets of terror,

Watch my back how the captive

Maps movement past cell door:


Waiting for the opportunity

To run, to dip.


Full of the heat of anxiety.

Unsure when I will lose myself

In these streets.

Don't know which corner will claim me.

I do not want to fall prey to hands

The color of an overcast sky,

Skin never figured out how to hold the sun.

Hair an obedient child of gravity


I want to learn my body a boat,

To sail into the arms of Gorée.

Curl into the crook of Her coast.

I want to breathe, know

If she has learned to decipher

The sounds of a son

Only well versed in the tongue of empire


You cannot tell me that Africa hasn't spilled,

I've seen her trail.

That archipelago of angst peppered across the Atlantic.

Her cup overfloweth with my roots,

And I am lucky to know them.

They are a matrix of tangled veins

That scale the Atlantic to Senegal.

I am mixed,




I am sickly, racked with the rot of


I am not home here.

I am not home here.

I am not home,

Her lips

Have called me timeless and I shy from answer


This congregation of closed lips has sat in silence

For too many black spattered moments.

Has curled in at the sight of bloated and bloodied


Turned into open tombs of telling,

Community viewings.

I know injustice like the rain against my skin:

A natural beating


This congregation of closed lips wants to separate,


I am hardly ever a burning in the dark,

That Cheshire fire of brutal rebellion


How will we dance out the graves America has

Cut into our bones?

How will we heal with no reprieve?

I grieve constantly

At the sonic of our names:

Mike. Renisha. Islan. Tamir. Deshawnda.

Aiyana. Emmitt. Marissa. Trayvon. Amadou.

Oscar. Rekia. Ersula. Shelley. Tiffany.

Zoraida. Mia. Kandy. Yaz'Min. Marlene.

We, overflowing with the languid liquid of the living.

We, wild with fire burning all the

Sick and sickled cells.

We, picked off one by one by one by one


Here is the middle passage that I know:

I am always a dark in the light,

My body that cold cobalted

Corner of the ocean.

Call me token,

This bruise battered skin

Cracker lipped and brittle toned.

Tired and tender toed


Do not call me country,

I am a continent.

Am that innumerable noise,

That forever fall.

That gash that bleeds of black

Into the ocean.

I am the cord from toe to tongue,

The burn after sipping a cup of fire


I've been looking for a way to

Extinguish the flame.

Swimming back to mother

Could be the way.


Cheikh Athj is a black college junior. He spends his spare time dancing, writing, crying, trying to heal, and reminiscing about the boring but comforting warmth of L.A. Pa leggi wa leggi leggi.

[Image by Tara Jacoby]