We pull into dirt driveway in Lara’s blue Celica. The car came from her 18 money last year and it’s got only one dent on the side from a white girl in Wolf Point who slammed the door of her boyfriend’s Ford pick-up into the passenger side of Lara’s then new car. Lara was pissed, got out to kick the girl’s ass but they sped out of the Town Pump’s parking lot too fast. That girl was scared. Lara came back to the car and we laughed at that dent, but most of all we laughed at that fear. Driveway to uncle’s house, we’re bumping Tupac, get out, step into sweat lodge. Got a sick auntie. Take in a towel, leave out hip-hop beat, add in hand drum. Our uncle forgives us this time for being late and we are more sorry for this than we were for quitting the basketball team or for getting pregnant last year.

Copyright © 2005 by M. L. Smoker. Used by permission of Hanging Loose Press.

This is not a small voice
you hear               this is a large
voice coming out of these cities.
This is the voice of LaTanya.
Kadesha. Shaniqua. This
is the voice of Antoine.
Darryl. Shaquille.
Running over waters
navigating the hallways
of our schools spilling out
on the corners of our cities and
no epitaphs spill out of their river mouths.

This is not a small love
you hear               this is a large
love, a passion for kissing learning
on its face.
This is a love that crowns the feet with hands
that nourishes, conceives, feels the water sails
mends the children,
folds them inside our history where they
toast more than the flesh
where they suck the bones of the alphabet
and spit out closed vowels.
This is a love colored with iron and lace.
This is a love initialed Black Genius.

This is not a small voice
you hear.

From Wounded in the House of a Friend. Copyright © 1995 by Sonia Sanchez. Used with the permission of Beacon Press.


It could be snow, the way it floats, or ash
from ancient volcanoes awake and exploding. But instead

it’s seeds wrapped in something like down, released by the thousands
from cottonwood trees. If they land near water they grow

but mostly they don’t.

The sun starts to set and the air turns the color of a calm fire,
as if there were such a thing. Fire is always growing or dying,

and I love to feed it until it licks beyond what I can reach,
then I kill it or it might take everything.


My brothers and sister catch the seeds like fireflies. They ask
if it glows in their hands. They’ve only seen the bright bugs on TV,

where happy kids hold them and watch the light
flickering, contained.

And Mother waits for Father to come home. Maybe she just got back herself.
Maybe she didn’t. Maybe he won’t.


I watch the white spots slide across the achingly orange sun
and catch one or don’t, and see the old volcanoes, so far away

it would take a hard day of walking to get partly there; they slither into darkness.
And the mother mosquitoes gather blood for their eggs, and the stars wake,

and the crickets creak their noise to bring the females to them. But I will be different.
And the spiders wake and weave something beautiful to be destroyed

in the morning. But under the fireplace, the black widows create chaotic things,
webs just for eating, as if they didn’t care about beauty. But I care, at least

I think I do, and the daddy longlegs prance around the body
like it’s a sacred object: bright enough to bring the insects, but too hot to walk across.

I will be a seed that finds water and grows into a tree who doesn’t need anybody.

Copyright © 2017 Jessica Ankeny. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Fall 2017.