Animals: Two Poems by Ashia Ajani

cat’s cradle

After Lucille Clifton 

my cat dashes back//forth between 
the two windows of my one bedroom 
apartment, chasing birds, both phantom 

and material. they come to pluck pines 
clean, taunting their feline foe 
whose own chirps utter an alien desire 

a primitive hunger that cannot be 
satiated with small brown bits of kibble 
& the occasional slice of sardine 

i too know the feeling of the cage, of lusting 
after a life so desperately 
out of arm’s reach. i tell visitors i

keep her inside for her own good 
in reality, i know the destruction she is 
most capable of enacting 

full but never satisfied 
in the dusk, she takes her frustration 
out on whatever is most near 

the flies, gnats who take shelter 
behind the neglected plantains, plums 
soon felled by one clean swipe of paw 

when a white girl demands i pull 
my canines from my bite, tells me 
my viciousness must be contained 

the feline behind my teeth rises. in an 
exclusive dreamland i
pounce free & consume whatever i please. 

in her own dormant fantasy my cat flinches 
chasing ghosts. perhaps in these moments, 
we are both meant to be wicked. 

Roaches Don’t Die (remix)

After bbymutha

and like Aclavoidea Socialis,
I wear my spine on the outside. 
I burrow my burdens, my desires, 
save a little bit of everything sticky

sweet that crosses me– bitch! I’m gross!!!
memory of survival beats against my brain–
fuck it! so what if I hoard? savage salvaging
to recall the drought yet fear the flood– nah,

it ain’t my first time in the jungle! 
country lil brownskin, I’m known 
to get real niggerish to defend mines. 
no matter, the genealogical wounds 

down here speak in tongues ancient
& plenty. Black. stains everything,
Black. adds depth, Black. refuses to be
removed & remains imprinted, inked down

here for all eternity. you won’t 
forget me. matta’ fact 
i’ll take my gifts with me! 
egress, in its egregious immensity, 

sulks in the depths of my soul. built
from a bloodline drenched in seawater, 
made full by black eyed peas & pigfat,
thicker than a Chattanooga drawl

just arisen to an early dawn of longing.
even frostbite is afraid of me– I crisp, 
I tone, I linger, I follow the midnight voices 
christening me– Darky, Black Bottom 


this life is too damn short
for any kind of embarrassment
self-imposed or otherwise, so you betta’
shake your ass in the mirror

til those thigh cramps remind you’uh
all the life running through your muscles
all the vermilion rage pounding at your ribcage 
all the spine you have left to carry

About Ashia Ajani

Ashia Ajani headshot

Ashia Ajani (they/she) is a Black storyteller and environmental educator originally from Denver, CO, Queen City of the Plains and the unceded territory of the Cheyenne, Ute, Arapahoe and Comanche peoples. She is an environmental justice educator with Mycelium Youth Network and co-poetry editor of The Hopper Literary Magazine. They have been published in Frontier Poetry, Exposition Review, Foglifter Press, and Sierra Magazine, among others. Follow their work at