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)
and like Aclavoidea Socialis,
I wear my spine on the outside.
I burrow my burdens, my desires,
save a little bit of everything sticky
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 (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, Them.us and Sierra Magazine, among others. Follow their work at ashiaajani.com.