we wander the space between seedlings

two children of concrete reading the paper cards

tucked into the soil learning how best to foster a life

plant in full sun    water generously

you trail behind me shining      your heat

a sun at my back wringing a damp sheen

of want from my thighs      your smile a song

I can stretch and grow in    I am running

like rag weed    I am learning what it is to bud

and open      to sink my teeth into your hip

as if it were the swell and curve of a river

and I a rose at the bank    I drink and flower


After Harlan Mack



with what difficulty you beat

the black face into steel

the sharp tipped shovel pulled from fire

glowering like a fleck of sun

broken off and descending

or the inside of the earth

cracked open    your body above

a steady stream of swing

and stretch swing and stretch

movements rhythmic as a piston

pumping the gears of an oil rig

the arm of a crane tossing a ball

into wreckage and from that wreckage

creation and from that wreckage

creation and from the hammer fall

the creases collapsed like canyons

of worry along the smoke blackened brow

and from the battering the battery

the box knuckled battery

not a bruise but the soft round of a cheek

the valley of an eye socket

a nose with nostrils wide and hollowed into caves

a crescent plane of teeth between lips

like mountains plump enough to suckle

how to gaze at the dark unblinking eyes

irises dark as the ripples on a black lake

without confronting the wood of the shovel’s

handle shooting up from between them

how not instinctively to see the hands

gripped and itching to bury the black face

into mud

Brionne Janae is a poet living in Brooklyn. She is the recipient of the 2016 St. Botoloph Emerging Artist award, a Hedgebrook and Vermont Studio Center Alumni and proud Cave Canem Fellow. Her poetry and prose have been published by the Academy of American Poets, the American Poetry Review, the Sun Magazine, and the Los Angeles Review, among others. Brionne’s first collection is titled After Jubilee and was published by Boaat Press.