Black boy in Mariner’s Harbor:
Something to be afraid of.
Someone to be afraid.
White skin shrivels and slights
In the opposite direction,
Before he can do the same.
At the deli on the corner
He notices a woman.
With a protruding stomach
And a cigarette dangling from her lips.
Pregnant with the false hope
Of a new opportunity
Unless her unborn child was less
Less susceptible to gun wounds
He thinks about his own birth,
How his Aunt would rub his mother’s stomach,
Infusing prayers into her womb.
Knelt on a wooden pew and begged for change
Before he was born,
Divine delivery into a blistered reality
Where there was room to speak
About black oppression
But no room for blacks to speak.
Where there was time to accept
Black people into the community,
But no time for black people to accept
That the community had locked them out for years.
Black boy in Mariner’s Harbor
Breeze storming through the hood of his eyes
As he leans off of the sidewalk,
Staring into the chest of every car engine,
Knowing that if one were to slam
Against his shadowy bones,
It would be his own fault-
“Careless African American Pedestrian Stops Traffic, Loses Life in the Process”
Waits for the walk symbol
Standing in line wearing nullified compliance
Like a winter coat.
The cold air slaps his skin at the s44 bus stop-
Corner of Bay Street and Victory,
Sitting atop a movie machine
A bus that drives by crime scenes like an action film,
Jersey Street painted in blood.
Police sirens in each heartbeat
As he leans his iron foot against the memorial of Eric Garner.
“I can’t breathe”
“My hands are up”
Fire in the chest of a man who committed no crime
Other than the insurgence of his own skin tone.
Pray for that child to be less
Less susceptible to gun wounds.
Pray for that child to walk down Bay Street
To live in Staten Island
Without inhaling the blood of his classmates
Without tripping over the weight of black lives lost
Without needing an army to fight against the one his country created to protect him
Without feeling like a criminal for his own existence
Pray for that child
To be born into a reality
Where there is space for him to talk,
Time to accept his past,
And opportunity to create a better future.
Pray for that child to feel love
Free of an emergency.
When I was younger, I thought that mountains grew atop my stomach. Placed the palms of my hands on either side of the landscaping and pushed them firmly together, insisting I could combine the snowy peaks into one. I’ve always been demanding that there was less of me. Cold peaks. Pale bulk. Help me measure the magnitude of my thighs, chafing like lovers underneath my skirt. How much space is too much space? How much territory is my body allowed to occupy? Avalanches build where abdomens should be. Blow me up like a balloon and let me explode in the depth of my own vastness. Binge. Bloat. Swell. How could anyone not love something so large and boundless? There are torrents falling off of my shoulders and I think my back is maybe also a volcano. Fill me, watch me billow out so far that I detonate and pour out like amber rain in a bleak sky. Binge. Bloat. Swell. How could anyone ever love something so laden with hot air? My stomach is carved. Into hilly banks and there’s nothing except burden inside of them. If I paint my beer belly golden can I make it look like art? Can I swell instead of bulge? Can I grow instead of gain? If I eat a carrot every day would you stop noticing everything else I ate? My body is a mountain with more cliffs than ridges and the world marvels at my elevation. My body is tumor. Growing every second and threatening the home it occupies. My body is a plunging summit. Falling further inside itself each day. Use a compass to navigate my parts. Binge. Bloat. Swell.
Julia Nell is from Staten Island, New York, and is currently studying at the College of Communications at Boston University. Her poems have appeared in Teen Ink, and in her free time, she is a production assistant on a university television show and an editor for BUTV10.