All posts tagged: April 2024



Hu Tianbao waves to asphalt and sky. The bumper of his mother’s car has long since exited the drop-off zone, yet he still stands moving his arm in the building’s entrance doorway. Left right left right dawdles his hand. A farewell to punctuality. He’s alone, everyone else already nestled in their classrooms, reciting poems.


It’s Important I Remember That Journalism is the First Draft of History—


and Ida B. Wells, well, frustrated 
the engenderment of the official record;

crisscrossed the country interviewing 
poplars that had been accessories to atrocities,

not unlike that which felled her dear friend 
Thomas Moss in Memphis, what became the lynch-

pin to her crusade though he specifically 
never dangled from a wooden limb 

like natural confections scanned for bruises 
in the produce section of People’s Grocery. 

There is no justice here, he’s believed 
to have said before being proven

correct, after the mob descended on his jail cell 
with cocked weapons, wearing black masks, blacker 

even than those that frame ivory teeth trained 
to curvature by the terror of sudden swings 

in white men’s temperament: teeth, it was told 
around town after town, that rot from the sugar 

of white women, sugar that black men steal, 
which makes the bloodshed that much sweeter, 

worth snapping necks for like stalks of sugarcane,
to say nothing of the black women left hanging at all.

The big lie looms large over the ripening fruits,
standing on their porches with shotguns loaded—

or with their luggage packed, prepared to spread wing 
and fly before they’re flown up the bark of a tree 

with hounds nipping at their heels and bulbs flashing
for the morning newspapers where it would read

that a dangerous deviant was sentenced to death
by a coalition of concerned citizens: a red record 

printed authoritatively in black until a black woman—
Ida B.—took her proverbial red pen to the horrid story

and made history retract its initial word on the subject, 
though not its inherent threat which is set in tombstone.


Courtesy Curbstone Books/Northwestern University Press. All rights reserved.


Cortney Lamar Charleston is the author of three full-length poetry collections: Telepathologies, Doppelgangbanger, and It’s Important I Remember (forthcoming). His poems have appeared in Poetry, The Nation, The Atlantic, The American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere.

[Purchase Issue 27 here]

It’s Important I Remember That Journalism is the First Draft of History—

Symphony of the South

Translated by MAYADA IBRAHIM 

Uncle Musa died. A year after his passing, my father headed north. He said he would be back in a month.

It all happened so fast I barely caught it, like a migratory bird resting in a dark corner of the forest, like all the things that crowd my memory. No sooner do they appear than they vanish. When I try to recall the details, to understand what happened, none of it makes sense. Time lures the mind into letting go, submitting to the abyss, but I know the mind is capable of reaching into the well of the past. All these memories, from time to time they pierce through the pitch-black darkness. They gleam and fade into the shadows of this exile, of this rotten world.

On one of the shadowy days before his departure, I accompanied my father to the farm. It was the afternoon. Our farm was just outside the village. People were drying their earthenware in the sun: cups, bowls, pots, censers, jars. Children ran around them and erected little churches. They waded deep into the mud, sinking their hands in as if into spilled blood—the blood of an offering, perhaps—smearing their faces and tossing it at one another. They yelled and called each other names. Their clothes were the color of rust, their faces crocodile-like.

Symphony of the South

Around Sunset


The days seem kindlier near sunset, easier
when they are softly falling away
with that feeling of sad happiness
that we call moved, moved that we are moved
and maybe imagining in the dimming
all over town of hurry and resentment
that difficult loves rekindle

Around Sunset

Black-Out Baby


This poem is excerpted from Eh, No Talk Li’dat.

Eh, No Talk Li’Dat, an anthology forthcoming from Kaya Press, is centered on Pidgin, or Hawai‘i Creole English. The following poem is excerpted from this anthology.  

Pidgin began as a dialect of trade between Native Hawaiians and Western seafarers and merchants and evolved as a Creole language in the sugar plantations in the 1920s and ’30s, yet, until today, it is deemed substandard by school administrators and is not recognized as a Creole language by the State Department of Education. It is the only language I can think of in the U.S. that was co-authored by the various ethnic groups in the islands: Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders (Samoa, Tonga), sugar planters and migrant laborers from Asia (China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines), Portugal (Madeira and the Azores), and Puerto Rico. Recent speakers and innovators of Pidgin include transplants from Micronesia. In addition to the poems, stories, and excerpted plays, all written in Pidgin and contributed by over forty of Hawai‘i’s writers, the genre-defying Eh, No Talk Li’Dat includes archival materials, newspaper articles, transcripts of televised comic skits, and comic strips.  



Da Japs, my strange kine relatives, 
wen jes bomb Pearl Harba. 
Ebery nite from den on, each house 
had only one black-out light with  
a puka in da center. 
People had fo tar dea windows 
and craks unda da do-uz 
had fo be stuf wid rags, 
scolding da lites dat dare fo show up. 
If not, da block checkas go come, 
jes like termites come aroun da lites. 
And those who broke da law,
going hea banging on dea do-uz 
and if you one Jap, 
you gotta be careful cuz 
dey can sen you  
to one jail kine camp, 
somewea in Colorado.  

One nite, one woman wen go into layba 
wen was real hot unda the black-out lite. 
Into this dark-kine time, one baby wuz born. 
Da baby was me. One black-out baby— 
nosing aroun in the dark 
wid heavy kine eyes, 
and a “yellow-belly,” 
filled wid one real angry cry!  


Juliet S. K. Kono is a poet and fiction writer born and raised in Hilo, Hawaiʻi. She is a survivor of the 1946 tsunami. She has written extensively about the Japanese American experience across the generations. Author of four books, including Hilo Rains and Anshu, she is retired and lives with her husband in Honolulu.

[Purchase Issue 27 here]

Black-Out Baby

I Am, I Said


The evening of September 30, 1993, I walked into an Austin coffee shop adjacent to the university, sat down with two women who were teaching colleagues, and launched into a discussion of ninth-grade curriculum in the magnet program where we taught. I was in high spirits that evening. Euphoria is the word that comes to mind, a physical state with me—my hands in nonstop motion, words spilling over the table like rapids. At a juncture in the conversation, I happened to glance about—just as a young man at the nearest table flicked his eyes in my direction. “Oops,” I thought, “I’m overdoing it. Need to rein myself in.” But then I glanced again.

I Am, I Said

Was to Get It


I tried to get in touch with my inner knowledge.
Turns out I have no inner knowledge.
I used to think I did.
Could sit on a rock contemplating the frog, the river, the rotisserie chicken
and know that everything is connected to everything else.
Or, that I had a messed-up childhood and never fully left the home.
Or, that abandonment was a product of eating too much candy.
But then the dog saw the squirrel.

Was to Get It

Call and Response


My grandmother likes to tell me dogs
            understand everything you say, they just can’t
say anything back. We’re eating spaghetti 

            while I visit from far away. My grandmother
just turned ninety-four and tells me dogs
            understand everything you say, they just can’t

Call and Response

Ecstasy Facsimile


Longing to make his life compact as sushi, my shame
borrows the saint’s apron, shackles his swivel in her cincture. My shame
walks the earth with an electric blanket, goes to the gym to window-shop with
            it, heads for the hills where he takes selfies meditating. To the person
            on the bus who inquires, my shame

Ecstasy Facsimile