Parneshia Jones Appointed Director of Northwestern University Press
Evanston, Ill. — Sarah M. Pritchard, the Northwestern University Dean of Libraries and the Charles Deering McCormick University Librarian, has announced the appointment of Parneshia Jones as the new director of Northwestern University Press (NUP) effective September 21. “Since joining NUP in 2003,” says Pritchard, “Parneshia has developed a unique record as a leader on campus, in the Chicago area, and in the broader world of books and letters. She is the ideal leader both to build on NUP’s traditional strengths and to continue the advances that the Press has made in Black studies, critical ethnic studies, performance studies, and other subjects that enhance the university’s academic mission and commitment to social justice and inclusion.”
Evanston native Jones is currently Editorial Director for Trade and Engagement at NUP, where she has also served as an acquisitions editor and sales manager. A published poet, she revitalized the press’s storied TriQuarterly imprint, developing its award-winning poetry list with acquisitions including Head Off & Split by Nikky Finney, winner of the 2011 National Book Award; Incendiary Art by Patricia Smith, winner of the 2018 LA Times Book Prize and 2017 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award; Forest Primeval by Vievee Francis, winner of the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award; and Anagnorisis by Kyle Dargan, winner of the 2019 Academy of American Poets Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize.
In addition to her publishing work, Jones is on faculty in the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing Program. She is also a past president and board member of the Cave Canem Foundation. Her contributions to the Chicago literary community were cited by NewCity in their 2019 list “Lit 50: Who Really Books In Chicago 2019.” She also serves on the advisory board of ShoreFront Legacy Center, a nonprofit organization and foundation that documents African American history on the North Shore of Chicago. Jones becomes one of only two Black women currently leading a university press.
“I am so grateful to come full circle at Northwestern University Press,” Jones says. “My love for the literary world started within the mahogany walls of Third World Press, and my continued apprenticeship in publishing has been guided and supported by Northwestern, my brilliant NUP colleagues, and the unwavering publishing community. In the words of the great poet, Gwendolyn Brooks, ‘We are each other’s magnitude and bond.’ I step into this role deeply humbled by the magnitude of these special bonds.”
Northwestern University Press is the scholarly and trade publishing arm of the university. The Press publishes important works in philosophy, the performing arts, fiction, poetry, Black studies, critical ethnic studies, Slavic studies, literary criticism, literature in translation, and Chicago regional books. The Press’s award-winning imprint, TriQuarterly Books, is devoted primarily to contemporary American fiction and poetry.
Despite New Spain’s significant participation in the early transatlantic slave trade, the collective imagination of the Mexican nation evolved in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to understand itself as devoid of a black presence. In The Nigrescent Beyond, author Ricardo Wilson proposes a framework for understanding this psychic vanishing of blackness and thinks through how it can be used to both productively unsettle contemporary multicultural and postracial discourses within the United States and further the interrogations of being and blackness within the larger field of black studies.
Contemporary conversations revolving around ideas of blackness in the post-revolutionary Mexican context cannot escape the gravity of the future. Eduardo Urzaiz’s 1919 novel Eugenia: Esbozo novelesco de costumbres futuras, a work that both centers on and critiques the eugenics movement and the drive toward a perfect society, may be seen to represent a certain starting point in this regard. Published six years prior to José Vasconcelos’s world-building La raza cósmica, it brings to life Villautopia, the capital of the Subconfederation of Central America, in the year 2218. Born in Cuba and raised in Mérida, Mexico, Urzaiz was a physician with expertise in both obstetrics and psychiatry. He was an early supporter of birth control and coeducation and played a substantial leadership role at all levels of the then-developing educational system in the Yucatán. This diversity of thought finds space in Eugenia, an elusive work framed as a love story where the value of modernization and an aesthetically grounded philosophy of procreation, the role of indigeneity in this future, and the concept of utopia itself are left productively unsettled. As such, the work forces a valuable contemplation. However, despite the somewhat nuanced and progressive nature of the futuristic sketch it provides, an idea of blackness rests on solid and antiquated ground. In Urzaiz’s imagination, Booker T. Kuzubé and Lincoln Mandínguez, two pejoratively named black doctors from the fictionalized Hottentot nation in Africa, come to Villautopia to learn of its eugenic practices and prevent “the evolutionary stagnation of their race.” And here we hear the anachronistic echo of Vasconcelos’s straight-faced visioning of a fifth race synthesized from what he understood as White, Black, Native American, and Asian components that shaped Mexican racial thought (and Latin American thought more broadly). As many who study Latin America know, it is a synthesis that in many ways constrains the indigenous component and disappears the black.
Urzaiz’s black doctors are described, “like those of their race,” as having “formidable cannibal-like teeth” and a developed custom of “sleeping anywhere at any time.” And while much of the legible world has been remade by Urzaiz (there exist the Confederation of the Americas and the Euro-Asian Confederation, for example), the system of “Africa” does not contain the possibility of such revision. So here, after a series of scenes that make up only a few pages of the novel, ends the narrative’s investment in any idea of blackness. It is either a blindness to or, if reading generously, a spot-on description of the cultural moment. In either case, there is no relief or subtlety to produce a vacillation or a rethinking in regard to the role of blackness in this (almost) aesthetically pure future. And while some of the scholarship surrounding Eugenia does address these few scenes, and this includes the work done by the editors and translators of the important 2016 English critical edition, this scholarship does not go much beyond noting that the representation of blackness by Urzaiz was clearly influenced by the eugenics movement. It is a scholarship apparently conditioned by a relative loss for words when interrogating what may lie beneath the surfacing of these representatives of Hottentot. And while my concern in the pages that follow is not with Eugenia as an object, the novel’s narrative does demand that a future blackness be not only nonexistent within the bounds of what one might argue to be a surrogate Mexico but manifested beyond this border as irrevocably backward in nature. This demand very much aligns with my interest in understanding Mexico as a space that collectively understands itself, and is largely understood by those looking in, as devoid of any substantial blackness. In other words, it is helpful to start with the fact that we have caught up with the vanishings of Urzaiz’s futures.
… In this book I construct a framework that facilitates an examination of this psychic vanishing in the Mexican context in order to think through how this might nurture and open up related discourses within the field of a United States–facing black studies … Mexico’s much longer trajectory concerning postraciality and the disappearance of black radical possibility gives clarity to the relation between ideas of blackness that remain legible and acceptable within the boundaries of a collective liberal imagination and those settling on the other side of this boundary that would otherwise compromise this imagination. Following this, I look to the center (not periphery) of several popular and canonical texts (literary, cinematic, archival, etc.) to find flashes of this nonpresence in order to sharpen an understanding of the question, How, in this contemporary moment, can a text be read to tell the story of something that has to have no story? My project, however, remains distinct from those that have been drawn to the intersection of ideas of vanishing and race via theoretical frameworks grounded in haunting. Productive as these frameworks can be, I wish to move toward an unreadable fragmentation and away from the underlying assumptions of recoverability, however limited, that an idiom inflected by haunting implicitly presents. The work is thus a modeling of a practice of reading that honors and encourages the disruptive possibilities offered by a sustained, if anxious, awareness of what I understand as the nigrescent beyond, or that which lies, irretrievable, beyond the horizon of the process of vanishing itself. As such, nigrescence, the process of becoming dark, is mobilized to articulate the contours of a barrier at the limits of a collective liberal imagination, beyond which certain radical black matter(s) has become and is becoming unreadable even as one reads.
 Eduardo Urzaiz, Eugenia: A Fictional Sketch of Future Customs: A Critical Edition. Edited and translated by Sarah A. Buck Kachaluba and Aaron Dziubinskyj (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2016), xx-xxvi.
 Ibid., 27
 Ibid., 28, 32.
 The italics are a refashioning of Frank Wilderson’s question “How does a film tell the story of a being that has no story?” See Red, White, and Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2010), 28.
RICARDO A. WILSON II is an assistant professor in the Department of English and affiliate faculty in the Program in Comparative Literature at Williams College.
On July 9, in the case of McGirt v. Oklahoma, the US Supreme Court issued a watershed decision for Native American legal rights. The 5-4 decision acknowledged that the US government must honor its 1866 grant of nineteen million acres to the Muscogee Nation. In her 2018 play, Sovereignty, Native American lawyer and playwright Mary Kathryn Nagle dramatized many of the exact issues that McGirt v. Oklahoma addressed. Below is a scene from her play.
SARAH is a citizen of Cherokee Nation and a graduate of Yale Law School who returns home after a long absence. WATIE is her brother. He works for the Cherokee Nation police force. BEN is a Special Victims Unit police officer in present-day Oklahoma. MITCH is non-Indian lawyer living in Oklahoma and a childhood friend of Sarah and Watie.
BEN: So crazy to be standing there—you know, two sets of police, and neither one of us could do anything.
SARAH: Because of Oliphant.
BEN: An elephant?
MITCH and SARAH: Oliphant.
MITCH: Supreme Court case.
WATIE: Oh no. Two attorneys in the same room.
SARAH: In 1978 the Supreme Court said Tribes can no longer exercise criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians who come onto tribal lands and commit a crime.
BEN: That’s just wrong.
SARAH: Tell that to your United States Supreme Court.
BEN: You don’t like the court?
SARAH: I respect it.
BEN: So you’re like a Catholic that hates the Vatican.
SARAH: It’s hard to worship an institution that always decides against you.
BEN: You’ve never won a case?
SARAH: Worcester v. Georgia.
WATIE: We won a case in 1822.
WATIE: Thirty-two, excuse me.
BEN: Rooster v. Georgia?
SARAH: Yes, but pronounced “wooster.”
BEN: Indians have weird names.
WATIE: Worcester was white.
SARAH: We won that case. And we’ve lost ever since.
BEN: So you’re telling me that because of this Elephant case, I could steal your car, I could steal your yoga mat—
SARAH: I don’t do yoga.
BEN: But if you did—
SARAH: You could set my house on fire, graffiti our courthouse, kill someone, basically do whatever you want, and Cherokee Nation could never prosecute you. But, if Cherokee Nation were to actually get off its butt and implement VAWA, we could prosecute domestic violence crimes perpetrated by non-Indians.
WATIE: Va what?
SARAH: Violence Against Women Act. You don’t know about the Violence Against Women Act?
WATIE: I’m a man.
SARAH: Just six years ago, Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act with a tribal jurisdiction provision in it.
WATIE: You lost me at authorized. Can I make a suggestion? Skip anything above two syllables.
BEN: VA-WA, that works.
SARAH: In VAWA, Congress restored a piece of our criminal jurisdiction. The criminal jurisdiction that Oliphant took away.
WATIE: Jur-is-dic-shun. You lost me at dick.
SARAH: You know jurisdiction.
WATIE: I know we don’t have it. Over white guys.
SARAH: And I’m telling you that VAWA restored it. A piece of it.
WATIE: Oh. Wow.
WATIE: Why didn’t you tell me that in the first place?
SARAH: I swear. Sometimes I want to hit you.
MITCH: You’re not the only one.
BEN [to SARAH]: Are you this passionate about everything in life?
MARY KATHRYN NAGLE is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Her play Sliver of a Full Moon has been performed at law schools across the United States, and she has received commissions from Arena Stage, the Rose Theater, Portland Center Stage, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Yale Repertory Theatre, Round House Theatre, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She served as the first executive director of the Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program from 2015 to 2019. Nagle is also a partner at Pipestem Law, P.C., where she works to protect tribal sovereignty and the inherent right of Indian Nations to protect their women and children from domestic violence and sexual assault. She has authored numerous briefs in federal appellate courts, including the United States Supreme Court.
Sovereignty unfolds over two parallel timelines. In present-day Oklahoma, a young Cherokee lawyer, Sarah Ridge Polson, and her colleague Jim Ross defend the inherent jurisdiction of Cherokee Nation in the US Supreme Court when a non-Indian defendant challenges the Nation’s authority to prosecute non-Indian perpetrators of domestic violence. Their collaboration is juxtaposed with scenes from 1835, when Cherokee Nation was eight hundred miles to the east in the southern Appalachians. That year, Sarah’s and Jim’s ancestors, historic Cherokee rivals, were bitterly divided over a proposed treaty with the administration of Andrew Jackson, the Treaty of New Echota, which led to the nation’s removal to Oklahoma on the infamous Trail of Tears. Taking as its point of departure the story of one lawyer’s passionate defense of the rights of her people to prosecute non-natives who commit crimes on reservations, Sovereignty opens up into an expansive exploration of the circular continuity of history, human memory, and the power of human relationships.
Northwestern strives to be an instrument for change. Click here to visit our suggested reading list.
ALMOST EVERY DAY, Ruth Davis and I walk home from school together. We walk very slowly because we like to talk to each other and we don’t get much chance in school or after school either. We are very much alike. We are both twelve years old and we are freshmen in high school and we never study—well, not very much, because we learn faster than the rest of the class. We laugh about the same things and we are curious about the same things. We even wear our hair in the same style—thick braids halfway down our backs. We are not alike in one respect. She is white and I am black.
Yesterday when we reached the building that houses my father’s drugstore, we sat down on the front steps—long wooden steps that go all the way across the front of the building. Ruth said, “I wish I lived here,” and patted the steps though they are very splintery.
Aunt Sophronia must have heard our voices, because she came to the door and said, “I left my shoes at the shoemaker’s this morning. Please go and get them for me,” and she handed me a little cardboard ticket with a number on it.
“You want to come with me, Ruth?”
“I’ve got to go home. I’m sure my aunt will have things for me to do. Just like your aunt.” She smiled at Aunt Sophronia. I walked partway home with Ruth and then turned back and went up Petticoat Lane toward the shoemaker’s shop. Mr. Bemish, the shoemaker, is a little white man with gray hair. He has a glass eye. This eye is not the same color as his own eye. It is a deeper gray. If I stand too close to him, I get a squeamish feeling because one eye moves in its socket and the other eye does not.
Mr. Bemish and I are friends. I am always taking shoes to his shop to be repaired. We do not own a horse and buggy and so we walk a great deal. In fact, there is a family rule that we must walk any distance under three miles. As a result, our shoes are in constant need of repair, the soles and heels have to be replaced, and we always seem to be in need of shoelaces. Quite often I snag the uppers on the bull briars in the woods and then the tears have to be stitched.
When I went to get Aunt Sophronia’s shoes, Mr. Bemish was sitting near the window. It is a big window and he has a very nice view of the street. He had on his leather apron and his eyeglasses. His glasses are small and they have steel rims. He was sewing a shoe and he had a long length of waxed linen thread in his needle. He waxes the thread himself.
I handed him the ticket and he got up from his workbench to get the shoes. I saw that he had separated them from the other shoes. These are Aunt Sophronia’s store shoes. They had been polished so that they shone like patent leather. They lay alone, near the front of the table where he keeps the shoes he has repaired. He leaned toward me and I moved away from him. I did not like being so close to his glass eye.
“The lady who brought these shoes in. Who is she?”
I looked at him and raised one eyebrow. It has taken me two months of constant practice in front of a mirror to master the art of lifting one eyebrow.
Mr. Bemish said, “What’s the matter with you? Didn’t you hear what I said? Who was that lady who brought these shoes in?”
ANN PETRY (1908–1997) was a reporter, pharmacist, social worker, and community activist. She illuminated the range of black and white experience in her novels, short stories, and other writing. Her book The Street was the first novel by an African American woman to sell more than a million copies. Her novels The Narrows and Country Place are also available from Northwestern University Press.
Excerpted from Collected Stories by Bruno Schulz. Translated from the Polish by Madeline G. Levine and with a foreword by Rivka Galchen.
“Bruno Schulz is arguably the most influential author the Polish language has ever known . . . Levine finally allows English-language readers to spend time with the living Bruno Schulz—serious, funny and breathtakingly real.” —Times Literary Supplement
At five in the morning, a morning brilliant from early sunshine, our house had already been bathed for a long time in ardent and quiet morning radiance. At that solemn hour, unobserved by anyone—while across the room in the semidarkness of lowered drapes the peaceful breathing of sleeping people still moved in solidarity—in total silence it entered into the facade that was blazing in the sunlight, into the silence of the early heat, as if its entire surface were made of blissfully slumbering eyelids. Thus, profiting from the silence of those solemn hours, it swallowed the very first fire of morning with a blissfully slumbering face, fainter in the radiance, with the arrangement of its features trembling slightly in the dream-filled sleep of that intense hour. The shadow of the acacia in front of the house, waving brightly on those burning eyelids, repeated on their surface as if on a piano, over and over again, the same glittering phrase washed away by a breeze, vainly attempting to penetrate the depths of that golden dream. The canvas drapes absorbed the morning heat, portion after portion, and grew darkly suntanned, swooning in the boundless radiance.
At that early hour, my father, no longer able to find sleep, descended the stairs, laden with his books, in order to open the shop, which was located on the ground floor of our apartment building. He stood motionless in the entrance for a moment, withstanding with tightly closed eyes the powerful attack of fiery sunshine. The sun-bright wall of the house drew him sweetly into its blissfully leveled flatness, smoothed down to the point of disappearance. For a moment he became a flat father, grown into the facade, and he felt his arms, branching out, trembling and warm, fuse flat amid the golden stucco decorations of the facade. (How many fathers have already grown permanently into a facade at five in the morning, at the moment when they stepped off the bottom step of a staircase? How many fathers have become in this way forever the keepers of their own door, flatly sculpted onto the frame, with a hand on the door handle and a face unfolded into the same parallel, blissful grooves over which their sons’ fingers would later travel lovingly, seeking the last traces of their fathers now merged forever into the universal smile of the facade?) But then he detached himself with his last bit of will, regained the third dimension, and turned into a man once again, freeing the shackled shop door from its padlocks and iron bars.
When he opened the heavy, ironclad wing of the shop door the grumbling gloom retreated one step from the entrance, drew back a few inches into the depths of the shop, changed its place, and lay down lazily inside. Invisibly giving off steam from the still-cool paving stones of the sidewalk, the morning freshness stood timidly on the threshold as a faint, trembling strip of air. Deep inside, the darkness of many previous days and nights lay in the unopened bales of cloth that were arranged in layers and ran in rows into the interior, in muffled parades and pilgrimages, until it came powerlessly to a stop in the very heart of the shop, in the dark stockroom, where, already undifferentiated and replete with itself, it dissolved into the silent, looming, ur-matter of cloth.
Father walked along that tall wall of cheviot wools and twills, trailing his hand along the edges of cloth bales as if along the slits of women’s dresses. Under his touch, the rows of blind torsos that were always ready to panic, to break out of line, would calm down and consolidate in their cloth hierarchies and order.
BRUNO SCHULZ (1892–1942) was a Polish Jew born in Drohobych, at the time a city in Austrian Galicia. He published two volumes of short fiction during his life. Shot in the street by a Nazi officer in German-occupied Drohobych, Schulz achieved posthumous fame as one of the most influential European fiction writers of the twentieth century.
MADELINE G. LEVINE is Kenan Professor of Slavic Literatures Emerita at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Her translations from the Polish include The Woman from Hamburg and Other True Stories by Hanna Krall, Bread for the Departed by Bogdan Wojdowski, and four volumes of prose by Czeslaw Milosz, including Beginning with My Streets: Essays and Recollections and Milosz’s ABC’s.
This is not Jordan River There lies not Canaan There is still One more wide river to cross.
This is the Mississippi And the stars tell us only That this is not the road.
We do not know If any have reached that Canaan We have received no word.
Behind us the belling pack Beyond them the hunters Before us the dismal swamp.
We do not know. . . .
We have exchanged Louisiana for Mississippi Merely Georgia for Florida Carolina for Tennessee.
We have passed, repassed So many rivers Okmulgee, Chattahoochee, St. Mary’s, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi. We have leapt From swamp land Into marshes We have won through To bloodred clay To gravel and rock To the baked lands To the scorched barrens.
And we grow footsore And muscle weary Our faces grow sullen And our hearts numb
We do not know. . . .
We know only That there lies not Canaan That this is no River Jordan.
Still are we motherless children Still are we dragging travelers Alone, and a long ways from home.
Still with the hard earth for our folding bed Still with our head pillowed upon a rock
And still With one more river, Oh, one wide river to cross.
STERLING A. BROWN (1901–1989) was one of the most important and influential figures in the development of African American literature and criticism in the twentieth century. Born in Washington, D.C., he was not only a poet but also a distinguished folklorist, anthologist, critic, and reviewer. Brown was a professor at Howard University for forty years.
John Moutoussamy was the first black architect to make partner at a majority white Chicago architecture firm. His Johnson Publishing Building on South Michigan Avenue is still the only downtown skyscraper designed by a black person.
Lesser known is the refined modernist home Moutoussamy designed for himself, his wife, and three children at 361 East Eighty-Ninth Place in the South Side’s Chatham community. Built in 1954, the blonde-brick residence is elegant in its simplicity; the home and its integrated garage greet the street as a single rectangular piece.
The Moutoussamy House is part of a notable cluster of modernist houses that were built in Chatham as the neighborhood became a prime spot for solidly middle-class and well-off African Americans in the 1950s and 1960s.
LEE BEY is a photographer, writer, lecturer, and consultant who documents and interprets the built environment—and the often complex political, social, and racial forces that shape spaces and places. His writing on architecture and urban design has been featured in Architect, Chicago magazine, Architectural Record, and many news outlets. His photography has appeared in Chicago Architect, Old-House Journal, CITE, and in international design publications, including Bauwelt and Modulør. A former Chicago Sun-Times architecture critic, Bey is also a senior lecturer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and served as deputy chief of staff for urban planning under former Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley.
Fou diumenge passat, a les tres de la tarda, sobre el pont del passeig, que un embriac occí una dona per amor d’una rosa que l’homicida abandonà damunt el toll de sang. Ja el diumenge abans hom havia assenyalat un fet idèntic al mateix indret i a la mateixa hora. Pressento per a avui un crim equivalent. Em cal, doncs, advertir el taverner i avisar la policia. Però, Déu meu, i si fos jo l’assassí? Vet ací el meu got vessant de vi, el carmí dels teus llavis, del teu si, del teu sexe, reflectit dins la tèrbola beguda roja. Aboqueu més vi, Rafel!, són dos quarts de tres; al pont del passeig hi ha una dona amb una rosa a la mà i el meu coltell és fi com l’aresta d’un estel.
Last Sunday, at three in the afternoon, on the bridge over the boulevard, a drunken man killed a woman for the love of a rose which the murderer abandoned in the pool of blood. The previous Sunday, in fact, someone had noted that an identical act would occur at the same place and the same time. I have the foreboding that an equivalent crime will be committed today. I must therefore warn the owner of the taverna and notify the police. But, my God, what if I am the assassin? Here before me stands a glass brimming with wine, the carmine of your lips, your nipples, your sex, reflected in the turbid red drink. Pour out my wine, Rafael! It is half past two. On the bridge over the boulevard stands a woman with a rose in her hand, and my knife is as sharp as the edge of a star.
J. V. FOIX (1893–1987) was an influential poet, essayist, journalist, and figure in Catalan letters. He was active in the Catalan nationalist movement and instrumental in introducing the modernist avant-gardes into Catalonia. His poetry is distinguished by an experimentalism that synthesizes medieval literary traditions with modern tendencies like surrealism.
LAWRENCE VENUTI, a professor of English at Temple University, is a translation theorist and historian as well as a translator from Italian, French, and Catalan. He is the author, editor, or translator of twenty-five books, including The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation, The Translation Studies Reader, and Antonia Pozzi’s Breath: Poems and Letters.
Her closet is a universe
made for trying on
the brightly colored dresses,
a standing field of flowers
wider than the cramped stamp
of dirt behind the house.
Ignored every day starched white,
reached back into a past
still laced with big band music,
rationed cigarettes, Chanel No. 5,
Stepped into shoes and grew to
adolescence, the clock clock clock
of heels Time racing down the hall
to when he too would be tall, cool,
desirable—an adult—just like
How could they not love him as
he made his grand entrance, posed,
placed a trembling hand on narrow hip,
waited breathlessly, sure of their applause?
Reginald Harris, the director of library and outreach services for Poets House, won the 2012 Cave Canem / Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize for Autogeography. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee, a recipient of Individual Artist awards for poetry and fiction from the Maryland State Arts Council, and his debut collection 10 Tongues: Poems was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award and the ForeWord Book of the Year. He is an associate editor for Lambda Literary Review and a member of the National Book Critics Circle.
She starts running. I call cheater as she
gains on me, wobbling uncontrollably.
That bloody fruit in my chest sags low.
I want to tell her. My palm sweats through
a manilla envelope holding court papers;
I blow an invisible donut hole.
My chest is a flat worn-out mattress. Her eyes,
A blurry river— promises to cry for me when I’m gone
But I remind her I ain’t going nowhere!
Time loses seconds; I make a silly face to break the gravity.
I pick her up and we’re flying. Her arms stretch across the sky
With crayola lines of fleshy pinks and browns.
Her body grows small, reversing time as she runs down the hall,
A little rocket, shooting towards light where karate, jump rope,
The sound of her feet beating the swollen ground,
Her learning ancient colored girl chants
Let’s get the rhythm of the hot dog
The air thins, my thoughts lift me to outer space,
I don’t worry
I mouth something to the gods
And I don’t think for a second that we won’t survive this.
ABDUL ALI is the author of Trouble Sleeping (2015), winner of the New Issues Poetry Prize selected by poet Fanny Howe. His poetry, essays, and interviews have appeared in Gargoyle, A Gathering of the Tribes, National Public Radio, The Washington Post magazine, New Contrast (South Africa), Poets Lore, on the websites of the Academy of American Poets and the Poetry Foundation, and in the anthology Full Moon on K Street: Poems about Washington DC (2009), among other publications. He has received grants, awards, and fellowships from the DC Commission of the Arts and Humanities, American University, College Language Association, and the Mt. Vernon Poetry Festival at George Washington University. He has taught writing at Towson University, Goucher College, and currently teaches in the graduate writing program at Johns Hopkins University.