As told by my mother: all good
is holy, while evil finds itself in those
              who do not sleep,
              those whom lie

awake learning to write
                and heed
                and pray;

in me, this wired thing.
My father did all he could
                to be sure

I was birthed with a beating
fist to go with those
                sleepless beasts, my lungs.
                We find—to this day—a book
of versed calligraphy is the prettiest
flesh to make a lamb of.

This is what I will tell my son
when he is beckoned by
                the bully in him,
when his scorn loses
                sight of its prey.


When piqued, boys be a bone.
Be a tantrum, a cracked tomb

of discipline exorcising itself
into the backs of boys we had
no business putting our fists

inside of. I tried so hard
to find myself in the spines
of the men who wronged me.


If my son develops a taste for blood,
I will blame it on
                the enemies of my father
                and our ancestors.

One day, he will ask me about the red
                in the river of our name, where
                it turned.

When he does, I will have
                the same answer I did
when my parents told me to hold
                my tongue and cleanse
                my fistful
heart: I do not know what to throw away
when nothing belongs to me

This poem first appeared in Wildness on October 18th, 2016. To view the poem as it originally appeared, visit the publication here. It was honored with the distinction of Best of the Net for 2017 by Sundress Publications.