by Dani Janae

SEPARATION, PARTS

for Sarah


I’LL NAME MY DAUGHTER ZARA—
an ode to you as force going
vastly in every direction.
I speak to become a child
in the early stages
of recognizing her own voice:

teach me how to braid my hair.
Teach me how a name hangs on
like a gummy tooth.
Descent.
All these years of my life.

I want you to hold me
so that I don’t burst
— a collapsing star.

           descent cloaking itself
                      in the same dark
                     as departure.

I don’t want to grow old
never knowing how you
called me. Teach me how
a name fissures
and fractures
like a gummy tooth.

My primitive devotion turns
tongue into bedrock, and I try
to conjure you from the well
of my chest. I discovered
my own hands too late to never
let you go; both of us now lying
in the absence between
longing and belonging.

You were an isle, then you weren’t.

Oh, to be yours
for one second.

The ecosystem
of the mouth tells everything.


I ask the hollow ground about being born
and she tells me it’s too great, too heavy.

BLACK DEATH

after Federico Garcia Lorca


Sometimes my breath is

         a tulip of fear.

dark hue of bruise; skin
like a plum, so sweet the world
surrenders it’s jaw to the flesh.
i see hung ghosts in the spit.

all night, the sirens. howling
like sick wolves. one answering
the other:                   

A boy,

sweet as a plum, sleeps now
for centuries. the dusk of
his name deters all light.

everyday i walk outside
and erect my body for violence.
the air is merciless — i howl, too.

for Antwon Rose Jr.


Dani Janae

DANI JANAE is a poet living and writing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her poetry deals with the physical and emotional legacy of trauma, and the intersecting history of her identity as a black, lesbian woman through themes of the grotesque, dreamscapes, and the process of homecoming. Her work has been published by Argot Magazine, Public Source, and Palette Poetry.

return to Issue Twenty Three