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by Elizabeth Spenst



     FIRST LOVE (for Jordan)

My nights know necessity. - Karisma Price


We are known together now

Bong, Stoop Lady, Panama, Wine Uncle

All attend our comings and goings from this home


In a world of our own needs

We giggle on each other’s lips

Sip and spill water on the other’s sweater


Your glass teeth break into my arm

I say ow but mean I love you

You say sorry but mean this will happen again


And we make meanings of each other

’s idiosyncrasies Your

short breaths and my long walks


It all makes sense, and we need

Each other need our people need

To see this through as far as we’ll let the other


       Do I know you?

       Do you know me?

       Tell people you know me.


       We go together now, like glass in my mouth



1776 - Litchfield, Connecticut


Vira and Candace arrived at the house as wedding presents. Each held the other’s childish hand tight, crossing the threshold of a new life. Little goodbye for their mothers. Little goodbye for what little else could have happened. The years pass and the house grows. Noses are wiped, floors shine and muscles ache. Labor is inevitable, as is lust. Vira is pregnant and the girls whisper at night, feeling for what is possible in the dark. Here is the truth: they are 22 and will never have the right to be free. Here is the truth: The child in Vira’s belly will be free when he is 21. All that is possible evades what is true. A new life makes everything possible – the family runs away in the dark. When day breaks and the house is still, an advertisement is placed in the paper. A short thick wench, round faced. A tall strait wench of a yellow complexion. Here they are, however awfully. Freedom captured in the archive. Vira has her boy – Alfred. Candace holds him gently while Vira rests, humming softly to their little gift.


A simple inlet

Where no one else is hunted

    Follow the tide out

* * *

Elizabeth Spenst is a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet and critic whose work has appeared in Rattle, On the Seawall, and ARTS.BLACK. She’s participated in workshops and readings with Cave Canem and the Decolonizing Poetry Collective. A daughter of Trinidadian and Mennonite diasporas, she’s currently at home in Brooklyn, NY.


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