The Broken Nose Collective is an interdisciplinary group of artists making “accessible, regional, and honest-to-goodness works of art that are for, by, and about the Chicago community.” Their latest publication is Tethers, an archive zine of interpersonal memories and musings. BNC are artists on the go—next up is a touring wind quartet performance focused on the idea of “harvest.” The excerpts featured here are illustrated and written by Keara McGraw. Keep track of the Broken Nose Collective at brokennosecollective.org
In her own words, across comics, protest banners, tattoos, animations, and even skateboards, bria royal is making “intersectionally black and indigenous mythologies for ourselves and our future liberated descendants.” Black Girl Mania is her fantastic account of a futuristic banana republic and life with bipolar disorder. Bria organizes with the People’s Response Team and For The People Artists Collective, and more of her work can be found at briaroyal.com
“My Ode to the Spicy Lollipop”
This is how my lollipop tastes: It has chile, four layers, and there is gum inside. The gum is really blistering. I can already feel my tongue on fire. I hear the firefighters. It is round and hot like the sun. I cherish my gum so much that I think I just broke my tooth. It hurts so much. It’s too spicy. It tastes so good and delicious and healthy and hard, but still so good. The wrapper is red and has a face of the spicy lollipop with sunglasses.
She was known as “Fire,” but was named Christina by my grandparents. Christina was our aunt, my mother’s eldest sister. Though we usually called her Aunt Chris, during tense times in our lives we referred to her as Fire.
My Chicago be grid-mapped
Superman up high spot train car lines
Like speeding bullet through cityscape
Ahhh, What a sweet escape
Fall asleep on one side blue/red
Wake up black/white
Always knew red line split city black/white
Never took issue with this until nightfall
Better be on your side by nightfall
But nevermind that
When you are a poet and a bird hits the window at your grandma’s house you feel like you need to say something about it/you need to mean something about it/you need to know something about it. What I know is what I saw: the feather drifting down in a serene spiral after what I heard: the bang against the glass and the shriek from my sister’s mouth. My dad and grandma went over to the window and watched the life drift out of the struggling bird. After my dad and the caregiver returned from the backyard with a lifeless plastic bag, my grandma said, shouldn’t we say a prayer for it or something? I said we could say the mourner’s Kaddish but I don’t remember the words. She doesn’t remember a lot of things, but she remembers my name, lets it ring into the hall in surprise when we enter the house. There is no grand metaphor about the bird or my grandmother or life and death. What I know is just what I saw. It died and there was nothing we could do.
I got so used to a closet without a light
That now the landlord’s fixed it
I have forgotten it is there, still digging around for my underwear in the dark.
Every time I remember and pull the chain
it’s like god creating the world again,
and it is good.
You likened our relationship
to a math problem. You say
we are solving it. It’s been a long time
since calculus, since I folded numbers
into boats and eased them into a stream
and watched them come back. In Paris
there is a fountain where they do this,
send off their toy vessels, wobbly fish in a
tiny harbor. I want that afternoon back,
my father and I in the half-hot Europe sun
watching the young boys crowd around
and beckon their earless boats.
Everybody left with what they’d brought.
i believe in the matriarch of things. i believe in overdressing. i believe in moisturizing. i believe in red eyeshadow, cute underwear, and leftovers. i believe in the sun. catch me praying to the refrigerator. catch me making hymns out of the windows. i know the goddess of beds personally; we lay together and collect all our suenos; catch us dozing off in the blankets to the soft hum of the pillows. and she believes in overdressing, too. catch us dancing with heels and hoodies. bachata, cumbia, anything by rihanna and the shameful harmony of saying no. i believe in my abuelita. gorditas. picaditas. brujas. freshly painted nails. same hands in the fire. hips orchestrating the circle. the laugh that fills an entire the room, no corners empty of a smile. i believe in the kitchen. abuelita made it sacred. i believe checkered tile floors lead me the way home. i believe in home. yellow bricked. brown skinned. a hug that almost bruises and eyes that don’t look away. i believe in nicknames. mamita, chulita, pinche cabronita. i believe in la verdad, the way my mom tells it. the way my abuelita doesn’t want to but will say it anyway through clenched teeth and bruised voices. i believe in my bed. the goddess and i made it sacred. that’s where all my dreams and prayers have slept and stayed. i believe mis mujeres have taught me everything i need to know. my tias gave me hoops, my abuelita the sun and prayers, my prima chisme; my mom gave me all of her secrets, her how-to’s, her shortcuts, her echale ganas kisses, her knuckles unbloodied. i believe it takes more to kill us. i believe we are angels, wings of gold and broken heels, won’t catch us tripping on the way to heaven, we just fly.