- The Exchange: To Our Flags
- The Exchange: The Negro Speaks of Dryland
- The Exchange: blue is darker than Black
- The Exchange: Sans Fleur
- The Exchange: Blindspot
- The Exchange: Her.
- The Exchange: Lint
- The Exchange: Reality Check
- The Exchange: Caution
- The Exchange: Rubik’s Cube
- The Exchange: The Path
- The Exchange: sTREEtS
- The Exchange: Butter
- The Exchange: The Bright Side
- The Exchange: Concrete to Shoreline
- This Empty Cage
- Paper Machete
- The Exchange: Marketplace
- The Exchange: One Year Anniversary
- The Exchange: Sunscreen Affective Disorder (SAD)
- The Exchange: Immigration & Culture
- The Exchange: Love, Street Cleaning, & Other Myths
- The Exchange: An Accent Enters a Room and Says Good Morning
- The Exchange: An ode to Oceania
- The Exchange: Happy New Year
by Chima “Naira” Ikoro
the commodification of radical language and slam poetry are both to blame for y’all thinking it’s more profound to call Black folks “bodies.”
what first started as a motif for the objectification of our flesh turned into a trend, as most things do, and y’all started referring to We the very same way the origin of that verbiage was looking to hold a mirror to and dismantle.
if i’m just a body, how am i different from a car which also has a body or a gun which might have several bodies depending on who it belongs to.
people are living. but bodies are carcasses,
bodies are hollow shells. or filled with them.
see, hollow shells are for hunting animals like deer or moose, google says they’re best for
hunting creatures with thick skin. doesn’t that sound familiar?
that We would be what We eat. all the casings We’ve swallowed.
the world sees Us and sees meat to pierce through, and niggas were getting on stage
and describing Us by the skin of Our framework and the shrapnel of Our bones;
if i’m a body i could be anything. papers have body paragraphs,
like “40-something people killed in a single night in chicago” on the front page.
no names, no descriptions, no individual memoriam, no faces no cases just 20, 30, 40
covered by black tarp draped over concrete, Blackened by blood. it could be anything under there;
a bird, a plane, a bus driver, a 12-year-old girl, a groom-to-be,
a recent high school graduate, a dj, a man whose dad just got out of jail.
a body could be anything. papers have bodies, rolled and smoked, ashes to ashes, dusting to dust
speeches have bodies. in 1971, Nixon declared a war on drugs. 50 years later and that
speech is still still catching bodies to this day. and each one of them could have been anything.
a doctor, a teacher, a rapper, a lawyer, a 12-year-old boy, a toddler in their car seat,
a dj, a man whose dad just got out of jail, a boy i grew up with who grew a boy himself,
a gangbanger, a criminal…whatever that means, a black person, a black human being,
whatever that means.
people are living, but we’re calling Ourselves bodies and hiding the pages of Our obituaries under Our tongues, imagining Ourselvesmore dead than alive.
some people fancy calling their past partners bodies cause they don’t mean shit to them they were just a valley to rain in;
a dip, a blip, a back to break. a heart to shelter themselves and flee when the sun is out
so what does that make my skin?
a pothole to hold water for rats to drink from? a crevice collecting dirt and boogers? a moment
in time? a flash? a strike of lighting? a break between songs? a second?
a body? just a thing. just a fucking thing. what is alive about that?
bodies break down. they cannot hold spirits. ain’t no room for a soul in a body that’s already been stuffed by the taxidermist and propped up on stage, tryna describe yourself in a way that will get claps and snaps.
anything can snap;
bodies, bones for broth, reducing yourself from tomato juice to paste
burning at the bottom of the blackest most burnt pot in the world
and calling it poetic. whatever that means.
Chima Ikoro is the community organizing editor for the Weekly. She last wrote about two artists from Roseland.
“Oftentimes, we describe who we are. Instead, describe who you are not.”
This could be a poem or a stream-of-consciousness piece. Submissions could be new or formerly written pieces.
Submissions can be sent to bit.ly/ssw-exchange or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured below is a reader response to a previous prompt. The last poem and prompt can be found here.
by Vernique Dyson
Rivers cry at night.
A forever flow sings to the moon, and it’s beautiful without a witness.
It perceives beauty upon a hallelujah chorus and never wonders about who’s not singing. In the brink of its soul, it is waiting for an onlooker to love it for more than what it can provide. There is a course of tenderness and contribution planted in a streambed not many are familiar with.
So, thank it.
Thank the things you’ve never encountered up close but make you whole enough to speak on.
There are flaws whose standards never felt welcome as if perfection has an address. As if the mute woman standing in a room of conversations couldn’t use an affirmation in her language from time to time.
As if to say beauty is in the eye of the beholder but we never asked for opinions from strangers.
I find beauty daily.
In plush pillows and memory foam mattresses made to caress my soul.
In mirrors that I give compliments to for seeing through.
There are many definitions, so if it causes your heart to flutter like lovers promise me you’ll call it like it is.
Vernique Dyson is a writer and dancer from Kenosha, Wisconsin, residing on the West Side of Chicago. You can find her on Instagram @VerniqueD!