The Exchange is the Weekly’s poetry corner, where a poem or piece of writing is presented with a prompt. Readers are welcome to respond to the prompt with original poems, and pieces may be featured in the next issue of the Weekly.
by Chima “Naira” Ikoro
when i fall off the board and bleed, my blackness
blends with the concrete.
my skin poured out for my homies that hold roots in place,
i pay homage with what has cost me the most.
sometimes it feels like when we fall it’s the only time we fly.
but never mind that,
just focus on the wind.
focus on the speed of light and not the stalling of darkness.
ain’t darkness where we sleep anyway?
there is plenty of time to rest and heal.
right now, push and kick.
give the gravel something to remember you by.
Chima Ikoro is the Weekly’s Community Builder.
“What offers you joy? What do you offer it in return?”
This could be a poem, journal entry, 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 Valerie Lee
What is this little corner of the world with old-style checkerboard tiles? What happens in the kitchen, stays in the kitchen. Something left behind. If I walk to the front by the dark wood window frame, I can hear the distant sound of moving cars making their way across the city, on their way to events that I am not invited to. Honk. That was the horn from a Chevy Impala. Is it from the family car? I don’t know. They’re gone. I turn away and retreat back to the hideaway kitchen where quiet emptiness, dust, and absolute stillness sit. I can feel my anxiety rise. Why do I come back here?
Around a twisted staircase, above the empty, darkened restaurant, here I am. Here I stay. I wait. Alone I stand in the crook of old-world compartments, deep in the back, I stand in my bicentennial halter top and kid-style bell-bottom jeans. I am cut off. Nobody lives here anymore. All the adults are gone. A low-level dread churns spoiled acid in my slow-sinking stomach. Stagnant I stand, ‘til I fall through holes to everything feeling so lifeless, discarded.
I ogle over the remnants of a life lived by a family, my family long ago. I yearn for this life. I am sick as I wallow in nostalgia for imagined events before my time. I stare at the rounded, 1940’s style stove and refrigerator. There is a table with silver trim around the edge, but all the chairs are missing. In a corner nook, a built-in cabinet with a glass window reveals a stack of porcelain bowls with tiny, hand-painted flowers. Have they ever been used? The floors and tabletop are bare, save for a powdery, transparent film.
I twist the knobs on the front of the stove, but nothing ever turns on. The gas has been shut off. Every time that I am here, I open the old-time Frigidaire. I heave and ho as I always do. That thick, rounded door is heavy. I like to look inside, just because. Surprise. It’s always the same. All the metal shelves are empty. The hollowness makes my stomach queasy. The cord was unplugged decades ago.
From the corner of my eye, I discover a curious Tootsietoy car. It sits by itself, so small, unmoved, on the exposed, white-painted shelf. Did my father and uncle once play with this die cast toy? I study the old-fashioned, miniature, blue, metal Ford coupe. Did Grandfather buy it for them and play with them too? What was it like in this apartment, back then, so long ago? I want to watch them live their lives, in their time. Be there, with them. Meet them. Once again.
I wait for my family to return. I stare at the stillness for what seems like an eternity. I become a statue and try to blend into my surroundings, into oblivion. I try hard to make them real, make them come back. My heart beats hard in the center of my soul, loud it drums in my small, stuffed ears. Blunted thumps crowd out my thoughts. My mind goes numb. I hear their voices. And the jingle of keys at the door. They are back from the banquet with no kids allowed. They have come to get me from the vacant place above the restaurant that we close on Mondays.
I am going home. The front door of the apartment slams shut. Keys turn the locks, sealing back in what is left once again. Now the refrigerator hums and chills the inside air and metal bones. It remembers. It remembers the good old days when the little boy ate from the porcelain bowl with tiny, hand-painted flowers. Happy laughter fills the corner kitchen hub. On the floor, he plays with the blue toy car. He is a little boy with a chronic illness, forever young he stays. He is the uncle who I can never meet, is never seen. But there. In the heavy, yellow light, in the kitchen, he too lingers. He stands and waits alone for his young and beautiful mama to cook his breakfast on the hot, white stove. His milk sits chilled in the glass container inside the refrigerator with the rounded-edged door. He yearns for those comforting moments.
When I ask my mother about the Tootsietoy car, she says not to worry. “Your father is there with his little brother. Your Grandfather is with them too.”
Grandmother is silent and solemn. She is driving the Chevy Impala as Mother hums to Dream Weaver. We have left the apartment above the old restaurant. But the remnant particles hang on and weep softly. They travel with us. Related connections never let go.