The Exchange: Sans Fleur

The Weekly's poetry corner offers our thoughts in exchange for yours

  1. The Exchange: To Our Flags
  2. The Exchange: The Negro Speaks of Dryland
  3. The Exchange: blue is darker than Black
  4. The Exchange: Sans Fleur
  5. The Exchange: Blindspot
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Sans Fleur
by Chima “Naira” Ikoro

Gymnosperms are plants that don’t make flowers or fruits to hold their seeds.
There’s a bunch of types of gymnosperms,
One classification is Conifers—
cypress trees, cedar trees, pine trees, usually having needles instead of flat leaves,
for example.
Gymnosperms make cones; hard, wood-like casings that hold their seeds.
But no fruit. No flowers.

There’s one coniferous tree that will not agree.
The Yew.
It creates a faux fruit—a soft red flesh that encases its cones.
The “fruit” is bright and alluring, but the Yew is a highly poisonous plant.
While that red casing is technically edible, the bark, the leaves, the cone that’s disguised as a seed, every other part of this tree
will kill you.

For some reason, I still wonder what it tastes like.
Even though it’s not really a fruit,
just Yew,
trying to present as something you’re not—
a gymnosperm, luring lost hikers and small animals to your needles,
looking like fruit, tasting like fate.
Yew and I could both ask ourselves; was it worth it?
Me, curious enough to know a Yew could kill me, but even more curious about how Yew fake it so well, and why,
and Yew, channeling all of yourself into creating fruit you weren’t meant to grow,
so much so, it makes your entire being
poisonous.

But Yew didn’t choose to be a conifer—if Yew could pick, you’d be a peach tree,
with a real pit and a real seed.
So I lay in the shade of your needles,
love them like they’re leaves,
acknowledge how hard you are trying and
taste what you made for me. So if I die here,
it’s not as if I didn’t know. In fact, knowing was just that worthwhile.

Chima Ikoro is the community organizing editor for the Weekly. She last wrote about Juneteenth becoming a recognized federal holiday.

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Prompt

Describe something or somewhere you find beauty despite adversity.

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 chima.ikoro@southsideweekly.com.

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Featured below is a reader response to a previous prompt. The last poem and prompt can be found here.

Unprecedented Times
by Imani Joseph

A phrase used by white capitalist corporations to describe the Black liberation struggle rising up and the ongoing global pandemic. It means profit has been lost. Revolution trapped in a blink. It is a phrase used by white institutions to pacify a lynching. Small talk a genocide. This phrase is the second sentence of a company’s diversity and inclusion statement. The white capitalist repeats “unprecedented times” to preface their exploitative business plans. Multinational shoe companies, sports teams, and private prisons use it in press releases. Private, predominantly white colleges and universities use this phrase as they send tuition bills.

Unprecedented is niggas smashing in grocery store windows. Stealing carts of toilet tissue and soap. Mothers stealing milk and diapers. Pigs chasing young men with mattresses strapped to their cars.
Unprecedented times is niggas tearing down Christopher Columbus statues.

They wonder if the consumer will bite the hand that starves them.
What profit is there in revolution?
The white capitalist thinks
I know your suffering and will distract you. I know your suffering, and I want to profit off it. People are dead in the streets, and we want you to go to work/school, and act like nothing has happened. We will never talk about it. We must never talk about it. You must continue to die, and grieve, and work. That is normal. Nothing will change.
Nothing has happened but elusive, unprecedented times. Quirky woke times of satirical third-wall artistic authenticity. It means “I see your suffering but my white ass does not really care.” The benevolent master.

How do you define these times? Whose names went viral first? Which city burned the longest? This public display of Black liberation and rebellion is not a singular instance in time. The U.S. is not a police state by accident. It is intentional and evil. To say Black insurgency is just a radical facade based in aesthetics is dismissive, disrespectful, and a tool of white supremacy. A tool of white supremacy is the disorientation of history. The intentional deconstruction of culture.

It is a parasite. Infects your land. Poisons the water. Poisons the heart. Plants the poison in your stomach. So you grow around anti-Blackness till it’s festering in your gut. Rotting your roots. White supremacy has Black people stuck in time. This country burning is not a shock to me. It has been prophesied.

Does acknowledgement give me rent? Does empathy buy me dinner? Will allyship dismantle white supremacy for me? Because it feels like I’m still doing all the work. What will the capitalist give me? What will white people give me? Because all you do is take up space. In these unprecedented times white people should learn to be quiet. The benevolent master and his diversity emails give me nothing. This phrase is a hollow condolences. It is saying “move the fuck on, nigga.” Move the fuck on and act normal. Move the fuck on and give me your money. Buy this product, support this corporation, enroll in this digital plantation.

All the souls we have mourned this year are unprecedented circumstances.
Never-before-seen overflowing ICUs.
Never-before-seen footage of a pig murdering a nigga on camera.
What does a nigga look like in time?
The most intersectional are always the ones asked to compromise,
And I normally do.
I get lost in time, my body warped by history.
I blinked and my hell of a year,
Summer of burning,
Mobilization fever,
Turned into an uncomfortable outburst
That they must confine to nicety.

When Lori Lightfoot increases funding of CPD by $200 million
City council is empowering maskless pigs to slaughter children.
That is a declaration of war.

“During these unprecedented times we cannot proceed with business as usual when the health and welfare of our residents and communities are at risk,” the mayor said while unveiling her 2022 Budget plan.
Police funding amounting to 1.9 billion dollars.
In other words
Swallow your discomfort and get back to work nigga.

Imani Joseph is a writer from Woodlawn. You can find her on Instagram @itsssssimaniiii!

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