i still can’t breathe, a ghazal for amerika | JP Howard

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i still can’t breathe, a ghazal for amerika 

everyday folks risk their lives marching for freedom
rage makes us forget our biggest fears 

american cities have sheltered-in for months on end
folks hide behind masks, while a pandemic exposes secret fears

in our home, my family speaks their names and honors their legacy
Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd; we can never imagine your final fears

last night, i dreamt my two sons finally lived in a safe world and smiled
i woke remembering my babies remain target; tried to exhale these mama fears

our family has had “black boy in amerika” conversations with our sons since they were seven
did learning about Trayvon Martin at such a young age, teach them how to fear?

my heart grows heavy, yet i hold onto legacy of my family marching for freedom
Juliet, keep your voice raised and your head held high, fuck all this talk of fear!



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JP Howard is an educator, literary activist, curator and community builder. Her debut poetry collection, SAY/MIRROR (The Operating System), was a Lambda Literary finalist. She is also the author of bury your love poems here (Belladonna*) and co-editor of Sinister Wisdom Journal Black Lesbians–We Are the Revolution!  JP is a 2020 featured author in Lambda Literary’s LGBTQ Writers in Schools program and was a Split this Rock Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism finalist. JP is featured in the Lesbian Poet Trading Card Series from Headmistress Press and has received fellowships and grants from Cave Canem, VONA, Lambda, Astraea and Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC). She curates Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon, a NY-based forum offering all writers a monthly venue to collaborate. Her poetry and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in The Slowdown  podcast, Academy of American Poets, Anomaly, Apogee Journal, The Feminist Wire, Split this Rock, Muzzle Magazine, and The Best American Poetry Blog. Her poetry is widely anthologized. JP holds a BA from Barnard College, an MFA in Creative Writing from The City College of New York and is Editor-At-Large of Mom Egg Review VOX online.  http://www.jp-howard.com

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