When The Lights Shut Off
I want the OF shirt in my closet to go to K. Maybe
she'll need it to remember my Tide detergent trademark,
or how striped and colorful I was when silence feels fatal. Remind her
of Afropunk; when she almost fainted at a Tyler, the Creator concert
and we left because her dirt-covered face under New York
limelight mattered more than moshing to Party Isn't Over.
I want my glasses to go to D. After all, she helped me see the significance
of circles. Whether it be shaking in slow rotation at any sweaty bar on 4th
or the fog marks flashing on my frames while we succumb
to the desire behind our eyelids. I want my ashes scattered
in the Trinity River while Kendrick Lamar curates the melancholy
of my niggas. There are no photoshopped flower crowns allowed. I want
everything else left to CJ so he can bloom instead. And the churches /
hoods / outcasts / enemies -- I know they all will sing out me. Say I wish /
I could have / I would have / I see me. I'll remind them it's okay.
Then I'll finally see T again. We'll hug & kiss then sing to the crowd:
at the end of me is only a fossil /
the things I once owned / the body I once homed /
I hurt but I love you much / I promise /
better is coming
**the title borrows language from Kendrick Lamar's Sing about Me, I'm Dying of Thirst
coffee shop, bike lane, yoga studio, dog park,
You walk into the HEB & are the only black person
(you've heard this story, right?). The big twist is that they're the only
store with House of Tsang Peanut Sauce, so you roll your basket to
the "ethnic spices" aisle. One wheel touches white man's heel.
You say sorry. He hears sinner.
juice shop, whole foods, construction sign, co-op,
White girl says this new bar doesn't attract all the weird locals!
You immediately think of college. White girl said your side of town was
sketchy & that didn't end well so you get your drink & leave, draped
in all your transplant guilt. Are you the gentrifier or the weird local? You share
the area code of one and the face of the other.
vintage shop, pop-up, help wanted, nonprofit,
"Can one suffocate from overwhelming whiteness?" You google before bed.
White girl at the feminist bookstore you work at wears a pussy hat
& patched jean jackets. Says hola to your latinx friend, asks what's up after saying
hello to everyone else. Despite the bad lightning, you see the gleam of good intentions
in her eyes. You say "nothing", softly, back.
corporate headquarters, fake trees, order maintenance, feel the Bern
You try not to get all intersectional & shamed when 50 Cent comes on
in the club. You wonder if leaving everything behind in your hometown
was for this. White man gets in the middle of your dance circle
and you turn. Eventually everyone turns. Eventually he tries to hand shake --
you offer a dap, instead. You wonder if Keep ____ Weird is a typo. You drink
margs at brunch in the business they call city.
we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone,
___ percent rent increase,
__ school closed due to lack of enrollment,
for sale / contact realtor
Nia KB [they/them] is a Black queer nonbinary poet, editor, and educator currently based in Austin, TX. They’ve received fellowships from Texas Christian University, Lambda Literary, The Hurston/Wright Foundation, and UTSA’s African American Literatures and Cultures Institute. Their poetry appears or is forthcoming in The Cincinnati Review, Sappho’s Torque, Vagabond City Lit, Rising Phoenix Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, Foglifter Press, The Shade Journal, and elsewhere. When they’re not blessing stages or writing pages, they serve as a Teaching Artist for the Austin Library Foundation, Curator and Host of ATX Interfaces, Assistant Editor for Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Associate Poetry Editor for fields Magazine, and proud member of Lenguas Loc@s Writers Collective. If you got this far, follow them on the interwebs [at] nia_kb.