I.S. Jones

Ritual Switch

Instead it will be your swift backhand that undoes me
brutal in its bursting
until the raised skin reaches for mercy
tomorrow you will motion
for the chancla when I get a wrong answer
on my math homework
the next day the choir in my flesh will stand,
each pore blooming with blood
when the extension cord meets me
the nerve to meet a god in the eye
as though we are equal
so you break the wooden spoon across my face
and this must be love
yes, because you bring me to the end of myself
again & again
to save me from my foolishness
from the designated bullet   baton   pepper spray   curb stomp
which has promised
its full force upon my skull
you break me with love because
this is your inheritance
A family heirloom
dear god
dear father-god
dear father
if this is love
then pull each plea from me
until I am ruined beyond wanting
until I am a proper disciple


When asked where home is,
I point to a no-nothing night.
A night so black, I could close my eyes
& become that night itself—
empty               expanding, expanding.


Every map I point to has no hands that would point back,
doesn’t recognize this body or mouth
the way it reflects two lives.
In one, home is a disappearing landscape.
I call out to the no-nothing & my words turn to gold smoke.

When Momma refused to teach me Yoruba,
she told I should be grateful she was selfish
with her heavy, brilliant tongue,
kept Nigeria & the war & all its music &
schoolyards & dirt roads & men with their greedy hands
in a pantry my small hands could not reach.
To keep me as American as possible. Or safe.
The darkest white girl with a single-barrel mouth,
skinny with a language that was second-handed to me.

In the other, home is a place in memory:

the house on Danville St.
                          grandma’s loose skin
eating fufu with our hands        
                                        James’s Taylor “You Are My Only One”

momma’s garden      sneaking out to kiss boys with busted teeth
                       running through the rose garden

            the wall I punched a hole through

the sound of god falling out of my mother’s hands. 


The beautiful struggle of my body against this night,
I have coveted the moon as a heart,
& I think this is home.
A night such as this, I breathe
& my skin begins the faithful labor of unraveling

I.S. Jones is a writer, educator, and hip-hop head hailing from Southern California. She is a fellow with The Watering Hole, BOAAT Writer’s Retreat, and Callaloo. I.S. is very Blk & loud about her joy. In 2016, she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has been praised by Rachel McKibbens as a “god-lit marvel”. She is the Assistant Editor at Chaparral. Her works have appeared in The Harpoon ReviewThe Blueshift JournalSunDog LitMatadorReviewWusgood.black, forthcoming in great weather for MEDIA, the Black Voices Series with Puerto Del Sol, and elsewhere. She received her MFA from Hofstra University.