Julian Randall

This Land Is Where We Buried Everything That Came Before You: African American History and Concepts of Ownership in Early Elementary Education


Within the history of Afro-American existence much scholastic importance has been attributed to the weight of February. This is certainly understandable as Blackness in the pedagogical tradition is nothing if not a silhouette in a pelagic winter. However, understated in all of this is the significance of the “Token” as a kind of tragic hero in the tradition of sole survivors such as Odysseus. More specifically, how a boy might see his undoing and howl across the unflinching snow and never identify the echo. This Sonics of Blackness is a criminally under represented element of how one conveys to a room full of second graders the savage lick of a whip as a means of explaining an entire history. The question of this poem then is how the educator of the classroom approaches the subject of slavery when only one Black child sits in the room worrying at a shoelace, as if preparing. This poem takes as its primary subject a boy no older than 7 embraced by his white best friend as the white best friend states “I am glad slavery is over, I would have hated to own you.” Followed by the boy sitting on his hands until they are blood bulbous and no longer entirely his own. How he looks beyond the window onto the playground and beneath the snow imagines an entire country; beneath that country, another.

Frank Ocean Sighting #268: Frank Ocean Is Rumored to Speak of Rivers Which is Likely a Lie (Disc 1)

Junior year come around
& in my dorm room
animal level desire makes me
more me in some ways
My savage tongue drizzles
onto an empty bed
Empty         except me
      nothing new
to splinter the obese quiet
Lonely & holding court with stains
Drake vibrates through the next wall

Lust got loose in the hallway
sex echoes between melodies
I thumb at flakes of paint
I ain’t got nobody    no music
No woman    no man
this makes me the anomaly
again     My man handsome
as anything that don’t quite exist
My man just the hum glazing my fist
Beneath my nails    olive coats of landscape

Gossip tells us there’s two discs
Rumor tells us it’s posthumous
Sense should’ve told me not to sleep
with this white girl    knowing history
like I do     yet here    me frightened
me jutting my hips in the dull light
Gossip tells us one of the discs
is River     Booze shuffled off her lips
It never met my mouth     I quivered inside her
loneliness    she told me    You need to quit being
such uh bitch & fuck me    I obeyed     then exited

For weeks it goes like that
this memory I shudder to call
abuse     Yet it was
the story is gauze
I already bled through it
She called me a coward
for each of my refusals
I ask myself    why I stayed
The sex was bad    I was scared
of her solitude    her fragile quiet
her desire for me to be hers outside
Some vases shatter   get filled with gold
Some vases shatter   just become fragments
that hold my eyes    as I drop the lid over them
Leave their little trauma in the hallway

My whole body an Achilles Heel
momma’s ever tender failing
destined for a puncture’s fame
The album was a hoax
I was just as depressed as before
& now mother to half a secret
Still I was ablaze with want
for sex     yes      but mostly
I just wanted it to end
My friends & their partners
are in the main room playing Monopoly
discussing gains & losses & losses
I’m invited as an afterthought
Still ablaze I put on my coat
It is 3am     and the downpour is torrential
I shouldn’t be going anywhere
I’m not sure I’m going anywhere
so much as testing if anyone would stop me
while I stroll past them        They didn’t
& when I stepped outside to quench
the gene which gives me my father’s sadness
it rained until every puddle was rabid

(Self) Inflicted

I enter this story by the same door each time. Sweet tragedy, honeyed tongue of the night bucks down my throat again and again. It is as common a myth as I can bear: Everyone Remembers Their First Time. Suppose I do, for argument’s sake. Suppose a memory knows violence inherently as a wolf knows that it deserves. Suppose we can call the result, result. That it is something more than my need to be sacrificed to myself. I did this to myself, the shots quivered, then didn’t.

My face made smaller and smaller in the dimming melody. Taint me in the glass, eclipse a flood a quarter inch at a time. I am saying here, that if I pretend I can remember much of anything, I like to think I could see my face in the shot glass. Self as parenthetical, self as wound framed by the less tarnished. I did this to myself, surrounded by my friends who are all prettier than me. Now, too drunk. Now, gone. Now, faded; life span of a bruise.

I wanted that, a reckless beauty; dauntless and inundating the room. I inflict myself on myself. Still. Hasty yes and yes and yes. I thought, even when surrounded, that I was alone. What is there really to learn from Troy, besides isolation begets permeability?

Sacrifice begets visibility; I am never more dazzling than when I’m sucking my own knife clean. I sprinted towards the light, nobody knew I was absent. Past that, desire begets a gash in the memory. I remember teeth, and how the blood didn’t leave my neck. Pooled instead. Bruised constellation. Botched hanging. Loud islands of regret. Too drunk. I make terrible prey. Mutter yes as if it can mean anything.

Oh teeth, my one clean memory, little disorganized search lamps, I count you as my audience; the way stars are beautiful until they are revealed as planes; the way what is touched erodes into an unremarkable darkness; the way the light of what is gone; reaches dim, reaches still.

Julian Randall is a Living Queer Black poet from Chicago. A Pushcart Prize nominee he has received fellowships from Callaloo, BOAAT and the Watering Hole and was the 2015 National College Slam (CUPSI) Best Poet. Julian is the curator of Winter Tangerine Review’s Lineage of Mirrors and a poetry editor for Freezeray Magazine. He is also a cofounder of the Afrolatinx poetry collective Piel Cafe. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as Nepantla, Rattle Poets Respond, Ninth Letter, Vinyl, Prairie Schooner, and The Adroit Journal, among others. He is a candidate for his MFA in Poetry at Ole Miss.