Ashia Ajani

Chafing in Crown Heights

mira, if you take the climate crisis too personally, you’ll never be happy again. what white 

women call climate grief, I call the ghosts of colonialism come to reclaim uninherited earth. 

everybody’s telling me how to react, but nobody’s telling them how to act. 

won’t a blk drag queen tell you ‘bout yourself, shadow & all, send you running home crying 

to your momma about all that spoiled potential. all that summer stink oozing out open wounds. 

tell the truth? I can’t tell if I want to survive the event. 

regardless, the event survives in me, my flesh an inalienable reminder of splendor, unearned. 

I promise, I tried to be good but I suppose I done sweated out all the goodness in me. 

From a six story walk up, On & On croons out an AC unit-less window, the world keeps turnin’
oh, what a day
what a day, what a day

                                                                                      Mz. Badu, I know you like your Black gxrls
                                                                                      quiet, legs closed but in this Crown Heights 
                                                                                      smoke exhaust & wet air i’ve gotta spread 
                                                                                      my thighs and let some coolness wipe me
                                                                                      clean, sponge the clock-spotless from 
                                                                                      sweet and sticky summer steam
                                                                                      heat boasting, beautifully Black tender 
                                                                                      niggas write sweat magick songs- decadent,
                                                                                      rolling love poems sent from sunbeams 
                                                                                      sent from sunbeams 
                                                                                      sent from sunbeams 
                                                                                      Black as I am, what a day, what a day in me.


The Aftermath of Sugar

Let me tell you, dear reader 
there is no such thing as a senseless tragedy 
every cataclysm, never divinely ordained 

orchestrated by history, and by history 
made cyclical. 
The first time the New World colonizers taste-

touched sugarcane, a thirst solidified insatiable 
lust sullied by this voracious sugartooth 
an empire built from sweetness, exploited 

                                                                                       decomposed freshwater bodies into bare memory. 

And now, when the air in South Bay 
becomes sickly sweet poisoned with cane ash 

the house on the hill pretends to know nothing of the aftermath of sugar
disregard the Glades, their pleasurepain souvenirs
uncontrol burned to liberate ambrose, and in the process 

swallow the breath of babes Black as soil burdened by 
overharvest. evidence of harm begrimed to neglect and 
study “African genes,” curious as to why we keep dying 
                                                                                                              coughing up dark lungs to 
                                                                                                              fuel & feud until even the light itself 
                                                                                                              no longer bears to shine on. 
what mirror should be held, reflected, refracted to
elicit some narrow response? 
if not in my backyard, whose? 
watch how we, made unGoded by geography, send thoughts&prayers with
no reason to stop the bloodletting

                                                                                                              let it all remain, sickly sweet poison

                                                                                                              caramelized with its glorious stick.


Ashia Ajani (they/she) is a Black storyteller and environmental educator originally from Denver, CO, Queen City of the Plains and the unceded territory of the Cheyenne, Ute, Arapahoe, and Comanche peoples. They are an inaugural 2022 Chrysalis Institute Milkweed Learning Hub Fellow. She is an environmental justice educator and coordinator with Mycelium Youth Network and co-poetry editor of The Hopper Literary Magazine. They have been published in Frontier Poetry, Hennepin Review, Exposition Review, Foglifter Press, and Sierra Magazine, among others. Their debut poetry collection, Heirloom, is forthcoming spring 2023. Follow their work at