Bonafide Rojas


tierra is the first word
the island teaches us

the wind is our navigator through
this land of the valiant lord

the coasts are crystalline cobalt blue
we give all the hurricanes names

these pueblos of deserts & jungles
opens the roads to the edge of history

we are measured in size & location
harmonize in a minor key

we carry forced exoduses on our backs
our blood is a lineage of caña y café

columns of smoke to obscure
the clarity of this gorgeous sky

seventy eight provinces from bend to bend
from la mar to el oceano, from faro to faro

we erect gigantic billboards of
foreign products, molasses & gasoline

electric poles line the island like sheet music
our technical progress has invaded the countryside

we torture the muscles of these mountains
the small towns are being reconstructed

transformed by irrigation
radio waves & the smart phones

we increased the speed of development
on our  backs & legs

tomorrow seems like a frightening place
of radioactive beaches, plastic forests

bare mineral shells of former glory
hydraulic energy cities & neon mountain sides

this exploding super-population hasn’t
culturally develop the next

we need to defend our island from
the statues that represent an oppressive future

we cannot assure ourselves the air
we breathe will always be free

we cannot assure that these homes of ours
will always belong to us & not a bank of leeches

the geographic position of our land has determined
the course of our history, sovereignty & strategy

we are a forced a collective personality
casualties of imperialism

in between two americas
our lack of volume, our lack of ports

our island that can be seen in two days
tourism is the mirror ball & chain

our reflections bare a narrow house
cramped by the plains, & valleys,

our vision is a trip on the immediate
extension of our landscape

if we stretch our bodies far enough
we can touch the four corners

our history would have been different
if our land was different

our heroes, our fighters who did not fit in,
who fled & died in foreign lands

may have been treated different
because the lack of space needed to create

wouldn’t have been an issue
everyone’s perspectives would’ve been broader

we are geological positioning
we are invigorating climates

we are biological constitutions
we are imperial landscapes

we are trapped in a perpetual cycle of self destruction
operating on our collective psychosis

we were once woods, pastures,
swamps & untapped potential

now a paradise in a schizophrenic conundrum
divided by invisible titles of state & independence

we are jibaros with satellite dishes
we are farmers who carry computers

we are fast food, fast highways,
corporate tools, monopolizing landlords

our hearts sit on the lap of rediscovery
our hands balance the conflict & cooperation

home is the flower of the land
caribbean & atlantic picturesque

our expression is coupled with
our anguish of yearning for freedom

our memories made of lumber, metal,
history, poetry, folklore, & tradition

this land & the century long fight for
the people & our self defining roles

these coasts are crystalline cobalt blue
we give all the hurricanes names

the wind is our navigator through
this land of the valiant lord

libertad is the first word
we taught ourselves

tierra is the first word
the island taught us.

Author Statement

Home Is The Flower Of The Land is an analysis on how post modernization has stunted the growth of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico has been a colony of The United States for 119 years & has disconnected the island with the other experiences of the region. To be included in the Sacred Americas Folio connects Puerto Rico with the rest of the Caribbean, Central America, North America & South America in the fight against imperialism, colonialism, racism, gentrification & working towards liberation.

Bonafide Rojas is the author of four collections of poetry: Notes On The Return To The Island (2017), Renovatio (2014), When The City Sleeps(2012) & Pelo Bueno (2004). He appeared on Def Poetry Jam & has been published in numerous anthologies & journals. He’s the bandleader for The Mona Passage, whose debut EP was released in Aug. 2016. He’s performed at various stages: Lincoln Center, The Brooklyn Museum, El Museo Del Barrio, Bowery Ballroom, The Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre, Rotterdam Arts Center, Columbia University, NYU, The Nuyorican Poets Cafe, BusBoys & Poets & Festival De La Palabra. For more info :

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, forthcoming in great weather for MEDIA, the Black Voices Series with Puerto Del Sol, and elsewhere. She received her MFA from Hofstra University.

Cortney Lamar Charleston


They invoke your given name—

                                                                             call on you, a witness,
to take the stand so they can ask what happened as you see it,
all attention settled solely on you as you approach the hot seat
thus creating a deafening silence, locusts in their eye sockets,
a plague set upon your body, your skin crawling, trying to crawl
away from race.
                                   Once seated, you submit to the traditional
procedure: left hand on the bones of God, right hand to the sky.
You take oath, or you send a prayer straight into the salted earth:
same difference. They point their questions like pistols and you
pull answers out of the pockets of your memory; say what you say,
it isn’t gospel to anybody in the room, and even you can’t be sure
you haven’t lied to yourself. Even in saying the Lord has been good
to you, they will press on how good, will insinuate it wasn’t good
enough to stop you from doing what they said you did that night.
But when He sees you through the trial and tribulations like an X-ray
or ultrasound, you’ll be forced to testify all over again, go on about
deliverance despite your doubts:
                                                                            when Pastor asks for a witness,
you’ll give him a witness; you’ll catch the Spirit, take to the choir stand.  


        As the street-side window decal reads,                    
                Where the Word is the Word 

the Word is bond like mortar is to bricks
        if talking black to black,

                brother to brother, sister to sister
                        and so forth (amen).

        Because boys like me don’t rise
                of their own accord save for

the Savior, I’m raised instead  
        between these oven-like walls,

        anticipated to behave as bread does
                while it’s baking (amen).

        Hands make the metaphor make sense:
how anointing works is by touch

                as is how dough is made
        from scratch, but that’s beside

the point of this place;
        a name isn’t just a name,  

        there’s always a ghost behind it,
an instruction for living (amen).

        In the face of everything we face
                in Chicago, America,

God is the logical response,
        hence the Greek is borrowed from

                for this as with the letters
        of all our frats and sorors.

Bring your sorrows here.
        Bring your skeletons here.

         We’ve crossed bridges of blood
thrice over and now this  

        is what we have to show for it (amen).
                It may be hot as hell in here

some days, but it’s cold as hell
        outside, in those streets:

        cold case (amen) after cold case (amen)
after cold case (amen) though the killed

                and the killers are all known
        and loved above; we all know

                an excess of fire feels like
        being engulfed in ice, what we learned

from all our scrapes and all our bruises
        all over our bodies (amen).

                So, take this book to heart.
        Study it good. And remember,

        when the church says amen,
                say amen (amen).   

Catfish Heaven Variation

I’ve heard it theorized before that heaven has ghettoes, favelas,
        shantytowns and such, and should speculation so happen to be true,
I give praise in advance for I know none of the aforementioned
        to exist without colored peoples to people them homes: havens for
the culture from music to cuisine, all things that cleanse spirits
        like river water.
                                           O Lord, on a good day and a bad, give me all of
my niggas. On a good day and a bad, give us all the fried things
        that send our bodies straight to hell but make the glory shine
even brighter inside us, vessels of the gospel according to grease. Every
        human being comes from a hole in a wall, it’s just that
some of us are better about embracing it—
                                                                                    the food is always going to
        taste better where folks are most thankful for it. It was
said the meek shall inherit the earth, but I say the meek should also inherit
        the meat: batter the bits in powders and spices then let
the oil and the fire do their work.

        Give it up for eloquent hands taking birds beyond abstract
ideas or metaphors, turning them into things we can consume; give it up for
        generous hands that give us fish because we’re hungry and
in need of grace:
                                everyone requires reminder of what and who’s gotten
        them through, who and what they can place their faith in.
Let’s just say I’ve got myself a circle, a divine constellation of personalities
        around me, the ones who pass the hot sauce when I ask
and don’t make me reach for it.
                                                              I can’t figure out most days if love is too big
        a word or too puny, but I know when I die, I want to have
this moment back as many times as I want without worrying over weight or
        blood pressure. People may eat for the body, but they cook
for the soul—
                            so we buy more strips of catfish, we put in another order for
        wings, get lifted in a legend nobody else can ever grasp past
my inability to define miracle without using miracle, my failure to explain
        this isn’t myth because I was there, with them, and couldn’t
shake anyone else’s hand for a week. 

Author Statement

Love in the face of indifference; healing in the face of violence; jubilee in the face of injustice; community in the face of isolation; music in the face of silence; blackness in the face of white supremacy; history in the face of ahistorical interpretation; truth in the face of lies; God in the face of his self-serving children: when the nation I am given gives me nothing to hold dear, to steady my sunniness and hope, I imagine other nations. I make home in sovereign moments where there were no degrees of separation between freedom and myself.   

Cortney Lamar Charleston is the author of Telepathologies, selected by D.A. Powell for the 2016 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. A recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem, The Conversation Literary Festival and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, his poems have appeared in POETRYNew England ReviewGulf CoastTriQuarterlyRiver Styx and elsewhere.  

Daria-Ann Martineau


God of sweat and mud and rain
God of ashes resurrected
God of angels—feathered, near-naked glimmer
God who casts our souls in fishnet
God of scandal
God of wine
God who gave us bacchanal
God of one-more-day ‘til Lent
God of a love-beaten roadway
God on stilts
God who carries the Spirit in her garment
God’s baptism in a river of revelers
God makes a rolling sea of waists
God among us as woman and man
God of soil
God of High Mas
God of mortal burdens cast on city
God of Amen let it be
God of lost reason & birth
God of a garden in riot
God of ragamuffin
God of royals
God of buxom Dame and blue devil.
God of longtime, of ancient
God of still here.
God of new
but always ours
God of revelation in mask
God of sacrifice and offering
Goddess pose, hips opening
God of omniscience and sky
God of sunlit skin
God of dust that shadows foreheads
God of a fast broken, then entered
God of farewell and beckoning
God of because we can
God of because we must
God of Our Lady and sinners

When I Have Left My Body

In order that every appearance of pantheism, naturalism or nihilism be avoided, it is not permitted to scatter the ashes of the faithful departed in the air, on land, at sea or in some other way, nor may they be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewellery or other objects.
-Holy See declaration

Bury a seed amidst the dust of my bones.
Each artery that branched
along my limbs
will be razed to ash and soil
sprouting a tree.

But first,
make fruit of my flesh
Take my skin to the burned,
my eyes so someone might see.

Why should I not scatter
my ribcage in soot, free my heart?
–A chance to beat again. This is my body
which will be given up for you.

This is what I was shown:
how to abide as branches to The Vine.

I want to go
where there is no need for a church,
no yearning for a collected body.
Can I find new life if I lose myself
in the roots of an unborn seed?
leaves that bear breath to a dying
girl. Give her my lungs.
Give whatever you can;
All I was taught I could be
was dust.

Let my flesh be entombed only
in another’s breaking ribcage.
Let the plant grow.
Let a young woman
unwrap the shrouds of death,
fold them neatly at her bed’s foot.
Let doctors witness her open her eyes, awaken
out of her anesthesia valley, proclaiming,
she is risen. 

Author Statement

Both of these poems stem from the Roman Catholic influence in my native Trinidad. Being raised Catholic, there are so many rules around what we can do with our bodies, even when we die. I find myself trying to exert autonomy but being afraid to offend the Church by doing anything “too pagan.” That is where “When I have left my body” comes from. “God of sweat and mud and rain” examines the many cultures of Trinidad that are present in Carnival. Slaves making the festival their own, bringing African influences into the mix, I think was a kind of quiet resistance enacted against the French slave masters who brought Carnival to Trinidad. It also reminds us that Carnival—like Easter and the Winter Solstice—was originally a pagan ritual before the Church repurposed it.

Daria-Ann Martineau was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago. After earning a BA in Speech and Hearing Science from The George Washington University (DC), she saw there were more interesting ways to understand language. She now holds an MFA in Poetry writing from New York University, where she was a Goldwater Hospital fellow. She is an alumna of the Saltonstall Arts Colony and the Callaloo Creative Writers Workshop, and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. Her poetry has appeared in NarrativeKinfolksQuarterly, and The Collagist, among others. 

Andrew E. Colarusso

Airplane Mode

He chose the wrong people
                                                 to make God*

a secret-                      -smoking a cigarette
followed me all day-                   to remind

I m lactose intolerant-                   so often
do I forget                                that we left

to fight               for the right to have it all
for the right to ask-     -before lines crosst

where does the world end-                 -and
where was your temple                    begun

and ask again    where does the world end
and                               -your temple begin

and again-            -why did the world end
when                           -your temple began

and ask again-            -why end the world
where-                        -your temple begins
and again-

*Kamau Brathwaite on Caliban

sunclade and fallen

you re sick I think    -then start to get hard
the whites                  -on the stovetop fire

of your eyes                bloodshot and puffy
from nights fallen asleep-    with the glow

melanopic yellow-                   -of an apple
product on your face-      -so you ve come

to expect that light-     -from who so nears
in the same but other quiet       your sleep

elsewhere-                       around the world
people                      -shoulder to shoulder

are shouting get-                      -your hand
out of my pocket and-         -farther down

you alone prosper          -in the possibility
in the fruit of your fantasy            holding

closer                                     to your chest
the thumbelina doll              -your mother

wanted but never held                         -for
more than                                   a moment

clutching herself      -like a shadow presst
to the wall                             praying for it

not to be taken-              -until she s taken
no longer                       -by the possibility                      

that              -now and everyday hereafter

you re an accident-     -leaning half asleep
on every emergency exit  and every night

light                                   feels to you like
                                the holy roman empire

Author Statement

Funny how one’s being in the Sunken Place has entered the lexicon following Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017). These poems were written well before the platonic arrivant of the film’s now famous phrase. In fact, the italicized language is borrowed from the great poet of The Arrivants: A New World TrilogyHe chose the wrong people to make God, is how Kamau Brathwaite described Shakespeare’s Caliban in his 1982 lectures at the Centre for Commonwealth Literature and Research in Mysore, India: “…what happened to Caliban in The Tempest was that his alliances were laughable, his alliances were fatal, his alliances were ridiculous. He chose the wrong people to make God…

Clearly Caliban was in the Sunken Place, conditioned to fear a kind of false magic (not the magic of his mother, Sycorax). He chose the wrong people to make God. It’s a line that haunts me. Brathwaite is asking me to consider the ways in which I’m complicit with my oppressor, asking me to consider how I’ve allowed myself to become captive. Sometimes you need to put the whole shit on hold, put the whole world in airplane mode. Get free.

Andrew E. Colarusso was born and raised in Brooklyn. He is assistant professor of literary arts at Brown University and editor-in-chief of the Broome Street