Arianne True

At center of the image, in a rectangular inset with a heavyweight solid black border, the serif text: "one night, my friend fell inside me / sparked, and not just spark." The full serif text, wherein the inset is set, reads: "so here it is. my name is new. I live in disease and relief. that day chose. unsure, gotten / better. say acute say attacks all day losing to non-reality, that drug. today, this point, started / obsessively, began worse. over my symptoms I was Function in a way that degraded. / distortions lost, doing the only thing that mattered: the limit. she had taken me, my / symptoms' hand, scared for the best, for me. I was diagnosed. my name is new. I live in / disease and relief. that day chose. unsure, gotten better. say acute say attacks all day losing / to non-reality, that [the inset begins here] drug. today, this / point, started [inset] obsessively, began / worse. over my [inset: one night, my friend fell inside me.] symptoms I was / Function in a way [inset: sparked, and not just spark.] that degraded. / distortions lost, [inset] doing the only / thing that [inset] mattered: the limit / she had taken me, my symptoms' hand. scared for the best, for me. I was diagnosed. my / name is new. I live in disease and relief. that day chose. unsure, gotten better. say acute say / attacks all day losing to non-reality, that drug. today, this point, started obsessively, began / worse. over my symptoms I was Function in a way that degraded. distortions lost, doing the / only thing that mattered: the limit. she had taken me, my symptoms' hand. scared for the / best, for me. I was diagnosed. my name is new. I live in disease and relief. so, here it is. //// [the following right aligned, italicized:] recover (II)"

Arianne True (Choctaw, Chickasaw) is a queer poet and folk artist from Seattle. Arianne has taught and mentored with Writers in the Schools (WITS), YouthSpeaks Seattle, and the Richard Hugo House, and is a proud alum of Hedgebrook and the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She’s also a Jack Straw writer for 2020. You can find more of her work gathered online at




Taté Walker

I Like Tacos

I want you
an ache 
deep in my core
drives me
to collect the pieces of you
scattered around
like raw promises
waiting for me
to feast

I lick my lips
salivating at the thought
of your splintered fragments
coming together and reforming
into something beyond both of us
it makes me 
I work my fingers
through a mound
of your sticky recipe
kneading every part of you
letting you rise

you like it rough
a slap here
a pull there
stoking the fire
and stretching your limits
until gently
so gently
I lay you flat
not to rest
but to burn

you writhe for me
sizzling with expectation
I wait
and hungry for you
it is ecstasy to watch
your hills and valleys
slick and glistening
and drowning in the pop song
of anointed blue birds

but we’re not finished
just as you’re about to combust
I flip you 
and start the mad process over
your body undulates for me
and suddenly
the hot
brown perfection
that is you
is ready for my tongue

sometimes we play around 
with honey
when you’re feeling soft
and warm
or sometimes we get wild like rice
but tonight
there’s only meat
experiment on your commod bod
with dairy-free cheese
that melts in my mouth
and my hand

round in all the right places
your lovely lumps
taste so good
and I moan your name
thanking the ancestors for the gift
that will forever sit
upon my soul
and thighs
you are my deliciously undeniable

The Darkest Everything

i am buried 
so deep
and dark
in your glorious universe
the obsidian space around 
so rich with unexplored life
my joy stretches like 
summertime shadows
felt in your vivid 
blacks and browns
shades of warmth 
and strength
protection against the bright white
that exposes all our faults and fears
there’s a lie in light
burning us away from one another
turning our underground ceremony 
to ash
tricking us into believing that dirt 
with its endless possibilities for growth
is unclean
its glare tries to colonize 
our hopes with dread and disdain for 
the dark offers
as if the expansive unknown
isn’t always a
mysteriously murky adventure
where we find ourselves
rooted together
ready to bloom
two spirits
rising together 
with winter’s new moon
into the darkest 

Viral Aspirations: A Love Story

once upon a time the Earth was overrun 
with those who filtered Themselves against reality
hiding behind perfection and capitalism’s illusions of security
They grammed and primed while the world burned around Them
everything’s fine, They tweeted alongside a photo of an “I Voted” sticker
baby steps and bootstraps, They reminded the rioters
just use a metal straw and remember: not all white people 
lol #like4like #makethisgoviral

when the Pandemic came
not even Google could save Them
They mixed boredom and privilege into an infectious cocktail of meme-ific sinophobia
Am I worthy? They asked with every mundane rendition of the latest 20-second song
Their posts pleaded for connection
so They connected in the toilet paper aisle
spreading panic faster than any virus
quarantined, Their own company proved unbearable
even from behind 10,000-square-feet of living space
have hope, They said
as They tried to save the world with Netflix and food delivery
wearing jammies in Their suburban and gentrified prisons

there were Others, too, impacted by the Pandemic
but since they’d been practicing for—or forced into
lifelong social distancing
the bougie-panic seemed out of touch with the Others’ reality
wash our hands? some of us don’t even have running water
the airlines might shut down? and I was really looking forward to that Fiji trip 
once my ungodly student loan bill was paid off
the virus restricts breathing? it’s killing folks? what—
police, oil companies, and Republican health care policies are taking a break?

the Others weren’t being glib
the Others cared—the Others knew better than anyone 
the disposability of life for those considered “at-risk” 
with or without a virus
the virus represented just another uncontrollable agent of Death 
waiting to meet the Others 
for a chance encounter on the subway, or on a sidewalk, or in a grocery store
the Others still had all the “ism”s and “phobia”s and knees pressing down upon them 
what the fuck was a 20-second song really gonna do, anyway

the Earth changed, as it’s wont to do
things that once seemed untouchable
professional sports, school calendars, Tax Day
police, prisons
suddenly had their arbitrary natures exposed
pushing everyone to adapt and innovate—or be rendered obsolete
and those who had been Othered their entire existence 
found themselves capable of weathering 
panic-induced storms of empty shelves and isolation
the Others took charge and detonated long-buried but oft-maintained 
weapons of mass creation
mutual aid-based survival was in their genetic code
or at least in their coping strategies
the Ancestors of the Others had experienced the plural of apocalypse
yes, the Others knew the destructive power of a well-aimed germ
but also knew the ceremony secrets of washing away toxins
knew community power could bridge any divide
knew medicine isn’t only what a doctor prescribes 
but also what grows from the ground 
or from a laugh 
or from a social distance powwow

the pyrophytic Earth that bloomed from the Pandemic fires
flourished through love and selflessness
They thought germs would break the Others
but collaborative ceremonial art became the key 
to open the door to the Other side of this latest apocalypse
eventually, lost lands and languages were reclaimed
non-human relatives were returned to their rightful place of honor
and the colonial endeavors that once extracted 
the essence of humanity with every dollar earned
were dismantled
small communities of care emerged from the mega-industries
and those with feminine energies gifted the world with leadership
that transcended privilege and inequity
wellbeing spread like a virus
caught and held up like the sun
encircling the Earth with a corona of possibility

Taté Walker is Mniconjou Lakota and a citizen of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of South Dakota. They are an award-winning Two Spirit storyteller for outlets like The Nation, Everyday Feminism,  and Indian Country Today. Their work also appears in FIERCE: Essays by and About Dauntless Women (Nauset Press, 2018), and their first full-length book, Thunder Thighs & Trickster Vibes, is forthcoming from Mango Publishing. Taté uses their 15+ years of experience working for daily newspapers, social justice organizations, and tribal education systems to organize students and professionals around issues of critical cultural competency, anti-racism/anti-bias, and inclusive community building. Learn more at




M. Carmen Lane

That Fucking Cunt

For Na-te’

This was the beginning. A white man needed to be put in his place and instead a young black woman became the target. His punk ass wanted to stand up for himself and choked. Didn’t believe he was worth it. She said her own trauma kept her from intervening. She was uncomfortable with his behavior but froze. The so-called past was present. They should feel good for being rewarded a stipend. Tell me why your art is good. Make a video because you don’t need to know how to read or write. To articulate your practice. Show me your brown skin so that I know you are the one we should pick to pimp through our social media. See, we aren’t racist. We get money to feel good about giving money to young people of color who make shit. We have always had niggers and prairie niggers and sand niggers sing and dance for our enjoyment. This is the prize. That fucking art cunt cried in my arms and thanked me for helping her see the error of her ways. I, had, invited her into the circle. Instead, she hides and snakes around to keep her power. Instead she promises to course correct. She plans her escape and plants a dirty bomb before the leaving. That filthy fucking art cunt hates women of color and two spirits who get the attention of white men, even if that attention is vitriol. Objectification without being shaved and a maintained blonde.

Art cunts are white and over fifty; they don’t make shit and hate you for having a creative imagination ancient as this river infinite to their finite miseries. 


Born Blue

S/he speaks to you through the waves. You pretend you don’t see its trajectory change direction, foamy hills move towards your body—hit rocks in a rhythm that has your attention. Gurgles everything you’ve ever needed to hear. She says the blues are the sounds we heard in nature and sang back to our Mother. I sing back to you. You ignore me, but that song got into you. Hold, envelop, make sure they do not cover my face when they lay my body in this river. It’s a body, it’s a body, it’s a body bag. It’s a swaddle. They carry him out of the sooty shit of life to free—this is the blues. Oshun. An indigo pussy and out he come, unborn. still. An ancestor returns and asks you to complete a task. Burn it blue. Map it. The cartography of a life that has wrestled with mud and muscle, bone and an ash that irritates. Soothe it blue, Slim. We are in this river together. Her mama, whose name I’ve only heard her speak once. My daughter, who hugged me back into life from blue AND your son, your son who lives in the headwaters of the Mississippi and the Cuyahoga; calls to you from the Missouri—this fresh water waiting for the salt of you to return to it. Birth it blue, Slim.


Birth In The Mourning
sound piece, 2020

The babies. She came in love, forged in quiet violence. So did he. The oceans, the salty Atlantic. Why did she want to stay? Why couldn’t she stay? Why did you follow me? It was April, it was the water. The water wanted to enter the womb but it was dry—is dry, it’s dry. I am so dry. A heart beat, a drumbeat, a heart beat, a drum a heart—out of time. The wood floating on the water. Darkness. These chains are shakers. They used the iron as shakers and sang. This dirt is red too. I smell shit and salt.  I see my mother’s body on the shore, bloated. Oh this food is dry rot,  put it in the pot, let the water bring it back to life—eat, eat, eat. Eat. My lips are cracked. She said this bear grease would work on the wound. She wants to talk about many things. I am bursting wide open with the smallest gesture.  The kitchen was white and the light was dim when she ran in and wrapped her arms around my waist. I turned in a startled motion to her absence. Amala. This body could not forget how she came to be—rejected her need for entry. When I was in her bed, joy spreading over skin, she wanted to crawl in, crawl inside and come. She could not stay, flesh could not form, she could not form. But, she could not form. They say it’s structural racism. They say it’s a policy that needs to change. They say it’s institutional. They say it’s because we’re alone and need someone present. They say we need better food, more attention. We say listen. We say hear me. We say white supremacy. We say violence. We say please. We say stop. We say change. We say stretch. We say grow. Ancestors. The Ancestors interrupt and call: in our return you will simply need to get out of the way.  We are coming. We have always been here. The babies. We come into the world and breathe with you. You hold us. You held us. We were held. The social workers bring boxes and plastic and powder and liquid in cans. Do not connect with your mother’s body. Do not bond, perform. It’s warm, then less warm. It’s time to go. Do not wake. Do the ceremony, wrap me in skins, cut your hair—I’ve walked with you for sixteen years. This is now complete. Let me be born to someone else this mourning. Amala. Twenty-eight. Sixteen. Fifteen. Thirty-two. Twenty-four. One Thousand. One. 


M. Carmen Lane (Tuscarora, Mohawk, African-American) is a two:spirit artist and writer living in Cleveland, Ohio. Their poetry has been published in the Yellow Medicine Review, River Blood & Corn, and Red Ink Magazine. Carmen contributed to the Lambda Literary nominated anthology Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-Spirit Literatures. Their first collection of poetry is Calling Out After Slaughter (2015).




Romeo Romero

Patrias Futuras//An Infinite Kind

I want to know 
your mundos alternativos. 
The ones we call 
patrias futuras
in our sleep. 
Quiero vivir alla 

siempre estamos escribiendo 
an answer 
una medicina 
por el piel roto. 

Si solamente soy  
an atom 
a cell in a body that is 
que no es de Diosa
que no es de God.

y si el cuerpo 
es de an infinite kind. 
sin un fin
Then the edges of it 
no pueden ser tocados. 
and Perhaps 
no puede tocarme 

Creo que todavia
estamos conectados 
con las cosas 
that cannot yet be touched.

Pero, Si yo podria poner mis manos 
en el mar
Se que yo podria tocar 
my ancestors.

There is no wave in the ocean 
que puede tomarnos mas lejos 
que hubieremos sido tomados ya. 
Colonization already took our land. 
Ya destruyó the sea. 
Ya nos dio este dolor 
que llevaremos siempre 
in our broken skin.

Mis raices no tienen 
Un hogar
en la tierra anymore. 
Now, their way
es el ahogar.

Do not see this as a death
no hay razon por el miedo 
de un momento sin breath. 
Seriamos como un bebe
sloshing in the womb; 
Do not look for la muerte porque
estamos aqui
in the conditions necessary 
por la vida.

esta es la fuerza que escribio 
nuestros suenos de mundos alternativos
en nuestros cuerpos. 
this is the stuff que fue escrito 
en nuestro DNA
antes de any invasion.

We have found a way to touch
las cosas que no pueden ser tocados. 
las cosas 
sin un fin. 
las cosas de algo de an infinite kind. 
Por el mar. 
Through a map left to us
in the carving of our skin. 

I want us to give away
all that we learned 
from los ahogados.

quiero vivir aqui contigo.
I want to give up the possibility 
que podriamos salir de este mundo 
without first breaking its thirsty skin 
without watching it drink the ink that pours
from inside our veins
without first seeing through that this freedom 
seria tocado por todos de los manos.


Romeo Romero (they/them) is a gender-fluid two-spirit boricua/jewish poet currently residing in Northampton, MA. They are the author of a full-length collection of poetry, descendant, and chapbook, diasphoria. Their work has also been featured in Trans Bodies, Trans Selves (forthcoming), Who Heals the Healer (forthcoming), On My ChestLabyrinth, and Nishmat Shoom Liturgy. 




Noʻu Revilla

Myth Bitch

Before we stopped speaking, my mother told me of an all – woman island. My side of the family, she said, her mouth twisting like a sick branch. And the women are witches. I have since dreamed of women with heads of barbed wire. Torso in the bedroom, breasts in the sink. Legs divided between O ʻahu and Maui. Is witch the right word? When I sleep with a new woman, my mother whispers fetus into her fingers and sews my mouth shut. The fetus of a witch becomes a bitch. No daughter of hers will sleep like that. For the self-segmenting woman armed with needle and thread, rhyme is a mnemonic device. Repetition is rope. I will always look like her. Repeat: say nothing, daughter. Repeat: sleep alone, daughter. Daughter the word for stitch her close. When my blood touches her blood it means my mother spits needles. When I dream of women and wire it means I fuck like a woman at war with her body. Where is my rope? I am a witch. Or I am an island. Or am I a love story misinterpreted? Fetus eating with a face to memorize. Mother, I am the myth bitch you dream about.


Photo credit: Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada

Noʻu Revilla is a queer Native Hawaiian poet, educator, and aloha ʻāina. Her poetry has been featured in Poetry and Literary Hub as well as the Honolulu Museum of Art. Her latest chapbook Permission to Make Digging Sounds was published in Effigies III in 2019, and she has performed throughout Hawaiʻi as well as Canada, Papua New Guinea, and at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York City. This past summer, she taught poetry at Puʻuhuluhulu University while standing to protect Maunakea with her lāhui.




Travis Hedge Coke

Rolling Lush

Threshed violet spun through flush of rose and lilac, braced
in an innervation of volante tendencies
to be under pecan tree rows and not any alley this could be
any alley half-paved street without overhead
skin that is overhead light that is not stars that could
make clear for me curb or skin I can feel well
enough under my skin but against? Cold
in this dark overheard skin I can butt against.

Noble diode bright!
Titanium love
from a scrapyard is lost,
mended for use
with a box standard as it had never been used
before bright Io
hidden for pattern
submission. Junkyard
left for curb,
firm concrete. Alleyways rescue.
Alleyways rescue.

A tiny black man at the apex of a bright red curtain,
too huge, the folds angling in behind him but high
overhead tragically straight, pinned to a brass rail running
the length of the stage right to left like Japanese
poetry rolling lush

For money! For Science! Silencio, Science!
Succumb! Felt for scrubber and getter
holding electric thoughts in wet nerves
thoughts slipped so long the wires slake
ions’ firm patter as I loose left
to right like a line rolling up
threshed violets
like a line rolling up

Travis Hedge Coke writes a weekly online column, Patricia Highsmash, and is the editor of two volumes of Along the Chaparral and associate editor of Sing: Poetry from the Indigenous Americas. Of mixed descent, their work has appeared courtesy of GargoylebeestungThe Comics Cube, China Central Television, University of Arizona Press, and a MySpace TV show with Chris Kattan. They are thankful for animals and plants inside and outside while self-isolating and recently completed a free, online visual album, low fruit.




Kai Minosh Pyle

Funereal Dirge for Silence

i open my mouth and no sound comes out. the sound that is silence comes pouring over my teeth and my tongue past my lips like drool down my chin drizzling the concrete beneath my feet and it is a silence such that has never been heard. in this sound i am regurgitating all the silences i have not inherited through dna or blood memory or teaching scrolls or sexual transmission. the silences i have not inherited choke me, clog my throat with tears that never had a chance to fall but i like that sometimes, i like that. we are learning collectively to tune our eardrums to this silence. rest, rest, rest, rest. a four-on-the-floor beat. a man in a pressed suit comes by and politely tells me to wipe my chin, please, would i please stop vomiting silence all over the floor because i’m scaring the customers. but it’s too late for him, the silence is already past his knees and he’s splashing around in it, his pants getting ruined in the cold wet absence. it’s still coming. five hundred or more years of silences are being ejected from my body, rejected from my body, coming out in my spit and my sweat and my tears and my come. a silent choir comes to attend to my purge. they can hear the four-on-the-floor. they are singing now too. rest, rest, rest, rest. 


Kai Minosh Pyle is a Two-Spirit Métis and Bawiting Nishnaabe writer originally from Green Bay, Wisconsin. Currently based in Bde Ota Othunwe (Minneapolis), they are a PhD student researching Anishinaabe Two-Spirit history. Their first poetry chapbook, AANAWI GO, was published monolingually in Ojibwe in January 2020.




Kim Shuck

Day 7

Disappeared is not good enough
Will it take a generation of Indigenous art dedicated only to this?
Will it take two?
Life sized sister sculptures
For each woman torn from our communities?
The empty cities of us 
What is not made difficult is made illegal
If not marginalized then poisoned
Pulled apart unfinished weaving
You have not only come for our traditional stories
You have come for our future


Day 10

Because baby and mother trade cells
The first gift 
Before crayon drawings and
Paper weaving 
Mother is a kind of mythological creature
Micro chimera
Carrying pieces of our missing daughters
Our bodies a private museum of loss

Murdered Missing is a series of 50 poems I wrote to investigate my own feelings about the crushing numbers of Indigenous women who are taken and murdered every year.


Some Other Thing

It was always clear that I was 
The thing not like the others
Those days we’d take the bus 
After school
All the way to the park
Sit up on the hill
Your head on my shoulder
And a plague of squirrels
Near the pond 
I tell you now that it was a good trade
A belonging I didn’t want
In exchange for your time 
Which I did
In the next couple of years
The women from that school who came out to me
As though I had any idea
But I had been chosen for sacrifice
So I guess I had the merit badge
In my boots and leather jacket
I guess I made the teacher uncomfortable too
Carrying Adrienne Rich like an amulet I didn’t understand
To a war I wasn’t paying attention to
With people I couldn’t wait to outgrow
People I can’t wait to outgrow
In retrospect
It was a pretty good love story


Kim Shuck is the 7th poet laureate of San Francisco. Shuck is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma through one side of the family and the other has lived in San Francisco for generations. Kim is sole author of 7 books, the latest being a chapbook, Whose Water?  from Mammoth Publications, and Deer Trails from City Lights Foundation Books.




Rain Prud’homme

Mixedblood Girls II

Mixedblood girls who date
              white boys are traitors to their race
              cuz “girl don’t you know you’re supposed to up your blood quantum?”

Mixedblood Girls who date
              black guys isolate family
              cuz don’t you know grandma & grandpa spent a lifetime
                            pretndin they “really weren’t them Freedmen folk.”
Keepin’us separated from family. There’s more than one kind of rez.

Mixedblood girls who date
              other mixedblood girls
              learn to keep their faces up,
                            wear their tattoos like shawls of tradition,
                                          & teach other mixedblood girls songs of their grandmothers
              full, throaty, and rich with defiance of being mixedblood girls
who didn’t claim to be anything else.



Trace lines, limbs of black 
ink over shoulder, down deltoid, skirting
left of your spine, to root on hip and buttocks—
a journey my tongue has memorized.

Long slightly callused fingers
grip my wrists, pull hands
away from bulk of belly—
refusing my self-shame in this body.

                So I learn

To love having curves, rolls, 
large breasts, hapullo nia, and lip-slicked lips —
the way my fat cis-fem body cradles
your tall, hard, butch body.

Opening dimpled soft thighs
to rough fingers, firm lips, harsh tongue, 
your silicon that is always hard—
brown eyes always soft.



I don’t understand
how you want this body—
its all hanging in a language
of dimples, cellulite, stretchmarks.

Perhaps it is a physical 
manifestation of my compliance—
the truth of my submission.

This is the place of letting go.
Your mouth, hands, sex,
hardness to my softness.

Your words break open
make me burn, leak, cry
in want from eyes to thighs.

There is trust in this.
The truth that outside
these doors I am power.
Never giving up control
but here—

I release, from calloused palm
marking across width of my ass,
shock of rings in breasts pulled
until your mouth assuages pain.

That I am a cradle
holding your body—
and you need me

a partner in the choreography
                of our flaws.


Of Settlers and Serial Killers

My womb is a barren killing field. 
Take it like Cavalry soldiers took 
our mothers, our grandmothers, 
our great-grandmothers’ uteruses. 
Let it carry testimonies in its lining 
continuing to shed blood tears 
long after removed from the body. 

Have they taught you how to read the way blood 
dries on skin like you would read tea leaves in a cup?

He says, 
“tell me are you blue?” 
When I sing blues turn 
my red skin purple like 
the bruises, the bruises, the bruises 
purple turn black, then blue, and fade 
like a body left to rot in the muck.

Have they taught you how to translate the way bruises
flower on skin like you would interpret lines of code?

Is this why you took our bones, our flesh, 
our DNA, stuffed it in drawers to silence 
the screaming, to muffle the crying, 
the annals of flesh you keep like 
serial killers keeping trophies.

Have they taught you how to read the way tears
fall on skin like you would read tea leaves in a cup?

You sit in nests we have built carrying 
splintered tibias, fractured phalanges, 
sinew that once held our grandfather’s ankles stable, 
lined with our children’s’ hair shorn, cut, 
and the meconium of grandmothers who 
expelled their children in fields they were shackled.

Have they taught you how to translate the structures
of our survival like you would interpret lines of code?

And so, you sit in our nests like 
hungry birds, lips open waiting 
for us to vomit into your mouths’ 
the essence of us turned acidic in bile 
of holding back our tongues — 
that you might have the last bit of nourishment 
we housed in our bellies keeping it camouflaged 
under our diabetic skin. 

Our act of living remains nothing 
but an exhibition for your entertainment.


Rain Prud’homme  is aFATtastically queer IndigeNerd who reads too much and drinks too much black tea. Her books include Smoked Mullet Cornbread Crawdad Memory (MEP 2012, as Rain C. Goméz, First Book Award Poetry, Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas), Miscegenation Roundance: Poèmes Historiques (fall 2020 Mongrel Empire Press), and the co-edited collections Louisiana ​Creole ​Peoplehood: ​Tracing ​Post-Contact ​Afro-Indigeneity ​and ​Community (University of Washington, 2021) and Indians, Oil, & Water: Indigenous Ecologies and Literary Resistance (TPHP 2020). Current projects include: Gumbo Stories: Rhetorics and Quantum Relation-Making in Trans-Indigenous South; Epidermal Journal (poetry); and “I oughta know about lonely girls:” Essays on Body, Love, & Place. She is co-Executive Editor of That Painted Horse Press and a professor at the University of Calgary. 




Billie Kearns

The Breaking

I cannot speak the truth to my mother

I see her hands, they look just like mine
but her voice can break a room in half
can locate and crack each nerve on your heart.

The border between me and my mother
has been growing since I was fourteen.
I came
home one day and her tongue
was both more and less conservative.

I do not know what birthed 
this new tongue but it kept 
enough of its old face to still be
my mother.

If she looked for herself in the mirror
would she see me? Worse, if I look
for myself in the mirror
will I see her?

Over Mother’s Day lunch we hold stares
She says my girl you can be gay you can be Native 
you cannot belong to both communities.
Whose side are you on? Pick one. 


Billie Kearns (aka Billie the Kid) is a K’ai Taile Dené/Nehiyaw poet and storyteller. Born in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, she currently resides in Kingston, Ontario, the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee and Anishnaabe peoples. Billie holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in Electrical Engineering from Queen’s University and has performed at spoken word events across Turtle Island such as CUPSI and the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. Billie is currently a director of the Voices of Today youth poetry festival. Her poetry breathes life into narratives as she explores relationships with family, friends, food, and the dynamic nature of dreams.