Against Heaven

[Against Heaven] answers generations of spiritual violence and threatened damnation with reclamation, repopulation, and a redefinition of heaven. . . . Flamboyance, blooming, polyamory, worthy of Audre Lorde’s idea of the erotic, worthy of Tourmaline’s abolition, in the lineage of Marsha P. Johnson’s million uses for flowing. This collection is a space of flowering.

—Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Boston Review


Against Heaven

double golden shovel with Saba and Nick Hakim

There’s Earth. Amethyst. Cherries in heat. Trees drooling sugar. Midnight’s blue song. So what heaven? That kingdom wholed by a coy god’s touch? Where green and the river began? If all-father tells it, first you slave and shiver and shuck and die and die for heaven’s around-back gate to budge loose at the bent speck of you—lies. No doors, no lines. Look right: me and mine kissed alive—greening. Curl up and chime against us—the river’s born here.

Against Heaven

with “Goin’ Up Yonder” and Louise Glück’s Nobel Prize speech

I can take the pain whittling dad’s body to the red balances of his account The heartaches they bring: twin strokes, diabetes, ritual crucifixion of his feelings and The comfort in knowing while he drives cab, there’s engineers in Lagos with his experience I’ll soon be gone, college-flung debtchild taught empire contains no blame

As God gives me grace, I dump His dope, cut and flushed till I’m no wish I’ll run this race clean-sinning judge-hunting hex-lining a route to revenge Until I see my savior in a city on fire, bank windows busted by Jesus Himself Face to face with riot cops, tased to piss, tunic charged with only the belief

I’m goin’ up yonder to jailbreak Cousin (everybody named that in the perfect world) Goin’ up yonder to repo mansions (Lil Black Boy swears he has been promised) I’m goin’ up yonder to the Michelin stars (cash my feast post-dated after death) Goin’ up yonder to the Ivy plantation (hood dad so he will be recognized)

I’m goin’ up yonder in a tux of knives, cursing in tongues—turn down for what To be with my Lord? Tell the Wiz to guard his curtain—I know exactly what He is

Against Heaven

 “In Chicago, a Steep Rise in Suicide Among Black People,” a Trace article by Lakeidra Chavis published July 25, 2020.


a poem in white text on a black backgrounda poem in white text on a black background

Against Heaven

double golden shovel with Sade and Belinda Carlisle

If gigglesoaked, Henny-leaned, Young M.A’s OOOUUU sweat down to its nekkid ooh, you ripen apart till tenderqueer innards drip and dangle from fuckboi halves then baby, were you to waft my way, bright peach begging to cobbler, let heat do what it do— mine gut-pent and wasted, sun born to sweet the orchard of you.

If forgiveness, uncoupled from the cross at our jugular, was a song we could know, you and I against innocence in a red karaoke duet of fessed mess then what were slights to scar the verses, cheats to bloody the bridge? The chorus, that’s mine: There is a balm in Gilead. Sticky resin turned perfume, and we’ve mucked a grove’s worth.

I clown for you. Two-step to trap shea-buttered, lavender-spliffed with you and ooh wouldn’t we get swept out this Apollo, ancestors booing our bit’s thin heaven? Want a blue blaze snuffed in every realm. To misabolish and refuse your rule is to pawn my only heirloom, blood for Sandman’s broom. I toggle fool-to-fool for a

go at mercy, December fists blooming to rainbow strobes, dancefloor a place to practice mesh and lace and rope and strap, our binding, our betting on heaven as our circling set to crash, ripping pavement up to rewild Earth.

Against Heaven

I used to pray to a man-faced god. Kept his whip beneath my bed.

Set alarms for daybreak lashings. Pressed white cotton to the flay.

Made flags of the bloodsoak. Raised them from my window.

Called this worship.

Dreamt heaven a jury small as a county where nobody looked like me.

Winged bailiffs plucked my cuffs to trap my cousin in a hot coal cage.

Called this roulette freedom, licking my raw wrists.

Which kill blew my tatters down. Peeled me to the blackest jade.

Remothered me to the squad car blaze. Loot and shard my siblings now.

Which kill. Forgive me. I feared the devil’s prison.

Misfaithed the sheriff in the sky. Why.

Which kill. Forgive me family, I miscountried—

our swarming, anthem of my only homeland.

Heaven and hell are the same empire

half-slipped, gasping, clutching our hems.

Ungoverned by the lie, with fists and flames,

we cleave.