Muscle Memory

The thing that first brought me to Kyle Carrero Lopez’s poetry, and which held me there, which stirred me to stay, is his honesty, an exuberant/charming/fierce/poignant realness that sounds inimitable because it is. Throughout this profuse debut, Kyle encounters and confronts the fetishization, commodification, and resignification of the black experience, navigating the fraught latinx and black [poc] imaginary as it is produced and reproduced by white people while rubbing up against the paradox and privilege of every “Black capitalist wet dream” which, with undeniable Cubanía, here includes a boundless joy, bodied through an inventory of a “quick Thai lunch” and glitters of picadillo and beef empanadas after the confetti of last night’s revelry converges with a march for Black Lives Matter to remind us that all of these, all of this, is a celebration of life. “Symbolism and/Personhood aren’t friends,” Kyle cautions in “Beauty Examined”; MUSCLE MEMORY is a tribute to the African diasporic experience across the Americas and beyond, a confounding that resists simple geographies, neat histories, threadbare politics, inclusion-exclusion dialectics of belonging, and the aesthetic markings of a liberal and cosmopolitan literary art market that consumes black bodies whole and in pieces, in life and in death.

—Chris Campanioni

Black Erasure

Nina Simone sang “[POC] is the color of my true love’s hair” & they say [POC] don’t crack & let us bless gumbo quimbombó & [POC]-eyed peas & [POC] weddings & broom jumps & Danez Smith wrote “& even the [POC] guy’s profile reads ‘sorry,

no [POC] guys” & to flirt men have asked if I’m [POC] where it counts & hey remember outcry over [POC] Rue in The Hunger Games [POC] Hermione [POC] James Bond [POC] Spiderman & Mary Jane &

when cops kneel on [POC] necks the autopsies that come next can lie can blame underlying conditions & [POC] Lives Matter to the public for about a week at a time & somehow bulbs of [POC] joy bloom ceaselessly from dirt

terror & there’s at least 26 new ways of looking at a [POC]bird by now with all this high tech so chew on that, Wally Stevens, & did you know the lab-made Vanta[POC]—one of the darkest known substances—absorbs 99.96% of natural light? Ideal Burial Checklist: coffin that color,

[POC] orchids all over, a few berry seeds plopped upon my plot, some of the rasp variety, most [POC], & let there be medleys of essential [POC] tunes for y’all to throw ass to at the after-party, & please, change out those [POC] funeral rags into something fun, something that swans as you sway

& please, pour dem drinks high but not SO high you [POC] out & pretty please, have fun, remember that in all my [POC]-ass life, I had a good time, really, I enjoyed myself.

Mi Gente Estadounidense

I like to write in Palatino porque as pa’ Latinos. ‘Latino’ is a vintage, oversized sweater—not for everyone. Gringos love saying only gringos say Latinx. That X is a well-meant murmur: text-to-speech software can’t read it. Basically all of this is fucked up, and none of it comes close to the border. I’m not Mexican, but whatever, aren’t we all, here? A 1958 CIA note describes Che Guevara as “… fairly intellectual for a Latino. He is quite well-read in “Latino” literature and has an appreciation of the classics from other literatures.” A 2008 school librarian catches me cutting line and warns Sonia Sotomayor’s new Supreme Court gig is no excuse to act out. “What’s right is right” rings like “what’s white is right,” like white rules of race are right, like I’m Puerto Rican to her, like we’re not both black. I ain’t mad at her or at any other black folks. It’s not our fault this lacks a stitch of sense. Each week I wake I wait to be quizzed on the why of my face. Each year or so, some talking head calls Naomi Campbell African-American. We’re all wearing one giant, secondhand sweater that says RACE on it in Palatino and some are tucked in the left sleeve and a bunch are in the right and there’s the mock neck and seams at the bottom and loose threads in the middle and the whole thing’s itchy.

Black capitalist wet dream

after Juliana Huxtable


Jackson and I awaken in bed drained                  ached from endless

day of drinking and dancing in sunny brooklyn

rhodiola tincture starts the mornting             before natural coco oil wash

showers as we dress we talk Afropunk         how it used to be free          who

can’t go then we go lyft ride to quick thai for lunch           crabmeat fried rice

shrimp pad thai with egg bean sprout scallion and crusted peanut

chicken dumplings                         fresh lychee juice                 bit heavy on the meat

buuut bestie’s here from nashville we clean each plate

walk to day two bloated in cute clothes               yesterday we stormed the pro-

Black fest with the all-Black lineup in our best Black dress                  denim shortalls

pink triangles patterned on hand-batik cotton                     lacy white wedges

forty inch Beyoncé braid                    shades to match both fits

strangers snapped unprompted pics

we sipped frozen piña colada and orange mango and cranberry lime smoothies

ate empanadas de carne y picadillo

everything we bought we bought Black              as we

shopped cousins in cuba      with our same skin

checked medicine drawers starved                       by the embargo

wax print Hotep hittin’ the Shoot to our left                   right by Obama tank guy

showin’ off those guns

as we bopped               we passed a white man in the crowd

rockin’ a tee that read BLACK EXCELLENCE           and damn near all of us boogied

straight past the rent control tablers

From an Agnostic

Hostile talk of Santería bites my ears like frost. (Because Afro-Cuba) (Because the ancestors fought for it) (Because the enslaved saved what slavers tried to take) (Because my black) (Because my blood) (Because no cruelty should cross me) (Because the entire goat is consumed) (Because the entire chicken is consumed) (Because Azealia’s chicken closet is better known) (Because the Sublime song “Santeria” is better known) (Because santeras are my tías) (Because santeras pray for me) (Because Cal and I shook the acheré as Abuelo prayed on Mom’s cancer) (Because Yemayá’s portrait in any home brings me home) (Because Abuela keeps an altar) (Because my mother keeps a glass of water out for the saints) (Because Orichás switch genders) (Because some Orichás took lovers of their gender) (Because I once trusted the narratives) (Because Hollywood’s Africa) (Because the Catholic church) (Because blood must be seen for cruelty to be named) (Because only some are born clean) (Because history) (Because history repeats) (Because history has mouths we speak through)

Beauty Examined

after Kerry James Marshall



incise it                           excavate                peer inside               find

the power source     frankenstein all             the best parts


(Tiger’s wood

Henrietta lacks pain receptors

ever seen a Usain bolt

Rihanna Joyner-Kersee

Iman O’Neal)


cut the body              black                          and blue

slash artery rows      splash the lab coat   a stain            always comes out








this is an ugly thing to do and here i

am doing it


a white conceptual poet did a similar

thing; and a white painter; and a white

installation artist; and a black installation

artist, with fat albert’s likeness: used

a black boy’s corpse, called it art


symbolism and personhood

aren’t friends








you’ll be made prop if you don’t speak up

you’ll be made prop if you don’t speak up

you’ll be made you if you don’t speak prop

you’ll be propped up if you can’t be made

you’ll be made prop if you can’t speak up

you don’t speak up if you’ll be made prop

you’ll be made              if you                 speak


  you’ll be made prop if you don’t speak up

you’ll                        prop    you                         up

  you’ll be made prop if you don’t speak up

                               be made                                 up

you’ll be made prop if you can’t speak up

don’t speak           up you’ll be                 prop

you’ll be made prop if you can’t speak up

                                         you                    speak

up you’ll be made prop if you don’t speak


                 be               prop            don’t     speak

you’ll be made prop if you can’t speak up

                                                you can’t speak up

you’ll be made prop if you don’t speak up








on a dance floor, completely outside,

i watched my body bird’s

eye. it was holy, holy,