three poems by Calen Firedancing

Calen Firedancing is a black queer poet, filmmaker, and undergraduate student at Williams College, majoring in English and Africana Studies. Originally born in Los Angeles, Calen now calls Phoenix home when he is not in Massachusetts. Calen is also a Mellon Mays Fellow, currently researching queer possibility in trap music. In his free time, he watches too much film, reminisces of days when he could hoop better, and enjoys the loud and quiet company of loved ones. The following poems appear in our spring/summer 2018 issue.

trap saved me

all my favorite poets


                        the way they words sprint

                                                 down the street at nighttime

                                                                knowing smoke
                                                                knowing lights
                                                                knowing what happens

             when a word hits pavement
                                                                knowing history

                                                                              vessel of gunpowder
                                                                                     to make a holier smoke
                                                                                     renewal of burn and bright a

                        baptism a

                                   song of voyage and celebration
                                   that leaves neck heavy of chain an
                                                                                     open barrel and out

                                          comes blood
                                           of no one’s knees
                                           comes history
                                           of no one’s kin

Everything Should Be Tender

I’m sorry for leaving the door open but I didn’t
want to lose you all at once. I’ve stacked
up all of these tools that remind me
of you: forks, nailguns, screwdrivers,

(and napkins and sponges—you warned me of
being too soft.) Now every room
in this world is a map of you, every
stretch of carpet a metaphor. I would take

it back if I could. I would never have said
that everything should be tender. But
when you slammed the door to its frame
anyway, I remembered how frustratingly poetic

some things were, and would always
be, like the break of day, or a home-
coming, and I said a prayer
for the meanings I couldn’t control.


the password to grandma’s computer
            is hatred and her year of birth

hatred of the way sweat glimmers
            on large black foreheads
a reminder of cotton and the way blood runs
            from thorns to the flat hair on arms

of dehydration settled on the skin
            white as ash
of men and marriage and men and marriage
            fleeing West from Oklahoma
of hair knotted and breaking like ships in storm
            carrying men to be slaves

of that same hair receding up the head
            making the sweat shine higher

of women where men and marriage were not
            and of beatings from women
and of men and silence
            of the violations that do not speak

of old age
            her scars becoming her skin
of still being marked
            by it all

workSean Redmondpoetry