Please help the Black Earth Institute continue to make art and grow community so needed for our time. Donate now »

a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Akua Lezli Hope

Don’t use that word

Ravenous for souvenirs

trampling each other in their need

to consume the lives on which they feed

hungering for something more perverse than greed

some supremacist certainty?

Mad crowds surge forward slicing off tongues, fingers, ears

from those burnt who can no longer scream or hear


Sacred pain adheres

to this word wearing warped customs of devaluation

from when dismemberment fueled rabid celebrations


Fire-lit faces demonic in their glee

violence instructed in this horrific history:

see little white children watching there?

like they’re at a county fair,

see their parents laughing here?

Watch them hoot holler, jeer

Bright day invites a picnic to see

Terror propagated among black citizenry


This claim staked and steeped

in blood drenched earth

pickled black penis in general stores’ jars

while other parts fill lidded masons across the south

adorning mantles in homes and bars


Postcards of those brutal jamborees

held to reap strange, specific fruit

hanging from defiled southern trees

distended limbs, bloated and scorched

have severed hands,

heads flop on broken necks, askew

with full lipped mouths and eyes removed


The appropriator in chief

ignores this history, derides this grief

can’t smell the stench of thrice charred skin,

or conceive of lost skulls from fallen heads

irremovable stains of the dishonored dead

whose every bone was taken, only

mournful memories left in their stead


All this and more imbues the word misused

This ain’t what

ain’t what

happened to you



The President of the U.S.A. said on Twitter on 10/22/19 “So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights. All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here – a lynching. But we will WIN!”

Thank You

to our youth in the streets


Thank you for taking up the cause

for taking on bright lights and not freezing,

for seizing the issue and not flinching

and not folding, for moving through our tears

and your fears which must be there

which are there, ever present behind closed eyelids

and dreams and even waking moments

you carry them through words you must say,

you swim through that treacle that could

embalm, could preserve could choke even as it feeds

you could stay stuck and yet you gather

and you plan and yet you clear your throats and

call us to listen how even choked and choking

heartsore and stumbling you move forward

you coalesce you make arguments that cleanse

that sear that burn obfuscating debris, clear dross

of entrenched rationales of life-taking, of warped

permissions of deranged access,

don’t listen to the naysayers, don’t,

ignore their percussive braying about

what’s become reasonable, their platforms

boom loud, are hollow bleating, you inherited a world

that has made the unthinkable usual

don’t listen to them betting against you

they always bet against you when you say no

to what prevails, when your fresh eyes refuse

to see the unseeable, foreseen, predictably

tragic, decrying the inevitability of senselessness

don’t let their demeaning misnomers distract you

whose lives are on all the lines and ransomed for

profit, whose lives underwrite the very notions

that steal them. we grieve for you we grieve for you

we’ve forgotten we’ve forgotten we’ve forgotten

to think twice about it, about the shortest distance

about straight lines, so thank you for giving

us back to ourselves who called for peace

years ago, who cried for parity, who marched and

moved and were not stuck, or tired, or worn or weary

or silent, who fought for our lives, who sometimes won

I envy you

I envy you for whom all of this is new

I envy you who did not tremble at any unexpected call

at any unusual hour

announcing your cousin’s miscalculated overdose

or brother’s narc sweep imprisonment

a father’s sudden hospitalization

facing proven fears that they won’t be cared for


that skinny art guy with a marker beaten to death

the grandmother naked and afraid shot in her apartment

a boy playing alone killed in seconds

the kid walking home from the store, murdered

a fiancé, celebrating his impending nuptials,

bullet riddled with friends in his car

the father waiting for his son to come home from school

executed while he backed up, away

a wallet mistaken as a gun, as an immigrant

mistaken for some other, stood in the doorway of his own home

had his unfulfilled promise swiss cheesed by lead

the young woman playing video games with her nephew, slain

through her open window, the woman rescuer,

asleep at home, annihilated while she slept


all by domestic enforcers of our states of misbeing

those designated to maintain peace, secure order

destructive in their misguided executions of dubious duty

systemic thoughtlessness, misapprehensions

protected by uniform and badge and privilege

and endless assumptions of others’ guilt

without second thought or even breath


I envy you who don’t know this who never knew this

automatic cessation of futures,

this swift and peculiar severance

impetuous eradications pernicious annihilations


lives ended for minute infractions

imagined slights, no reason whatsoever,

sometimes, too often, arbitrary impulsive slaughter


to find this strange and shocking in its terribleness

I’m glad you find it inconceivably awful

I envy you for whom this is news

for whom this is new

and perhaps you will demand it change


Akua Lezli Hope is a creator and wisdom seeker who uses sound, words, fiber, glass, metal, and wire to create poems, patterns, stories, music, ornaments, wearables, jewelry, sculpture, adornments and peace whenever possible. A third-generation New Yorker, she’s an award-winning poet published in numerous literary magazines and anthologies. Her first collection, EMBOUCHURE, Poems on Jazz and Other Musics, won the Writer’s Digest book award for poetry. Her poems, Montserrat and Awaiting Your Return (for Jamal Kashoggi) were nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her collection, Them Gone, was published December, 2018 by The Word Works. Akua is a crochet designer with more than 130 patterns published, and has been making paper from scratch, by hand, for over 25 years. The founder of a paratransit nonprofit, she exhibits her artwork regularly, practices her soprano sax, and prays for the cessation of suffering for all sentience.

Other works by Akua Lezli Hope »

©2024 Black Earth Institute. All rights reserved.  |  ISSN# 2327-784X  |  Site Admin