By Ashley M. Jones
Oh, what? You thought I didn’t belong here?
You thought your street was me-proof? Thought here
was a place only lilies could grow? Can you hear
my skin before you see it? Can you hear
the rap I'm blasting down your perfect street? Here,
take it—every beat will fight for me. If you can hear
it, that means I'm winning, that means you can’t hurt me here.
Means I'm belonging if it’s the last thing I do. Did you hear
the one about the black girl who just wanted to mind her
own business in a country, state, city, suburb where
their only business is making sure I'm not here?
Where my face my body my God my hair
even my right to write this sonnet right here
is policed, is stared down, is burned fast as ether.
Ashley M. Jones holds an MFA in Poetry from Florida International University, and she is the author of Magic City Gospel and dark / / thing. Her poetry has earned several awards, including the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award, the Silver Medal in the Independent Publishers Book Awards, the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize for Poetry, a Literature Fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize, and the Lucille Clifton Legacy Award. Her poems and essays appear in or are forthcoming at CNN, The Oxford American, Origins Journal, The Quarry by Split This Rock, Obsidian, and many others. She teaches at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, and she is the founding director of the Magic City Poetry Festival.