Tag Archives: Raina Leon

RAINA LEÓN.March 2019


Photo by Jeff Sirkin



“Abide by whatever task is set before you as if it were a law, and as if you would be committing sacrilege if you went against it. But pay no attention to whatever anyone says about you, since that falls outside what is yours.”



he lifts his white-haired cap

to pull down face flap

reveal his jabbering gums

he wants to say he has seen

the mountaintop where he is King

this is why he goes skinless and sheds

i call my mother to say

whiteness scares me

mansplaining sucks spark

i had to watch Real Housewives

of Atlanta just to stop my mind

from quaking this body cold

she never answers

she has already answered

i stopped counting time

my lover comes home

wraps his arm around my chest

sits close to one our breath

we tell the horrors

this is a spell we cast

holy expulsion

what is for you is for you

what is for you is not for you

what is not you is for you

for what is you is you for

what is you for

is you what for

what is you

you is what

what you

is at you or

f you what you is for




| top |

*** ** ***



“One does not give up a lover; you lose her.”

James Baldwin to Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.


there was a storm; it was trouble-hue that shakes death dice until smooth palms turn calloused and snake eyes bleed maggots through the black. that was how s√he loved, in slip-tongue forking through the ear to tease sense into dull passion-quake, and when sense pried itself back, s√he had a crowbar answer. oh, s√he liked to twist until nipples cracked pus that stuck to cloth: healing. s√he loved that way, too. the devil likes you to hallelujah-talk baby, or slick, or everything you’ll never have. that’s just the way justice be. when s√he loses you, it will be because s√he’s sniffing another blood trail. that’s all women are: blood to paint real, breathing. s√he’s been jealous of wriggling babes for eons. s√he likes you to sigh-spring, baby, or slick, or everything you’ll never have. when s√he loses your sweat on the tongue, your spent body slumped against glass, s√he was never there at all. you just imagined that spirit, clever blaze. blame the glory cannonade of thumping heart or the haunting of an empty house. blame possession and angels and demons and that one movie you watched that convinced you that shadows stalked. when s√he loses you, don’t worry; s√he’s still close. those thin ticking fingers know the tap of your hipbones by hurt; s√he plays other music, a grim percussion aria. and when another wo/man with inked fingers says, thank you for being such a wo/man about this, and you realize s√he means the shifter has shadowed those sheets, too, smile toothy clean. there was a storm, all hue and cry, bodies twisted in brutal dance to stamp their living on. you made your claim to pock, and still the moon sands shifted. s√he never bore a scar but you.



| top |

*** ** ***


on changing my son

i am the one who sees olive fields plumping their pitted fruits in the green of my son’s eyes          the mottled iris in radiant hickory          a quorum of trees split in their canopy song          this skin      here is the painter’s patchwork          like a quilted fabric overlay  a city map fashioned in sun flecks        when nude he splays himself unashamed                his body learning through touch        joy      he has never known shame      my life was ever preparing to witness freedom          the squirm          be hummingbird   be boy  be bee be all the natural things        look there at the minute conch imprint swirls on his thumb        each coil an inherited story        and stories to come   his body a city within cities of bodies        composite of cells in orchestrated mechanics      the end unseeable      i never knew this would happen when i refused to play with dolls      when i ripped their heads off          fastened them wild screeching beasts mounted on my brother’s remote control cars              the new harpies all raw warrior defiant          this boy now whose first sound heard was his sweetness          name of a guardian angel for healing        without fear          i knew this always standing on the threshold to cross a border whose key was not a fist          i am changed        he is changed        abre la boca drink        there is not salt        no arid dust          only milk



| top |

*** ** ***



What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?

Wallace Stevens, “Sunday Morning”


Reliquaries of distorted faces and slips

of name in waking dream, the mind

rules the tongue that belonged to many

through years and in the years to come

will be one’s bounty. I would damn

the memory but for fear,

elder bewitchment,

amnesia of contemporary tenderness –

the daily ritual of morning tea with honey

of wing-light kisses

over the preening orchid –

and, instead, a long dead beard’s musk

or a snoring song heard when young

with face smiling in plastered tolerance.

I once loved and loved and loved

again, knew the divine even

when disgusted by his raw flare

of cocaine-throbbing nostrils.

I soothed that heaving

when terror wracked him enflamed;

they would no longer open for air,

channels throbbing to remember ease.

The body remembers

what the mind would erase. I train

synapses to fire one rhythm:

It’s so easy.   Now,

say it again.


| top |


Raina J. León
, PhD, CantoMundo fellow, Cave Canem graduate fellow (2006) and member of the Carolina African American Writers Collective, has been published in numerous journals as a writer of poetry, fiction and nonfiction. She is the author of three collections of poetry, Canticle of Idols, Boogeyman Dawn, sombra: (dis)locate (2016) and the chapbook, profeta without refuge (2016). She has received fellowships and residencies with Macondo, Cave Canem, CantoMundo, Montana Artists Refuge, the Macdowell Colony, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, Vermont Studio Center, among others. She is a founding editor of The Acentos Review, an online quarterly, international journal devoted to the promotion and publication of Latinx arts. She is an associate professor of education at Saint Mary’s College of California. She recently completed a teaching poet residency at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco and will be the 2019 curator for the Community Voices summer program and Fall 2019 mentor for the Poet-in-residency program. She is currently curating a poetry series at The Berkeley Art Museum and Film Archive in celebration of the 10th anniversary of The Acentos Review and Latinx arts.


To download a printable PDF version of this page, click here.


| top |

March 2019.RAINA LEÓN