Omotara James

Call to prayer: for my body under the rule of white supremacy


Go ahead and cry

Go ahead and *tweet*



Devour       everything you can

fit onto your tongue

Go ahead                      lie

Uncover or seekcover

Go ahead and hold your breath

walking in brown skin

past a murder

of men

a flock

a congress

on the North Lawn

in the subway

outside mosque

at first light

just around

the bend     Go              ahead



Lay down your words

D e s e g r e (gate)                  your heart

Pick up                                   Lucille Clifton

Recall                                     the language you live in

Part                                        your six winged seraphim

Call                                        her to sing


on your knees

on your back

on your feet



where the love is

The Greatest



The Bolts


It is the job of the firstborn to understand

what is given can be taken.


Before I told you, mother

that I      how I

loved that woman,


tu casa was mi casa:

your garage stored boxes

overflowing with old possessions.



you bristle       when I use

the possessive on the phone.


Ill stop by

your housemaybe

after fourplease dont forget


the bolts. Yes, I understand

your instinct to clench, mother, the

tightness          in your chest: that



won’t dissipate

with time.


I’m sorry

it’s come to this

but, without exception


love’s invisible






S & M & You: A Love Poem

for M.P.


Since you’ve returned

I’ve hung decapitated


inside our meat locker: strung silent

upside-down pig,


cold metal hook through the anus

cleanly gutted, the blood fresh


but not dripping,

red circles around white


where my wrists and ankles—

suggest contact


you walk into the freezer

leave your signature in bone


like a fingerprint on a canvas

still wet


as you approach with your cleaver

I pine for your technique.


Despite the damage, your blade

remains sharp.


Loose skin and fat

lay in piles at your feet


like roses, uneven stanzas or enjambments. Even now,

I belong to you and you to me.



Notes from la Casita

for Amiri Baraka, Bob Dylan, Terrance Hayes


…and they were too busy singing

couldn’t hear their own beauty

as they were tuning it


I was ringing ‘cause

they were tuning me

still singing    and they were wearing


sweatshirts, fur boots

and the girl had flowers on her dress

but couldn’t see them blowing in the wind


as she was singing, her eyes closed

and Amiri Baraka sitting on my right

drinking (what smells like) beer?


and when did the Alaskans start dancing

and throat singing like blacks

from the joints.  Now Baraka is laughing


(still drinking) and the flowers are blowing above

her knees.  I could be in Tuva or wherever


but I’m front row

of New York

Lincoln Center


still floating in the Terrence Hayes of Blue Baraka

(and he got up to leave as quietly as he came)


and I clapped without knowing it and my mind

changed (without knowing it) and it’s been six years

since I gave my life away without knowing it


and the tune changed.  Before I knew it Baraka

was back again (I felt Black Again) the music


hymning through our bodies, God’s

instruments, brought me back to where

I had stopped writing and begun


to revise.


Omotara James resides in New York City, where she is an MFA candidate at LIU Brooklyn. She is the recipient of Slice magazine’s 2016 Bridging the Gap Award for Emerging Poets, as well as the Nancy P. Schnader Academy of American Poets Award. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Winter TangerineVisceral Brooklyn and Civil Coping Mechanisms’ anthology: A Shadow Map. She has received scholarships from Cave Canem, the Homeschool, and the Garrison Institute. Currently, she edits Visceral Brooklyn and Art of Dharma.

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