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Safe Space

by Jasmine Combs

Yesterday there was no indictment.

Yesterday, the verdict read not guilty

while 17 entry wounds

in a black boy’s back still hummed.

When we chanted his name in the streets

and the pavement shattered from our vibrato.

Yesterday the cops dragged a black girl to her grave.

When we chanted her name

it echoed,

streets so empty

the sidewalk threw her name back at us,

and it sounded like mine.

Yesterday an Asian kid said nigga

and my mouth bled,

a Latina mother drowned

her dark skinned babies in bleach,

a white girl cornrowed her hair, called it ratchet,

and my relaxer burns resurfaced

to witness the gentrification

of my scalp.

Yesterday, a man pulled a graveyard of

little black girls out his closet,

paraded them on stage

doused in an old song,

and the crowd still sang along

for nostalgia’s sake.



Today, my black woman is a blanket

I can’t come from under.

Today, all of the ways that I might die

are too heavy,

This bed, the only place

the bullseyes can’t find me.

Today, I didn’t think I would survive

until a friend invites me to her place, promises whisky

so I un-dig my casket, drag myself

to a house full of black women

and we leave what is hunting us

on the other side of the door.


Today we fashion safety

from a pearled blunt and a playlist

with the volume so high

we can barely hear all that hates us.

And we dance a black girl’s dance,

our shades of brown converging

like a rainbow in an oil slick.

I don’t know the girl sitting next to me

but we both know all the words to this song

so I crown her ‘sister.’

In her eyes,

the same sad and tired reflected in mine,

but her mouth holds a vice grip on joy,

smile like rain in the middle of a drought.


Yesterday I figured God had forsaken us

But today I found God in a trap song

in a wine glass whirling her magic around the room

in a conversation about hair or lovers.

and when oppression worms it’s way into our conversation

we make a joke of it,

laughing in the face of death is

our oldest form of survival


Today, someone who looks like us

might've died an unjust death.

But, their story won’t make the news until tomorrow

so today, let sorrow be an unfamiliar language.

Dance, like you don't know the whole world’s out to get you.

Black girl,

let every living breath be a rebellion,

a song

that only we know

all the words to,

and ain’t that a triumphant sound?

Read all work by Jasmine Combs


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