We are proud to present four poems by Nikia Chaney. Chaney’s strongly evocative poetry takes shape through the sensory material of language: sounds, pulses, and atmospheres layer upon syntactic inventions. The results are vivid and surprising word-sculptures.
in the bathroom.waiting. white stone
underthigh. blessed the back
of each trust. knee. to be one of many.
upside stalls. Safe. wall skin
and wedding matter lying. soft-focused
on a daily story book.the excited each
forever of that. brushing sound. powerful
falls the stonewhite. walls the water
the stone. white silhouetting. a danced morning
of kick parts and sketch reality.
I believe we are sainted
red legged, heavy
covered up heads, drunken arms
I and if the feathers stayed
humility bread of each
one of us
would flush into the cloud
houried as if it were of
it was of the man
us we are necessary
strangers twist crust
of heat tumble, like ash
girls with braid and breast
in room lichee in mouth
shaky brown pale corner
a blur of squint and stalk
eye a her printed out
black dot suffering laughter
or limb or creak the sap
see it tweed and leeches
the woven man
Taken very broadly these views are not mutually exclusive, since a woven man can be both cloth and wood. His form can be bought from dollar stores or bus stops with the price of a look that lasts for four full seconds if one courts the quick peek of inability to unsee spoked feet. Taken to extremes the fabric of this man or the bark or the leaf should be made into a pattern that is to end up stiff stole or else if one chooses to go the opposite direction knead the thread slow poured flesh to touch to trial to abstract idea. Him peering through the shear lace of you like a memory of an experience of a taste. As essential as the color of skin this experiment (both internal and external) should branch one straight arm into the fiber or muscle of an exquisite sensation that is something close to pure pain or gratification or salt or cantaloupe or gravel or bruise. You must work until you are stiff until your joints are rippling ink and the quill droops until the inability to make the effort of the shape to form consumes you. Now my dear if you cheat, then the question of the woven man these old scarves and wet leaves (black as peach pits) stories of how it could be will wobble roughly on benched warm wood rubber wheels or jail terms or baby daddy or brother shapes too soft to be plastic and too stark to be concrete. Remember your making is an issue not of your failing but of learning proper technique.
the little black girl
ask it. i know that smile. anything. how i hold up here, such hardness. how i cock sugar bags under my armpit. the baby. where i put my shoes. ask about the gray black the gunmetal. the powder or the knot, how its tied, what makes the cord so strong. or the girl ask about the pacifier on ribboned string, balled fist prints still on my skin. or better yet ask me about the vial wobbling on that sharp precipice. scavengers as heros. ask. question. give over to your rambling my own knees, my doorsteps, my breath. make drown a happy lightful thing. silence our sweet toy. if this before us is a pointed star, then why choked sounds, stiff, and fuzzy. if instead it be a potted ring, why not holla. when your mouth does that thing what theatre will it be that gathers around to feed. cows chewing grass or children a little black girl waiting for permission. who crys then coos then groans silent. are you anyway that baby. maybe i she was big eyes will bake you a cookie this time brown and sticky and spread out over the pan, or maybe this time my baby I will finally talk, my throat red rimmed straw fibers struck about it. the baby, the little girl. the baby the little girlthebaby thelittlegir
Nikia Chaney is the current Inlandia Literary Laureate (2016-2018). She is the author of two chapbooks, Sis Fuss (2012, Orange Monkey Publishing) and ladies, please (2012, Dancing Girl Press). She is founding editor of shufpoetry, an online journal for experimental poetry, and founding editor of Jamii Publishing, a publishing imprint dedicated to fostering community among poets and writers. She has won grants and fellowships from the Barbara Demings Fund for Women, Poets & Writers, Millay Colony of the Arts, Squaw Valley, and Cave Canem. Highly active in the community of San Bernardino, Nikia hopes to help highlight the voices of “this city that sits below mountains and deserts,” its history and people, in her activism and service.