The hundreds of residents on 98th& Bancroft, East Oakland California in the 80’s,

knew my mother’s name.

It lay sweet like country yams on their tongues

(‘cause she was fine and sweet and a good cook and still is).

She was that young womyn who knew how to cook like an old womyn and blended in with all five of us girls she was raisin all by herself.

And every Saturday night,

like clockwork,

no matter how repeatedly the world raped her that week,

no matter how many subtleties shouted at that

Little, Black, dirt-road, one horse town Arkansas gal,

My mother would put on her lipstick and rouge,

go broke on gin and boxed wine and gumbo ingredients

and throw a party and laugh

with all 10 of her brothers and sisters.

I got to get to know and fight and love

too many cousins in one room to count on the weekends.

Lord, did us little ones hate the drama and noise

and drinking and dancing and crying the adults did (usually all in one night).

We hated the ambulances and cops and new boyfriends and

we hated, hated, HATED the Mount Everest pile of dishes left for us in the morning

and the bathroom and living room full of things they used to forget the hard times with

that we had to pick up and clean before going outside to play.

We hated a lot of things

until we got older and had a weekdays worth forgetting of our own.


Joyce Lee is the 2009 & 2010 Oakland Grand Slam Poetry Champion, a frequented storyteller for Snap Judgments NPR and an 8th & 9th grade educator in the Bay Area. Joyce has toured internationally as a poet in countries such as Canada, Germany, Switzerland, the Bahama’s and Turkey. She has featured on TV One’s Verses & Flow and has been hired to perform for major corporations such as Google and Facebook. You can find out more about her by visiting


It’s true that the world sprung alive as we woke.

I thought about this as I touched the hairs on his knee.

And wondered what about the other.

And wondered about the ending.

He said to me that he’s never scared except when he loves.

And then he asked me why we do it.

And I thought to him

I am leaving in August,

I am leaving in June, I thought,

I have left in a way.
I woke to the ray that casts all as crystalline

Jubilance, blinding. Like in a park on a blanket.

And he touches my blond baby hairs where we thigh.

And I blow smoke into his mouth.

And we wrestle watching children bob

And wonder what if I decide to have one.

Alive today, but not always,

not yesterday.

not last night.

When my lower abdomen ached

And I shook. And I flinched.

So that I crawled inside my womb and waited-

warm rays beating behind vesseled walls.

Shining beyond our deaths.

And my thighs that touch your thinning hair.

We are thinning, pulsing strings in air.

And he asked me, why do we just die? Only to live?

Regardless, today, in the sun, it was so.

Bright, alive, our wombs throb,

Alive wombs weep.
Help me find a house, oo baby.

I’ll run away to DC. I’ve made a job.

I’m starting again.

The sun blinds, my walled womb knows

All of the light, this morning.

Kiss your eyes.

I never noticed your lips until today.

I would’ve loved you when I was a child,

he said.

I laughed as I washed myself white in the sun.

Christina Riley resides in Washington, D.C., and is currently a Cultural Studies PhD candidate at GMU researching digital activism in new media. In the past, she has been involved in grassroots education reform, digital archiving, and humanities instruction in higher ed environs. Passions include bread and butter pickles, drag queens, trap music and cuddling where all surfaces touch, congeal.