Being Black and Ace, a personal essay by Jean M. Hodges

Essays, Personal Essays

    When I was fourteen, my father and I had “The Talk” over the phone. I was living with an aunt at the time, and we just sort of transitioned into the conversation naturally. Now, I’d gotten my period around 10/11 years old, and what I was anticipating was more of the same song and dance of tampons and menstruation. My family was made up of primarily women and girls, with my own father being the father of four daughters (including me); so I expected more of my army medical professional father to go into the various glorious changes that a woman’s body goes through at a certain age, complete with a chart and pictures of women with flowers. But what I got was this statement from my Dad  going over the birds and the bees with me with his usual militant precision, and after I asked him some small specific question about sex, he asked me,

“Oh, have you gotten any urges?”

And I answered him honestly,

“No.” And that answer hasn’t changed six years on.

  It’s always been a little hard for me to talk about my own sexuality, mostly because most people don’t tend to believe that asexuality (or being ace) even exists as a real sexuality. I’ve always had crushes and/or have been exclusively romantically, mentally and emotionally attracted to men, so I end up thinking, “Hey, wait. This means that I’m straight, right?” I have never felt lust, been “horny”, or felt any sexual attraction to any other human being in my entire life. But then there come times when someone else has expressed a sexual interest in me, and I know that deep down, no matter how strong the emotional connection I had with this person, I could never truly return those sexual feelings, despite my best efforts.

 Women in society tend to be sexually objectified from childhood. Black women, specifically, are sexually objectified such a way that their assumed hyper-sexuality is an inherent part of their nature and little girls learn early that what they do with their bodies will impact other people’s perception of them, for better or for worse. “Fix your skirt so boys don’t look at your underwear”, “Your bra strap will distract the boys during class, so try not to show it”, and, “Of course, he was looking at you, look at what you are wearing!” have been spoken and/or told to me and other women I have met in my entire life with no sign of stopping anytime soon. I’ve heard a lot about the Madonna/Whore dichotomy in literature; however, for me especially, the Mammy/Jezebel idea comes to mind. You’re either a sexy vixen or sexless mother-figure and the fact that I am inherently neither put younger me ill at ease.

   I remember a specific incident in high school where two older girls were discussing their sex lives, and one of the girls remarked that she had such a need for sex that she was going to continue to see a particular boy she didn’t even really like. When fifteen-year-old me asked the question, “What if you just…didn’t…have sex? Or want to have sex with him at all?” both of the two older girls looked at me like I had just suggested stabbing someone instead of presenting the idea of celibacy.

    As a young adult in college, being asexual has gotten easier for me to talk about, especially after meeting and interacting with a more and more diverse range of people with varying sexualities who are a lot more accepting of mine—and I can say that I am grateful for this. At the same time, I’ll never forget the look of disbelief when an on-campus clinic nurse asked me if I’d ever had any kind of sex after I had already checked the entire column in ‘no’ boxes on my sexual activity roster, confessing to her off-record I was either waiting for love or marriage to do any kind of sexual deed. I am a black person, I am a woman and I identify as asexual; I wish that more people could understand that I can be all of these things at once.


* This essay was published in Chicago Literari in 2017.

**I now identify as bi-ace, but much of what I said in this piece still holds up to my personal conceptions of my own ace-ness.

A is For Applejuice, a flash fiction story by Jean M. Hodges

Fiction, Flash Fiction

Curses weren’t always a bad thing; Ginger figured there were worse things in the world than being a Black gorgon.

Ginger knew this, and she knew her and all the women in her family was more of a protection, anyway; a genetic talisman bestowed upon them by cruel and beautiful gods in some ancient land long, long, ago, maybe.  

So, yeah, Ginger didn’t mind the snakes in her hair so much? She just wished That Cute Kaida could really look her way someday.

That Cute Kaida worked at the corner store down the street from Ginger’s house; Ginger first caught sight of them when sneaking into the store in the middle of her lunch break to grab some corn chips before class.

That Cute Kaida was the owner’s teenage nibling, working in the store after dropping out of their own high school and working on their own GED to get into community college.

“They did my baby dirty, Miss Ginger,” the store owner, would say, clicking her tongue and whispering something in a Spanglish Ginger couldn’t understand. “As if it’s their fault their Mama was a werewolf. They missed so many classes just to take care of their baby brothers and sisters! Is that a crime? These damn white teachers…”

Ginger only caught glances of them, really; sometimes sweeping up the corner store floors, sometimes bopping to a song on their auntie’s radio, sometimes behind the counter, studying in between working the cash register.

However, despite all the information Ginger gathered from just seeing them on snack stops in between school, classes and coming home, That Cute Kaida only really knew Ginger for one thing:

“Hey, Applejuice! Will that be all? It’s nice to see you again”

And Ginger would blush, smile, and pay.



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Sodapop, a flash fiction short story by Jean M. Hodges

Fiction, Flash Fiction

TW: Rated PG-13 for sexual inneundo.

They always bought their favorite soda from the corner store down the street. It right by their apartment, and anyway, the two of them enjoyed being out together for a bit, this town being a bright, sunny place that made them want to rest under the heat. Might as well put a cool drink to their lips, right?

They brought their cool goods to the nearby park, taking cover under a shady tree, eager to get a sip of the magical elixir before the heat of the day overtook them.

The man drunk first, he reached over his girlfriend’s legs to get the soda from their small cooler, the drink grazing over her bare, brown legs in his haste as he ushered the syrupy sweet to his wide, soft lips.

The woman shivered at the perspiration to from the man’s hurried drink, the cool of the metal causing dripping pleasantly at the chilly contact.

The man found himself blushing, smiling a guilty smile to her as he’d chugged the drink down. The woman watched her boyfriend eagerly drink with a quiet sense of relish that stirred her stomach, though she figured it was the heat.

After a moment, the man saw her staring, and mistook the rosy flush of on her cheeks as a preemptive heat stroke. Smiling warmly at her, the man passed the soda bottle to her, and the woman blushed, shook her head and looked away.

The man put the man moved the soda in his into his other hand, putting a hand on his girlfriend’s bare shoulder, causing the young woman to look up at the chilly shock.

They looked each other’s eyes for a moment, the sound of each other’s breathing and the pop-pop-pop of the soda the only noise in the space between them.

The man held the soda out in front of the woman one more time, and smiled sweetly, his large brown eyes giving a gentle prompt.

The woman smiled back, and seeing that the drink looked good, took it in her hands and gave a large gulp.

The man swallowed at the sight of her, and blushed at the woman licking the sugar water off of her lips.

The woman caught his gaze, smiled wickedly, and drank some more, draining the whole thing out before handing the empty bottle back to him.

The man didn’t come back to himself until her heard her opening another.



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Percy Jackson is Better than Harry Potter and Here’s How – A Fantasy Retrospective (TRANSCRIPT)


TW: This video is PG-13. Discussions of child abuse, abusive parents, parental neglect, childhood trauma and garbage systemic violence against children.


Video description: My friendship with Harry Potter has ended. Percy Jackson and I are now best friends.

Katie Knudson



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J. K. Rowling needs to pay for my therapy. 


So, what’s up my brilliant, beautiful scholars? I hope you’re having a lovely day despite, y’know the Plague. 

Me, like a lot of millennials in quarantine, have been falling back on bad childhood habits. And one of those bad childhood habits, at least on my end, was reading a lot of fantasy stories. 

A lot of them were pretty questionable. I’mma say this straight up — just because a piece of media was formative for you doesn’t mean any good. 

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Two of the least questionable children’s books I reread in my little novelistic speedrun were the Harry Potter series by a terf named JK Rowling and The Percy Jackson series by an English teacher named Rick Riordan! 

I think it had to do with structure, I think — Harry Potter books are essentially Agatha Christie novels in fantasy dressing, with Harry and his friends solving Scooby Doo mysteries in order to pass their magical school classes in one piece — or yknow, not die at the hands of Lord Voldemort.

Percy Jackson, meanwhile, are a collection of tweenage road-trip stories where Percy and his friends go on a series of life-changing field trips and fetch quests because sometimes the greatest adventures are the friends you made along the way.

Percy Jackson was a much better time, I’ll tell you that much. Puzzles  are great but white people bullshit isn’t.

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There’s also something else, and I think it makes the key difference: Percy Jackson never puts the onus of recovery, healing and forgiveness on the shoulders of the abusers in the same Harry Potter does? And that was just, amazing to read to be honest.

Let’s discuss — 

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Harry and Percy are both very similar as protagonists as their both black haired/green eyes white boys with a sarcastic wit and a neverending loyalty that gets them and their friends in trouble. They also had very troubled non-magical upbringings with abusers and bullies and other garbage experiences

That’s just good writing to be honest — I do really believe that kids should be allowed to develop their own critical thinking skills and question systems that have authority over them. Rules are malleable and outright malicious if the death of an innocent person was deemed justice by the apathetic powers that be.

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Which makes what I’m gonna say here extra hard — 

I’mm a say it here, I’mma play it straight with y’all, even though I’m gay —

Luke kinda had a point there. 

For the uninitiated: Luke was the main antagonist of Percy Jackson. In the world of Percy Jackson there’s a lot of demigod kids and Luke was one them — as well being Percy’s former friend. The Anakin to Percy’s Obi-wan Kenobi, if you will.

Voldemort by contrast is — essentially — a Wizard Nazi bourne out of the xenophobia, euginics politics and toxic systems in Harry Potter’s Wizarding World, being less a horrifying outlier and more a ugly reflection of the Wizarding communities own worse qualities. 

Except Luke never kills anyone (at least no one I saw in the books). He /tries/ to kill people, but he spectacularly failed cuz plot armor.

Luke was a son of Hermes who’d grown up as a homeless kid from age nine on, escaping a house with an unstable mother to eventually scrape for food and fight monsters with his friends Annabeth and Thalia (daughters of Athena and Zeus respectively). 

Luke was burnt out by his years of homelessness, parental instability from his mortal mother and overall neglect from his father. Eventually, Luke went to Camp Half-Blood, but that only lead to more problems.

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Hogwarts in Harry Potter is a fun, magical boarding school — but that’s what it is, a school, an institution bound to the whims of the Wizarding government.

Camp Half-Blood is a safe place that all demigods can make friends and build their strengths for the adventures to come, but in the end, it’s a camp — a supplement to the lives and character growth of the demigods in the real world, not a replacement.

The whole point of Camp Half-Blood is to train the demigod kids to a world outside its borders.

It’s less permanent house and more plot-convenience pitstop. A safe space, if you will, for demigods to recoup from the nonsense that the mortal world and the godly bullshit thrown at them due to either parents’ neglect.

It essentially acts as a large foster home for the demigod kids involved, but Camp Half-Blood was made as a result of the shitty practices of the Greek gods it reigns from, not as a result of the gods’ kindness.

Camp Halfblood changes to help benefit future demigods make better lives for themselves. Hogwarts refuses too because, in the end it benefits too from the toxic systems it has in place.

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Speaking of systems, and going back to Luke for a second —

The systems in place by the gods are what made Camp Half-Blood necessary,and it’s up to the gods themselves to change the system from the ground up instead of relying on their demigod kids to just, yknow, deal with it.

 Luke was gifted a quest from his father Hermes but Luke’s failure in that quest left him extremely bitter, raging at the gods’ apathy and indirectness on account of his own life and the lives of other demigods like him who similarly fucked over by the Hellenistic system. It’s no surprise that he planned revenge against the Olympians in the end.

This was my main gripe with the movies by the way — the gods culpability was skipped over in favor of a misguided and well-meaning Poseidon causing a disconnect between the gods and their own demigod children as opposed to the actual book-backstory in which Poseidon himself was the cause of the gods not talking directly to their children but only in the sense of them doing so would cause another World War II (long story, fun lore, not important here.)

Honestly? Throws all the gods out.

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But look, don’t get it twisted — 

Just because I agree that the Greek gods were full shit doesn’t mean that I think that Luke was right in how we went about his plans in destroying the system of power put in place by the Olympians that lists the gods as evading consequences and the demigods as pawns who clean up their parents’ bullshit. 

That part was true! The problem is that you don’t fix one problem with the an even worse problem. Like, you would scorch the earth to make way for greener pastures in the future but you wouldn’t drop a nuke on a shitty building in order to knock it down, that’s not how it works. 

Luke summoning his evil Titan grandfather Kronus wasn’t the right decision because it would eventually hurt the people Luke previously had sworn to protect.

You don’t stop abuse with more abuse.

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But that’s our antagonist! 

Good thing we got as a Percy protagonist, right? If it’s not obvious by now, Percy grew up in a similarly shitty homelife to Luke but with one key difference — his mother Sally Jackson. 

Sally is a mortal woman who’d grown up with her own difficult life so by the time she had Percy, she’d already been through some stuff. 

The interesting thing is — Sally cuts off the cycle of abuse when it comes to Percy. She always makes sure that Percy feels loved and welcome when he’s at home. 

Sally also makes a lot of sacrifices on behalf of Percy, marrying an abusive man because his pungent odor guards Percy from the threat of monsters and never denegrating Percy for his ADHD or dyslexia, sending him to specialized schools despite Percy’s poor grades and being expelled — like a lot — from K – 12.


In the first book, Sally ends her abusive relationship with her ex-husband by straight up merking him — turning her ex-husband to stone by using a gorgon head Percy left to her, Percy seeing that his mother is perfectly capable of taking care of herself and that while she might need help, she doesn’t need to be rescued.

Percy’s mother comments that Poseidon wanted to build Sally a palace at the bottom of the sea, but Sally refused, wanting to live her life on her own terms.

It’s one thing to want to rescue someone from the evils of the world, it’s another to offer aid and a listening ear to those most in need.

Sally’s kindness, strength and rebellious streak teaches Percy to stand up to even the worst bullies and abusers of life, but also to be kind to those who deserve his kindness.

Sally — along with all those demigod adventures Percy goes on, of course — teaches Percy how to be a friend.

And I think that’s what sets Percy Jackson apart from Harry Potter as a series — it teaches kids people don’t need saviors, they need friends. 

And Percy is nothing else if not an amazing friend.  

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Let’s fast forward to the end of the series cuz there’s something important I haven’t yeah that’s why I wanted to make this video in the first place.

By the end of the series (slight spoiler) — Percy and his friends win the day (yay!) but not without significant loss and painful lessons learned (yay!)

As a reward for his heroism, the Olympians offer Percy immortality — basically giving him godhood as a reward for being extra-super-nice and defeating that pesky Titan/demigod threat they just couldn’t do themselves.

Percy — get this — PERCY REJECTS THEM.  (what??????)

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I’ll let Percy himself explain.

“ I thought about the Three Fates, and the way I’d seen my life flash by. I could avoid all that. No aging, no death, no body in the grave. I could be a teenager forever, in top condition, powerful, and immortal, serving my father. I could have power and eternal life. 

Who could refuse that? 

Then I looked at Annabeth again. I thought about my friends from camp: Charles Beckendorf, Michael Yew, Silena Beauregard, so many others who were now dead. I thought about Ethan Nakamura and Luke. 

And I knew what to do. “No,” I said. 

The Council was silent. The gods frowned at each other like they must have misheard.” – The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan 

Switching to Harry Potter for one last time: I was confused by the vitriol that people had for the epilogue at the end of the Harry Potter series because most of the vitriol was directed at Harry naming his son “Albus Serverus”.

I mean, I thought it fit right in with the weirdly British Tolkeinesque naming system Harry Potter had in the first place — but I grew up, and I realized something: Harry makes heroes out of the people that hurt him and that’s a bad thing. 

“Voldmort Stalin Potter, you are named after two of the bravest people I ever knew…”

Cuz that’s Harry Potter does in the end — it forgives without perspective. 

As much as Harry chastises is his abusers and mentors, and as much Harry learns throughout the series not to give into stereotypes and good people can make bad mistakes and back people can change, Harry still succumbs to the status quo, absolving both his mentors and his abusers of their transgressions and honoring them thru the naming of his own child. 

When I say “dismantling systems” I don’t mean some Joker “watching the world burn so I can rule it” type bullshit, I mean “acknowleding the terrible shit that ending abusive cycles by breaking intergenerational curses.”

I’m not saying that Harry is an abusive person to his children, I’m saying that Harry and his friends were in a unique position to change the bullshit that made made ugly and evil things that made Voldemort what he is and they just don’t? Harry assimilates into Wizarding life as the hero who saved the Wizarding world from their sins and instead maybe, pushing to change Wizard racism, recognize humanoid folks like Hagrid or Dobby as real beings worthy of having their own voices.

Just?? Listening AND trying? And instead of acknowledging that they’ve made some sort of better world for their children, they’ve become part of a system that has harmed them putting themselves at the very top.

Like, Dumbledore literally laid you out as a lamb for slaughter, Harry! I’m sure it’s not only Slytherins who are capable of great evil!

In the series alone, Harry was: left and sent back into an abusive home even after Hogwarts, slandered by the Wizarding Government and the Wizarding Press for stating that Voldemort is back and he saw with his own two eyes, tried for a misdemeanour when he acted in self-defense in an effort to silence him, abused by a government entity to the point that his only safe space, Hogwarts, compromised because the adults didn’t wanna push back against it, and Dumbledore just bounced when Harry needed him most because he figured that his inaction would direct Voldemort to Dumbledore himself. 




Percy, by stark contrast, realized that all of the actions the book ended up being as a result of the gods breaking their own rules and seeing their demigod kids as either ammunition or collateral, and Percy, who’s been seen that the gods are full of shit — yes, even your favorites, rejects godhood and immortality in favor of making sure that a situation like this will never happen to the demigod kids ever again.

(Insert Percy Jackson quote where Percy makes the gods swear that the River Styx that nothing like this will ever happen to these kids again)

And that’s why the Percy Jackson-centric series ended when Percy held the gods accountable for their bullshit. 

It’s a whole new world out there, with a system that puts the demigods first and turns Camp Half-Blood into a safe house option for the Half-Bloods themselves instead of a last resort from the gods negligence and putting their kids on societal life support. 

Percy didn’t want to put himself on the top of a pyramid of s toxic system, throw all that shit away!  

He wants this cycle of abuse to stop! So he stops it! It’s that simple.

Again, listening and trying.

I mentioned briefly before that Percy’s fatal flaw is loyalty, so even if Percy rightfully his takes down his enemies for their transgressions, he also takes in their grievances — especially if they’re demigods like him.

The fact that a vulnerable poor kid with a cognitive disabilities has to make the apathetic people in power listen or else is rich to me, but children are the future and all that, and I think Percy has learnt well by his eponymous’ series end. 

As much as Harry fights back the monsters and villains that the Wizarding World has created, he still chooses to continue the toxic system that benefit him and his generation as heroes.

Percy is a hero that uses his platform to hold the powers that be accountable for the monsters that they create, aiming to leave a more just world behind him, make a better life for himself and his friends in the end so no other demigod kid will ever be hurt in the way that’s he’s been hurt. 

And that makes all the difference. 

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You couldn’t pay me to talk about Harry Potter ever again — not online anyways. I started this video poking fun at all the crappy fantasy books and other stuff I liked as a kid. Bad childhood habits, I said — even making fun of the things that made me happy as a kid. 

I’m not gonna do that anymore — I had different needs as child than I do as an adult. So while visiting Hogwarts with Harry and hanging out with Percy and the other Half-Bloods in New York City was fun, I find that the same crappy playground stuff I noticed as a kid are the same crappy playground stuff I noticed now. 

Kids are ill-treated by a lot of adults — I think that as a society we see kids as a bargaining chip or full of productive potential as opposed to the little people they actually are. 

It’s no wonder that some adults who had shitty treatment as children learn to gain their own power back by mistreating more children, continuing the cycle as it goes along. 

That’s why I’m glad to have read Percy Jackson as a mistreated kid (Harry Potter is like a shitty relative, thanks for the memories but I’m chucking you into the garbage now). It validated my issues as they presently were, and made me hopeful for a future where what I said mattered and I had the power to make a better world.

I’m listening, and I’m trying and I’m doing the best I can.

Stay brilliant, scholars. I’ll see you on the other side.



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Shango, the Witch, & the Wand – a flash fiction short story by Jean M. Hodges

Fiction, Flash Fiction

Shango had been snoozing in his car seat in the city junkyard when the witch banged on his window.

“Hey!” they yelled, banging on the glass. “Hey! Hey!  Hobo, hey!”

Shango rolled over in his bed in the back seat, sticking his tongue out at the witch before rolling over on his belly, giving them his ass.

After that, the Witch disappeared from the side of his car, and after a few minutes of silence, Shango almost thought that they’d decided to leave him alone for the night.

Almost. But he knew better.

Grumbling as he pushed himself up from his car seat, Shango stretched before reaching over and opening the car door in front of him, not surprised to see the Witch taking a screwdriver to his tires.

“What is it?” Shango asked, slumping his shoulders in defeat.

The Witch smiled, dropping the screwdriver back into the gigantic pocketbook they always carried with them, standing up to face the sleepy youth in front of them.

“I lost my wand, help me find it.”

Stretching his arms out, Shango phased through through his car door before plopping on the metal-filled ground with a hard, transparent thud, right by the Witch’s bare feet.

“Alright, where do we start?”

*~* They found wand stuck with along with the other garbage in a pile of abandoned baby stuff; toys never played with and shoes never worn.

“We square?” Shango asked the witch, and they grinned, nodding vigorously.

Shango smiled. “Good. And hey! If you need somewhere to sleep during a hurricane, my car’s always open.”

The Witch’s smile faded off their face as they gazed in surprise at the back of the young ghost, watching in silence as Shango floated back to the junkyard pile of the landfill graveyard.

Looking back at them with a mischievous smile, Shango added,

“Just bang.”



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I’m Never Sure What to Tell You, by Jean M. Hodges


I’m never sure what to tell you when you talk about sex

I advise caution, I advise consent

I suggest marriage and love and finding yourself first.

But things don’t happen in a straight line,

And armoring you for battle matters more than keeping you in a tower to yourself.

To myself.


So, if I don’t know what to tell you, I’ll tell you the truth,

You don’t have to be perfect, I just hope that you’re safe.

A warmth and a tingle between your thighs isn’t Hell you’ll burn yourself with,

And I know that we sometimes regret the food we put on our plate.

But you should always have the choice whether or not to eat,

Always have the choice of when to stop chewing.

I’d rather you have strong teeth

Than to never gather cavaties.


Admire yourself, fawn over your skin, love your womanly hips.

But let yourself still be a child, leave room for your own youth.

Not because purity comes from keeping your legs closed,

But because bruises come from trip ups,

Cuz mess-ups make good lessons,

Because whomever you decide to lay with (and does the same with you)

Doesn’t that make you a bad person.

Now, my love, all I know is to tell you the truth,

Do whatever the hell you want, but take care.

There’s monsters out there.



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Easter Dressing, a poem Jean M. Hodges


The cream was soft and nice and affirming,

Brown arms and storms fingers kneading my through my curls like fresh bread dough.

And I try to stay as still as possible as my mother, auntie or grandma,

Spin my hay-hair to gold.

I go thru the fires of hot-comb purgatory.


You hold your ears!

Wrap up them up like Christmas presents,

Sleep as still as Jesus in his tomb,

Wake up just as glorious.

Treat the second-degree burns with love and cocoa butter.

Hours of toil to get the curls,

Pinned up in a dress your Nana got on sale,

Get so pretty that even,

Even the white girls dare to get jealous.

Your Mama trades look with the pastor,

Hoping you don’t look too grown for the church as y’all find your seat.



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Open Ocean, a poem by Jean M. Hodges


When you live in the ocean, it’s hard to notice all the salt floating in the water

When your shipped on the ocean, it’s hard to remember when your human when they’re too busy putting us in boxes to notice

But then we got louder, and showed off our colors and had the audacity to be so bright and pretty on a white canvas that we bothered people for with our fluorescence

And now some of us are considering washing out the paint, because it’s making it to put bullseyes on our backs

“Are you ok?” I ask. And my best friend’s text buzzes as soon as we all get the announcement , as if this is the last letter he can send me before they send him off to a concentration camp with a pink triangle branded on his body

“I’m gonna burn a flag today, he said cheerfully, as if discussing morning coffee

“Fuck, ok, man. “ I say. “Well, good luck making bail. If I’m sold out before that, you’re staying there.”

We laugh cuz we’re drowning. We met up cuz school is still there. We hug cuz we keep each other up.

“What the hell do we do now?” My buddy asks, just trying to fill our space with air, just trying to keep his smile bright and his head above water. And I shrug.

“Brownies?” and he laughs becuz we’re both on this island we made together, hoping against hope this pile of dirt will stay afloat



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It keeps me & my work going! Thank you. Spread the magic!