Four Poems by Ashley Elizabeth

Kitchen Conversations

My grandmother
ate cut cantaloupe
from the tip of her knife.

My father, one of her middle children,
told her to stop, that eating
with a ribbed spine wasn’t safe.

She shrugged, Neither
is being black, being a woman.
I’ll die someday,


and popped another juicy cube
into her waiting mouth,
knife ridges up.

above

        “you will transcend your ancestors’ suffering” – Sarah Gambito

but still honor them years later
through all you know is a few names
know that a few were free blacks
know by lineage others were not
know one woman doesn’t have a name
not one you recognize easily
just Bubi Tribe Lane
where she’s from with the name
of her owner
don’t know who she came with
or who she slept with to get a daughter
but know that her descendants
are rather light-skinned
I will write her story
call her Hope and aim to do better.

After two weeks on ancestry.com I find Africa in my blood

and her name is Hope
not the thing with feathers
but a person, alive but not well
(1800s ain’t a good place for most black folk)
but she’d born a daughter

who’d born a daughter
who’d born a daughter
who’d born a daughter
who’d born a son, my paternal grandfather

Hope arrived on boat
given to a man named Lane I don’t have record for
who is she
and what did she leave behind
other than me?

Discover

the new world, here, clothes
you do not have to pick the fabric for
cell phones where we see neighborly trauma
and don’t bat an eye
shitty school
inequality nonstop
I am this house’s master now
but own nothing, no one else
outside of the cat (and I recognize,
I don’t even own that).
I am blessed enough
to not work with my hands like you, Hope,
or forced to fuck a white man
to keep my “family” “safe.”

Ashley Elizabeth (she/her) is a writing consultant, teacher, and poet. Her works have appeared in SWWIM, Rigorous, and Kahini Quarterly, among others. Her chapbook, you were supposed to be a friend, is available from Nightingale & Sparrow. When Ashley isn’t serving as assistant editor at Sundress Publications or working as a member of the Estuary Collective, she habitually posts on Twitter and Instagram (@ae_thepoet). She lives in Baltimore, MD with her partner and their cat.

Banner Image: O Flowers by Robert Frede Kenter

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