Amber Atiya

The day Toni Morrison dies a resident throws hot joe at a nurse

the Bad Bitch throws a chair through a window,
the pest with cluster B

personality disorders throws herself
from wheelchair to floor.

Elders inspect her bald patch, prophecy
tomorrow’s lunch, lasagna you’d mistake

for layers of earth I eat because it’s what
a mad Pecola might do in solidarity

I go mad, lose myself for years in Bed
stuy gardens, lead-infused carrots

accused of mercury poisoning
by the CDC who care enough

to write. A pen pal would be nice
says J reading Sula in the restroom

after mid night in solidarity with decay
I declare myself lesbian, radioactive

even before I’ve stewed the knotweed
of Central Park, my pots lesbian pots

sky a lesbian sky here at the half-life of a woman
budding inside a woman the thirst of a single car

nation with scoliosis swaying like Jack
in a box against the backdrop of the over

heard tracks in solidarity with the dead
my lids drop like gates of a bodega.

I. Can’t. Make. The rent. In these ribs, this
wheel of hives, a homo-Ana



A migrant worker hops
into a ford with a stranger. Who
calls him a whore with a fatty
liver and a slut’s grip
binging after bloodwork

nurse in the atrium slaying Nas
at the piano, illmatic in the heart
of Mount Sinai. I’ve killed many men
in my mind, always for the same
siren, the same paisley-shaped

scar at her elbow, a wound
I could step into and ascend
feral, anonymous at a shop where
the hint of a lace push-up
guarantees a free Dungeness cluster

a doppelganger for Mayhem
stalking you down the aisles.
My cholesterol was low the years
I panhandled at the junction
singing the fuck out of Mahalia

for dimes, now and then scotch
taped dollar bills. I miss holiday
gift bags for the homeless—
soaps freckled with real gold
deodorant cocktails of vodka

and myrrh, my pits
stayed hungover, nights
I swayed tipsy among the girls
like the last living pansy, free
as the free air at a bike shop.

all I ever craved was a vagrant
to love, a dumpster fire
to lean into, wrapped in a tap-
estry of mustangs that fall
upon us, one by one, as we sleep.

—in fatigues weeping on a
bicep, Mother Mary. M-A-R-Y

I said, though it could be
his ex, the one who collages

mermaids with real fish
tails—has she ever wept

a day in her life? Every time
I catch him at the deli flexing

the virgin's sad & puma
bright eyes for tourists

I think today’s the day she
finds courage to flee

the skin that binds her. But
what’s a soldier without

a sniper rifle? What’s a
weeping mother without

skin of her own?

Amber Atiya, a housing and women's rights advocate, is a multidisciplinary poet from Brooklyn. Dig on her poems in A Gathering of the Tribes online, Soul Sister Revue Poetry Compilation, Boston Review, and elsewhere. Her visual and text-based art/objects have been exhibited at the Knockdown Center, Bessie's Brooklyn, and Pace Univeristy. A 2021 recipient of the Oscar Williams and Gene Derwood Award for Poets and Painters, she is a member of a women of color writing group celebrating 20 years in 2022. Her chapbook, the fierce bums of doo-wop, was published by Argos Books.