Denise Miller
Jennifer Perrine
Justin Holliday
Wendy DeGroat
Shaun Turner
Ansley Jones
Barbara Ruth
Aiden Angle
Tanaka Mhishi
Jeanette Beebe
McKenzie Chinn


Editors' Note



In the early hours of June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen committed the most lethal hate crime against LGBT people in U. S. history when he killed 49 people and injured 53 others who were celebrating Latino night at the gay nightclub Pulse.

Less than one month later, shortly after midnight on July 5, 2016, Baton Rouge police officers Howie Lake and Blane Salamoni tasered, wrestled to the ground, and fatally shot Alton Sterling six times at point blank range, in a convenience store parking lot. Both officers had prior records of excessive force. Lake was previously involved in the shooting of another African-American man, Kevin Knight.

The next day, in St. Paul Minnesota, Philando Castile was stopped by police officers because of his “wide-set nose,” which was said to look like the nose of a robbery suspect. The confrontation ended with Castile shot four times in front of his girlfriend and her four-year old daughter. Castile died less than half an hour later.

The systematic racism that perpetuates continued violence against marginalized identities in the U.S. is grievous, entrenched in our history. U.S. gun culture and frontier-mindedness provide excuses for an “us versus them” mentality that engenders attitudes of violent white male dominance. Militant voices shouting “Blue Lives Matter” undermine and ignore the need in the voices crying “Black Lives Matter.”

What will it take to stop the killing? Who can reverse the gears on a system of injustice that has been steadily turning for hundreds of years? Justice can only come when we unite our voices in anguish, when we use the power of thought to bear witness to action, the power of words and art to beget radical change on a cultural level.

Ideas matter. Creativity matters. Speaking up matters. The queer authors and and authors of color in this issue have their own weapons. Some authors call for a deliberate turning and holding of attention. Jeanette Beebe forces us to ask, “what pauses when we watch? We don’t even look anymore.” Denise Miller elaborates, “...digging deep is not what you want to do right now. You’d rather slide finger up screen / like eraser across slate, scroll past the hate as if it’s not / sown into the fabric of your pillow.” Some authors show that celebration can be a revolutionary act. Aiden Angle gives us “...figures dance—drinking / gin and herbs mixed by a surgeon.../...who believes we’re all fingers /...connected / by the palm of a hand.” McKenzie Chinn insists, “not even the moon outside / got a better glow up / than so much brown skin /...under party lights....”

Even if we don’t have the answer yet, trying matters. In her author statement, Jennifer Perrine writes, “I hope that we can move beyond the reactive response to violence—run, hide, or fight—to real transformation, to making a world in which more lives are possible, in which more of us survive. What could be lovelier, more wonderful than that?” I agree.

love and respect,

Jill Khoury
Jen Stein Hauptumann


Denise Miller




"If a Tree" is an excerpt from my manuscript A Ligature for Black Bodies. These poems explore what it means to see the felling of black and brown people through the dash cams and body cams of the police officers that shoot them. It also seeks to highlight the ways in which these videos from police body cams and dash cams mirrors the taking of pictures and the sending of lynching postcards.

Jennifer Perrine


The training reminds us
concealment’s not cover—a curtain
won’t stop a bullet. Who shoots? Domestic dispute,
disgruntled student, fired employee firing on employees.

The training reminds us
every day may end in red fruit. Hear
that thunder down the hall? The call of another
hunger untended, another resignation untendered.

Here’s the device to bolt
the door. If the alarm sounds, assume
fright position, assume ruin. You are the first
responder—access the tourniquet, the hemorrhage kit installed

on all levels. Assume
you have the right to hit and kick and
mean it. Yell. Get angry. Access your inner thug,
inner fiend, even though you’re not prone to violence. Do not let

a window hinder you—
better to jump than to sit. Do not
let yourself be herded into a room with one
exit. Every seven seconds, dirt turned under. The training

will be offered again
in response to this trend. It is rude
to die on our watch. We will rue shovel, turf, hinged
lid sealed shut, the gun, the gun. Not a trend but a rut. Someone

hints the shooter could be
one of us. Someone urges you: leave
work early, don’t stop running until you make it
home. Someone says it’s inevitable, our last option: dirge.


            When I first began writing, every poem was a love poem. I could find no other way to name the wonder I felt in the presence of friends and lovers and the natural workings of the world.

            As a queer person of color, though, it’s difficult to avoid the plain truth of violence even in the midst of all that beauty. Violence appears even in relationships, in revelry, in schools, in streets. The very constructions of gender and race themselves violate. No place—not even one’s own body—is safe.

            And yet, I choose not to despair. Mourning might be inevitable, but it’s not, as some would say, our only option. I hope that we can move beyond the reactive response to violence—run, hide, or fight—to real transformation, to making a world in which more lives are possible, in which more of us survive. What could be lovelier, more wonderful than that?

Justin Holliday


I remember how at 14,
I entered gay conversion therapy,
not by choice. My father would drive me
two hours away every Tuesday
first to see the ex-gay therapist
alone in his basement/office,
then the church where I was surrounded
by a group of gay teen boys. 

Every Wednesday morning I’d go to school,
the secret trips clinging to me like a dirty skin.
Though my friends knew,
I wondered how many assumed
I was a faggot.

During one of the group meetings,
I saw someone new: 17, goth, suicidal.
He had tried at least twice before.
One night all of us went into the therapist’s car;
we sat in the back, held hands.
At the Krispy Kreme, we drank Sprite
from plastic cups while the therapist watched
and said we should mingle with the other boys.

The next week he gave me a note
when no one was looking, asking
if we could be boyfriends. Sick
for affection, we had a romance
that lasted less than twenty days.
My father found the note, turned it
to ash. I just had my copy of
You Don’t Have to Be Gay
and one phone call from the boy
whose name could almost cut through static.  


It is important to give an opportunity for all voices to help others understand experiences not their own. Knowing that there are so many ways not only to be alive but also to live can shape who we can become. Being queer often means acknowledging the possibility of violence, whether internal or external, but that violence is only a building block toward identity. 

Wendy DeGroat

For Tamir Rice and every person of color killed by police in such situations before and since.

              What if this is a kind of sacrilege,
a friend asks—Christ, love, enough for our peace
and salvation, black candle distracting
from His white one.  Yet Tamir Rice shines
as this hour’s reminder that black peace is
furthest from our country’s grasp, this candle
a lit testament that bowed heads, tithing,
and hymns, wept or sung, are not the only work
any faith expects us to give toward the peace we pray for.
              Take up the cloth that needs mending.   
Faith, yours or mine, like a sewing bird, will hold
one end as we pull the cloth taut and press the rent
edges together, torn fabric made whole only by stitching,
threaded needles rising through the smoky air.


Last December, following the gut-wrenching news of a grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer who killed Tamir Rice, days after we’d lit our white Advent candle to prayers for peace, my wife and I, who are Unitarian Universalists, added a black candle to the center of our Advent wreath, burning both center candles until Epiphany. Weeks later, I wrote this poem to express my solidarity with people of color leading #BlackLivesMatter, a movement founded by Black queer women, a movement that calls on us to make real the unspoken premise that we all matter by shining an unrelenting light on injustices suffered by those in our human family for whom we most often fall short of this premise: Black people. Black women and girls. Black men and boys. Black people who identify as cis, trans, and genderqueer. Straight and LGBTQ Black people. As poet Staceyann Chin and other activists remind us, all oppressions are connected. I appreciate how essential the presence of non-LGBTQ people has been, and continues to be, in the work for LGBTQ rights. Support for Black Lives Matter from people who aren't Black is equally important. May we reach together through the smoky air and take up the cloth that needs mending. May our stitching bring the peace and justice we seek.

In terms of craft, the poem is a sonnet because sonnets are traditionally about love and because this form required me to be concise, and it’s in free verse so it sounds more like conversation. At the poem’s turn, the combination of its shortest sentence, a shift from declarative to imperative, and a period emphasize that now is the time for action. Framing the narrative within the context of faith highlights the dual nature of faith as a source of motivation to fight for justice and as salve when injustices continue, and creates tension with the poem’s assertion that building beloved community requires us to rely on each other as well as our faiths.

Shaun Turner



All of my midnight hurt for three years—
sweaty, in convenience stores,
visiting the fee-free ATM
as if it were some shrine—
and maybe the midnights still hurt
and will always hurt, light
like something forgotten.

What do you do
when the body wants?

Little bags, then gasping breath.
Crunchy potatoes and pop,
orange dust and M&Ms,
can line a hand like time.

I used to know a man
who'd ride each day.
He still had a pink
tender heart, then. A tender head,
a loose tongue, youth drunk.

What do you do
when the body gives up its ghost?

I used to know a man
who built a nest
out of the things
he could remember:
some big hands, and
coarse hair
and hipbone,
Dial soap and


He never knew how to name them.


Poetry can act in so many ways. I hope that by adding one more voice to the collective community of writers and poets in this issue, that our collective sound will be made even stronger and even more resonate.

Ansley Jones


Music: G.Family feat. Nombongo - People With Bullets (Manuel Tur Remix) Dancer: Ansley Jukeboxx Jones Camera & Editing: Ed Speights Producer: Open House Conspiracy Open House Conspiracy wanted to add Orlando's house music spirit into the mix of Keep Dancing Orlando videos, so we teamed up with our dancer Ansley Jukeboxx Jones to collaborate on this project.

Artist statement:

This video is a dedication to all the victims of the tragedy in Orlando. May all the souls lost rest in the universe peacefully. I Love you all so much and I am so sorry this kind of, and level of hatred exists and caused you harm. I am WITH YOU. I stand with you and know that I will ALWAYS speak up for the rights of my LGBTQPIA family.

Personally, I have grown to realize how the demonization of the feminine in hip hop culture has affected me the point I felt I could not embrace that. They call us hoes because of our shape in clothing. They tell us how we dress should determine how we are treated in this world. How wrong they are. How wrong they will always be to tell you not to be WHO YOU ARE. I stand with you. And I thank the universe for allowing me to share this moment with you, a moment of a level of self-acceptance that dance has helped me reach. I am thankful to just be. Be thankful to BE. Love Jukeboxx. ‪#‎KeepdancingOrlando‬ ‪#‎Pulse‬ ‪#‎Jukeboxx‬ ‪#‎TheJukeboxxMovement‬ ‪#‎HipHopFeminism‬ ‪#‎OpenHouseConspiracy‬ ‪#‎LOVE

Barbara Ruth



I’m a narrow bitch
and my bed is hard.

                                                Men say I should change
                                                to be womanly.

My mother was a witch
and her cage was barred.

                                                My daughters will be strange
                                                and they will be free.



I have felt myself to be queer, socially, neurologically, sexually, since early childhood. I wrote the Womanifesto series in the 1970s. During this decade I lived and loved in Philadelphia and was a member of Dyketactics, an anarchist action group. We were assaulted by the police at our first action, in City Hall, at a City Council meeting which killed a Bill designed to provide civil rights for LGB folks in employment, public accommodations and housing. We became the first queer group in the US, possibly the world, to bring legal action against the police for brutalizing us. We are all still alive. This poem is dedicated to my sisters in Dyketactics, especially Sharon Owens, Paola Bacchetta, Sherrie Cohen and Kathy Hogan, and my neuroqueer spiritual daughter and granddaughter: Shannon Bolt and MD DeMasi. I am blessed with a rowdy and visionary family of choice.

Aiden Angle

After Eli Shipley

Hey guy,
I’m dancing naked

in a gallery where I first trip
with strangers—each body
posturing in jazzed

expression. One foot on the ground,
I realize, there’s a body
falling face first into the foot that I’m kicking

and I wonder if it’s just me falling into myself,
grasping post-card heart. Faceless

figures dance— drinking
gin and herbs mixed by a surgeon
who stands on a bench boasting of drug

use, who believes we’re all fingers
reaching up, waving

by the palm of a hand. And now

everybody looks the same naked,
like the shapeless

self I see in the mirror, free
now like the dolphin swimming atop

the back of a man, selfish
as if the only one of its kind.



There are some things that are difficult to speak about. For me, it’s being a transman, yet so often I find my work revolving around gender and its complexities. To be honest, it makes me uncomfortable. When disclosing my trans identity it feels as if I’m stripping naked. In revealing a trans identity, one is revealing a manmade body, something that’s not “normal,” and diversity too often fuels fear and hatred.

Would it be easier to not write about my experience as a transman? Yes. But we live in a time where trans voices are just beginning to be heard, and respected. Keeping my trans-informed poetry hidden away from the world would be counterproductive to my community and the culture we live in. I want change. I want inclusion. I want a world where labels don’t separate. If my voice can be a part of that movement, I will willingly write myself naked on the page.

Tanaka Mhishi



I do not want to be writing this poem again.
I am sick of it, sick like drinking the wide Atlantic.
None of us want the air to ring with these words,
but the silence too will kill.

It was a woman this time.
Her friends describe her as articulate and bright.
The news says she had a history of crime,
they are using her unpaid parking tickets
 to spitball her in her coffin.

We are putting another brown body into the earth.
I have spent years insisting on my own beauty
but I have not yet had to insist on my right to life.
I know how it feels to stumble into a conversation
where my body is a problem,
but I do not know what it is like when the solution
lives down the barrel of a gun.

I don't want to ask you to consider these names,
to let them echo and repeat Sandra, Sandra, Eric Garner,
we do not have the words to weigh the meat of them
let alone the magic to bring them back.

But I am still a poet,
and my every action tends to ink
and my ink speaks louder than a gunshot
and I will not let the only brown voices your hear be
get off my chest I can't breathe it hurts.
We have songs from Brooklyn to Bethnal Green,
from Australia to Zimbabwe
we have

N’Kosi Sikelel iAfrika
Wade in the Water.
Ndiri kuenda kumakore
before I'll be a slave I'll be buried in my grave.

I don't want to put this pain in front of you.
I don't want to speak of her in the past tense,
so I will leave you with a silence.
And this silence belongs to her,
it is the sound of her breath and busted heart,
it is the only thing she has left to her. 
Feel this.

and remember her when you speak again.


My poetry works with trauma a lot. For some time now one of the best working definitions of a traumatic experience has been 'one which cannot be put into words.' When the worst happens language seems to fail us and we become animals locked in our own skins. We are mute; inhuman.

Enter the poem. Unlike the soundbite, the slogan or the statistic, a poem can travel to that silent place. It can let us speak the unspeakable, and in doing so, we can begin to beat it. To read a poem is, at it’s core, an act of faith. It presumes that it is possible to communicate- in my case about some of the thorniest issues facing our society. As a queer person of colour I’m often devastated to the point of exhaustion by much of what I see in the world. As a survivor of rape I am often exhausted to the point of devastation by the realities of living with what has happened to me. But as a poet I can be certain that I will live to write another day.

Jeanette Beebe



What we’ll remember is the black screen, the moments after,
though it held him in his last moments, caught him dying.
“Stay with me," Diamond begged Philando and the world,
crashing into the window we haven’t fixed, a mirror of the sky.  

Though it held him in his last moments, caught him dying, 
the camera was more than a witness. It couldn’t look away,
crashing into the window we haven’t fixed, a mirror of the sky.
We must know what’s coming. We built this house ourselves.

The camera was more than a witness. It couldn’t look away.
“I wanted to put it on Facebook so that the people could see.”
We must know what’s coming. We built this house ourselves,
stunned, like a bird waiting for a breeze to blow through.

“I wanted to put it on Facebook so that the people could see.”
This country is an endless buffering. We freeze, we replay, 
stunned, like a bird waiting for a breeze to blow through.
“Are you sure you want to see this?” Facebook Live asks us.

This country is an endless buffering. We freeze, we replay. 
Alton Sterling was pinned down and shot in Baton Rouge.
“Are you sure you want to see this?” Facebook Live asks us.
We watch to understand, alone with every video we see.

Alton Sterling was pinned down and shot in Baton Rouge.
Philando Castile was shot pointblank in his driver’s seat.
We know what to expect, alone with every video we see.
What pauses when we watch? We don’t even look anymore.

Philando Castile was shot pointblank in his driver’s seat.
“Stay with me," Diamond begged Philando and the world.
What pauses when we watch? We don’t even look anymore.
What we’ll remember is the black screen, the moments after.


I wrote this pantoum this summer, under the guidance of Kamilah Aisha Moon at the Poets House (NYC). Our workshop focused on “elegy and political protest.” Our frank discussions and writing assignments pushed me to respond to “the news” — including issues I didn’t think I was “allowed" to write about.

I’m a white, genderqueer poet and journalist who’s committed to this journey — over and over again — of attempting to understand my privilege. I was born and raised in the bosom of middle America. My father — a former woodshop teacher who worked as a cop before moving to Des Moines, Iowa to raise our family — is a man who loves corn dogs, Harleys, and “Home Improvement”: the show, and the work. My brother’s a mechanic (like many of my cousins), and my mother’s a school nurse. As a kid who read Dickens in the basement and obsessively practiced the piano, I didn’t fit in at school, or at home.

At 15, I fell hard for slam poetry. My coffee shop in Des Moines was full of (mostly white) artsy teens like me — but then, I saw a posting for a Youth Speaks spoken word competition in Minneapolis. My father and I took the truck and made the trip every other weekend. I remember taking the stage alongside poets weaving stories that humbled me, that made me feel quiet. They were storytellers like I’d never seen, with a frenetic rhythm I’d never heard. This was poetry that had stakes. The semi-finals stage held 30 poets: as my decade-old journal says, “28 black poets, 1 Asian poet, and … me.”   

From the very beginning, my relationship with poetry was filtered through race: its performance, and what its differences can do. I made the team, the “funny white chick from Iowa,” with quirky, absurdly dramatic poems: the perils of being a checkout clerk, the odd beauty of calculus class. The national competition that year was in San Francisco — I remember literally hiding in our hotel room closet. I knew I was different, but I didn’t want to be that type of different.

Gradually, I began writing from the place that holds secrets. My poetry changed. I learned how to put pain there, authentically. As a stage and page poet, I think that how we talk about difference matters. I remember when identity was all I could feel. And I chose Princeton because my mentor showed how it’s possible to transform even the most traditional institutions. 

McKenzie Chinn



not even the moon outside
got a better glow up
than so much brown skin
under this roof
under party lights
beats bending bodies
such abandon
spine undulation and hips dip hands up
air waving body rock and
great capacity of all our lungs combined and
filled to keep up with speakerboxxx
poppin the illest mc’s fastest flow,
and this is how we keep on breathing,
this is how we defy:
meet a history of held down
with the sheer will of our come up,
sheer force of our get down, and
with laughter so raucous to rock us, these lit bodies.
you switch off all the body cams you want,
we see, we know, been known, and
every squad car from here to Baltimore
to Baton Rouge and back
can’t stop this body rock
can’t stop this breakbeat
can’t stop this juke, and
can’t stop this joy.


i write to honor that which i feel needs honoring. i write to understand and remember. we are in a moment now - as nation, as a society - that we must seek to better understand and remember. it's a moment of accepted racial violence and, for people of color, perennial racial trauma.

it is also, however, a moment in which i feel my people - black americans and our allies - pushing back, building our own, forwarding a kind of renaissance. much of what i have written this year seeks to honor the spirit of that renaissance, and to counteract the trauma forced upon us by so much institutional racism and intolerance. in my writing, one of the ways i have tried to counteract this oppression is through joy.

THE BLACK JOY PARTY is a real thing that happened. i hosted it after this summer's murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. the goal was to create a space where blackness was 1. celebrated 2. central, and 3. majority. we were replenished in one another.

sometimes we have to convene.

sometimes BLACK JOY is an act of civil disobedience.

DON'T ERASE US Contributors


Aiden Angle is a residential counselor for individuals with intellectual disabilities, as well as the drummer of the band Moonspeaker. He earned a B.A. of Psychology from Carlow University. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Misfit MagazinePittsburgh PoetryReview, and Pittsburgh City Paper Chapter and Verse. His chapbook Instructions from a Vocal Microphone is currently being sent out for publication. 

Jeanette Beebe is a poet and journalist. Her poems are forthcoming in Crab Creek ReviewDelaware Poetry ReviewNat Brut, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal. Her undergraduate thesis at Princeton, An Instrument for Blinking (Poems), was advised by Tracy K. Smith. She reports for WHYY-FM (NPR, Philadelphia) and the Princeton Alumni Weekly, and is a master’s student in the Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program (SHERP) at at NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. Find Jeanette on the web at

McKenzie Chinn lives in Chicago and has performed her poetry as part of the city’s long-running, curated show-case Salonathon and in The Inconvenience’s The Fly Honey Show. Her work has appeared in Voicemail Poems. She also wrote, produced, and appears in the independent feature film Olympia, currently in post-production.

Wendy DeGroat's poetry has appeared in U.S. and U.K. publications, including Beltway Poetry Quarterly, About PlaceMslexiaTRIVIAVoices of FeminismForage, and The Brillantina Project. She’s a librarian who teaches writing workshops, curates, and serves as a facilitator for Living the Richmond Pledge, a workshop that empowers participants to take leadership in ending racism in their communities and in our culture. Her chapbook Beautiful Machinery is forthcoming from Headmistress Press in 2017.

Justin Holliday  is a lecturer and poet. His poetry has appeared in SanitariumGlitterwolfQueen Mob's TeahousePhantom Kangaroo, and elsewhere. 

Ansley Jones is a full-time multidisciplinary artist, Official U.S. Cultural Ambassador, hip hop feminist and women’s rights activist. She earned her BFA in Visual and Performing Arts at Savannah State University in 2008 and her MA in American Dance Studies in 2011 at Florida State University 2011. Jones was recently awarded a performing arts fellowship by The American Institute of Indian Studies for her project entitled “The Jukeboxx Movement – From Surviving to Thriving,” creating safe spaces for survivors of gender-based violence and oppression through the medium of hip hop culture and artistic expression. 

Tanaka Mhishi is a poet, playwright and performer. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Words DanceBlack Heart Magazine and the Rialto among other publications, and on stage at various venues in London and the southeast of England. Much of his work wrestles with trauma; most of the time it wins. For more details visit

Denise Miller is a professor, poet and mixed media artist whose publications include poems in Dunes ReviewAfrican American Reviewand Blackberry: A Magazine. She’s the 2015 Willow Books Emerging Poet, an AROHO Waves Discussion Fellowship awardee, a finalist for the Barbara Deming Money for Women Fund, and a Hedgebrook Fellow. Her newest book, Core, released from Willow Books in November 2015 has been nominated for a 2016 American Book Award and a 2016 Pushcart Prize. Additionally, one of her poems from a collection in progress has also been nominated for the 2016 Pushcart Prize. Miller has also been recently named the Fall 2016 Willow Books Writer In Residence in conjunction with the Carr Center Detroit and the NEH.  More of her work can be found at

Jennifer Perrine is the author of No Confession, No Mass, winner of the 2016 Publishing Triangle Audre Lorde Award and the 2014 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry. Previous books include In the Human Zoo, recipient of the 2010 Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize, and The Body Is No Machine, winner of the 2008 Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award in Poetry. Perrine lives in Portland, Oregon. For more information, visit

Barbara Ruth dances with precarious grace in Silicon Valley, a location in which she often feels like a Luddite and dreams of being a saboteur. But where to throw the shoes to halt the startups that contribute to Bay Area homelessness, including her own? When in doubt (and she is usually doubting something) she writes. Her poetry, photography, fiction and memoirs are widely anthologized and appears in QDA: Queer Disability AnthologyTales Of Our Lives: Fork In the Road; and Yellow Chair Review:Rock the Chair. Her work also appears in the journals: Santa Fe Poetry Review 2016Barking Sycamores Review, and The Deaf Poets Society. She turned 70 in June. Her work is often found on her Facebook page.

Shaun Turner is the author of a chapbook of short fiction, The Lawless River (Red Bird Chapbooks 2016) and editor at Fire Poetry. His writing can be found at Still: The Journal, Stirring: A Literary CollectionConnotation Press, and Permafrost Magazine, among others. He earned his MFA at West Virginia University.