3 Poems by Erin Rae Threlkeld

Editor’s Choice Award



When chains ferried us across the Atlantic

In hell’s belly they swore we were demons & devils


But the auctioneer’s ramblings

Made us vanish like 1,2,3. See you now

See you won’t, where you are where I won’t


We manifested with the Holy Ghost

In Grandma’s bedroom. Cream turban clad prophetess

Weathered cheeks piercing gray eyes


Speaking strange tongues




Across the Tides


The cool polished floor feels foreign,

Like returning to the earth.


My umber-colored toes find their balance

As I squat in the West African dance studio.


It’s the dance of the slaves at Igbo landing

Who face the watery depths of death.

Step by step their chains ring out until

Swallowed by the navy waves.


I stick my right foot out

As though testing the waters

Before extending the whole

Leg in a leaping stride.

The rhythm of the djembe

Helps me catch myself in time

And like a springbok.


I lurch forward again eluding

The arrow. The water will ferry

Me to freedom; to the undying sands.

The drummer strikes the djembe

With his cedar-colored first like

The metal of John Henry’s hammer.


The clanking grows louder as the pairs of

Ebony ankles and wrists saunter in unison.


Sweat pours down my forehead and crawls

Down to the confines of the lapa secured

Around my waist.


Closer and closer I get to the edge

And one, two, three the waves take

Me to until the clanking dies.





They say Black people are skinwalkers

Transforming sackcloth to suits and furs


                                They berate us for clouds of weed

                                Must think we’re dynamite if we hit a flame.


                        They say don’t drink the Kool Aid—

                        That Black Jesus gives, then they hand

                        Out crowns of thorns and crow with crackers


I won’t jump on their cross nor carry it

Because my soul, they can’t bury it.

Erin Rae Threlkeld is an emerging female African American writer. She is a native of Illinois and currently an MFA Fiction student at Columbia College Chicago. Her work focuses on the current effects of the African Diaspora and nuances of the Black experience through fiction, science fiction, and fantasy.

Image Credit: “Growing Up & Out in the South” by Meikel Church
Read by Erin Rae Threlkeld 

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