The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2023

All Issues
MAY 2023 Issue


that’s what friends are for

the prettier the heftier the brick
in memoriam thank them all
the brick   .   the fist   .   the fingernails   .
the foot   .   thank them for this foundation   .
distaste for an eye color no one asked for
how many times the careful aim of bottles & kick balls
wore out your vision   .   gratitude for their heavy brutality   .          
the overhead of jovial slander          .   how the overheard   .   minor string of
compliments gifts your gums that copper tang           .   pretty  equates to malice
careful now   .         don’t let them hear you say thank you   .        

the prettier the stingier they share now & laters or lemon heads
accept the clinch   .   the slow loose long-nailed apex slither
who can be trusted
in tribute horde their smiles   .   their gropes
the rooftops & basements   .   thank them for your celibacy   .
to make sense or make it go far away
 who truly there for you?
count on a single hand the times embrace
a kind snuggle on sand under the moon  .  countless rescinding of
for fear of assault   .   pretty  is push over
cute is a bruise between two wholesome holy alleys   .   an arcade
& candy store   .          
leave the clotted blood on the hands of mean girls
        quiet now   .                

the commodores

nestle nuba   ::   she nigglet   ::   she native nurturer   ::   she nightshift noose

she imprinted impromptu

gout gonna get granny golly ginger snaps peach schnapps pepsi & vodka

on the rocks in a tall glass   ::   hauntings halt holier SROs   ::   

she heard happier herds hiccup   ::   handled hocks she heavy hammed

on pineapple rings   ::   she pressed to brown paper scribbled numbers

for Mr. Sugar Daddy   ::   pray she’d be potential contestant

on the $ 20,000 Pyramid

tied truths on pinky   ::   the merry monk   ::   weepy wee wee   ::   sex ed.   ::   

push of a button   ::   Chuck Berry’s ding-a-ling sing-a-long

ain’t she something   ::   or thumb   ::   weepy pisses real straight   ::   

to tremble terrible traits tuned to wars

over an unpolished silver fork   ::   turnt ‘tis to taste

tinctures transfer Miss Liz’s scent of mothballs her turtleneck   ::   

preschool taunts thrift   ::   

till Bible school test scores rewarded Baptist peppermints

rock rebels repealed   ::   she repelled reek

she rustled feathers   ::   ridged fedoras vermelho   ::   

soggy raisin bran   ::   an ancestor an auntie an argumentative   ::   

i am all their apparitions   ::   i am all absolute

dozing under the danger of head scarves & matted wigs   ::   rum

insular impulsive   ::   the intoxicant is indigenous   ::   is outcast   ::   

   ::   is ward   ::   run   ::   

nuclear naivety nestled near nativity’s nectar   ::   

naturally all black outs are nightmares   ::   

combo 50

all the hypertension      all the gout

that kidneys’       done      lost      interest

mommy told me   to            keep mine

the donor list      like playing            the numbers

“one day I’ll hit it straight.”

did she expect      me  again    to do the right thing? hurry & hurl

again & again    onto stretcher      volunteer    be champion

be there    being is tiresome    being to be here

ain’t she watch the Brady’s? middle child done grown selfish

ain’t got       but one        unscarred kidney             my damn self

ain’t my fault         for arterial plaque

never           blew    SSI      on       the horse races

did not consume  weeks-old     fish grease

from rusty condensed carnation cans stored & storied

like this ain’t young or restless or some stained number slip that match

gender reveal confetti trashed north of the Meer

still these eyes  brimmed in cataract chalk    what remains

is the bright snuff steady on slippery sites

to consider what her heart admits to

daughter, don’t look at me the way second-year residents read charts

can’t be just another lost cause     let me hit it straight today    no combo

matzo ball soup

my mother          memories           ain’t     mild  ,  might move
most mixed  ,     most managed  ,    most motor

abnormal effect   the syndrome  &  another absence alternates from nulled

to negligent  .

assessment:  an-he-do-ni-a
a nonverbal nod   of nos    nahs   nopes

issues    gots         issues     is        u           es       is  .  sue
mountains is            i           ssues i  got ish      es asuntos

safer stench  .  she should shake higher spectrums  ,
soften enough    so soldiers southern   &  syrup shoulders
suck it up  .  should stand stern    should  nothing     signal a spiral
screw cells save schemes so sincere she swaddling
sooner can stop something soothing stop spinal scans stop sobbin’
save severity for y’all sensational simpletons

conditions can cause critical collisions    don’t get it all clouded   ,   chile
a crocodile took pity once

hush  .
extremes of me  .  example  .  end it  .

woman  .  weeks w/ weight whole  .  kept while wines winter w/ worry

including impulse

thunderbird  ,  trouble & tested  .  things these tasks taste of  .
from trouble water  throughout
trying  ,  you’re coded tangerine Cisco  .
trite  .  true  .

zaftig  .


at seventy-three mother has her first mani-pedi at a nail salon on Broadway. she is more concerned about her Victory Wheel scooter outside the salon than selecting a nail color. her scooter is hot rod. as is the lipstick she scoops out  w/  a bobby pin.  irritated, mother demands that daughter sit outside w/ the scooter. daughter can’t monitor or buddy. the gratification of a good deed: tending to mother’s toes & fingers is a joke. she pokes her face inside. there’s tension in her mother’s brow. this was to be a nice surprise for mommy’s birthday. pampering. in a huff, mother chooses – or was it the daughter – a golden bronze to compliment her complexion.  next year it will match the gold Dutch Wax wrapping the mother’s locks in a white coffin w/ gold handles. before that, returning to the mother’s home near Central Park, the eyes twinkle w/ a smile. mother shows off her manicured fingers. the fingers strut in the air as she announces how daughter took her to get nails done.  nothing about the fear of someone riding off on her scooter.  mother giggles.  a little girl for the first time in a nail salon w/ her mother.  what she never had.  what she never offered.  what other reveries plagiarized.

booker t washington jhs 54

misty gorilla mountain mead covers .
us tweens undecided ,
notes in cafeterias .
lips greasy w/ jemima syrup or Vaseline

gloss cost whispers so she say blip   .   peered cackles near boiler room
ask for bathroom passes   .   hallway monitors mark the absence
tableau vivant   .   sizzling cracklin’ lobe etched from scorch
easy bunnies eastered on three-ringed trapper keepers .
pandas   .   rain forest or bamboo rulers .
loose pleather leaf belts knead this needy
nearing assault near lead paint   .   & Satana the custodian always broke it up

before damsels swallowed

petrona will you play w/ me?

which wonders the origin of his wheels

how they withstand the whiff of golden lochs that stand on street corners
or that’s the point. withdrawal between cars. near navy mailboxes.
whiplash we girls grow accustomed to interrupts even our crossing guards

guards are down. there, a lone old flaccid familiar in his Caprice

chirpin’ like a starling. say hi to your sister for me.

corner of 111th.     checker sets mined from the trunk
assembled on carboard n milk crate. near curb. orina de oro.
or maybe it was a Mazda 323. or 626 Coupé. itching idle rocking
he’d invite us (no, me) for a ride. inspection of cut-off jeans insisted.
won’t it distract your steering?

“I’ll give you a dollar.” the ride had a long nose. was grey blues.
smelled like plastic. smelled moldy. grown-ass men piss so public.

loosie limp lids like larva like liniment lethargy. see the girl
as slow, lonely, or needy, on the same path as momma.

delayed. slowed. he drinks drowns his deficits in wonderful secrecy.
just a ride. that’s all. drawing disorder dangling decades of dillydally.

hush. silly honk sit down. hurry. relax in course. lucky she ejects.

the invasive has haggled his hands near a hand-sewn hem.

he calls me Petrona.

had someone ever taught me to hinder & howl when stalked?

always Petrona.    never remembers my name.

affixed to his checkers. the underhand passing of dollars. every year.
the stench of a yellow drip on his slack

hi Petrona. say hi to your sister for me.


LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs

A writer and sound artist, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs is the author of Village (Coffee House Press 2023) and TwERK (Belladonna, 2013). Diggs has presented and performed at California Institute of the Arts, El Museo del Barrio, The Museum of Modern Art, and Walker Art Center and at festivals including: Explore the North Festival, Leeuwarden, Netherlands; Hekayeh Festival, Abu Dhabi; International Poetry Festival of Copenhagen; Ocean Space, Venice; International Poetry Festival of Romania; Question of Will, Slovakia; Poesiefestival, Berlin; and the 2015 Venice Biennale.  As an independent curator, artistic director, and producer, Diggs has presented events for BAMCafé, Black Rock Coalition, El Museo del Barrio, La Casita, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, and the David Rubenstein Atrium.  Diggs has received a 2020 C.D. Wright Award for Poetry from the Foundation of Contemporary Art, a 2016 Whiting Award and a 2015 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, as well as grants and fellowships from the Howard Foundation, Cave Canem, Creative Capital, New York Foundation for the Arts, and the U.S.-Japan Friendship Commission, among others. She teaches at Brooklyn and Barnard College. 


The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2023

All Issues