litany in which you are still here


today you think about fear 
	& fear it
but you do not die

today your black ass walks to the corner store
	or makes it out of bed

& where are the bells?
	where is the city on fire for you?
where the chorus of nigga,

you made it?
	& yes, of course you did

today
	your black ass walks to the corner store

& you pour one out with each step
	& your block becomes ancestor too
drunk on the living, which is you

today
	you inspire

today
	your black ass conjure spirit 
like perennials in concrete

& yes
	you did that shit

for to water is to love 
	is to feed 
& you have been over/flowing 

of course you have
	you care & you love
& you love & you love

so much you hold
	both a hot thing & nature’s milk
for to stay is to carry

so much your black back be water & bridge
	so much your black ass be cargo

& like any goddexx
	you are scorned
& become the fire anyway

let it be okay 
	to burn
without signal flare

let it be known
 the first brick thrown 
was meant to strike

yesterday
	your black ache swelled
but today 
            you are here

& what is resilience if not vengeance 
	a heavy stream of salt 
poured down the throat 
	of all that should oppose your daily bloom

those who deserve it 
	who never deserved you

for this you feel 
	lighter

& for this,
	endless libation

for this, 
	gardens wherever you roam

& this block be yours
	& this world, now
yours

yea tho you walk
	yea tho you rise
tho bitch you are here

& this, 
	too,
is a form of resurrection 

today
       you are
& you are not afraid 

& what mistake
	what divine miracle

* note: “black ache” inspired by the work of artist Blache Marie “a hot thing” a line from Toni Morrison’s Beloved

Artist Statement: Amir Khadar

My art creation process begins with reflecting on literature, as my visual art practice grew out of my work as a poet. I get images from the writing I digest, and I turn those images into visual art pieces. In the case of this project, kiki’s poem was my reference, and as their poem evolved, my piece changed to fit our intended narrative. Through working together, we created a symbiotic relationship, mutually inspiring each other to push our creative processes further. Our shared identity as Black trans artists created a connection and a space for unfiltered brainstorming. The star tarot card, water, Oya, and blackness were our central themes because they all brought up questions about the power of change and balance that spoke to the emotional, physical, and mental transitions trans people endure. The star tarot card was a reference for composition and imagery. I wanted to stay away from clichés of depicting black and trans people, mainly emphasis on genitalia, or drawing unnecessary attention to secondary sexual characteristics. I instead focused on the beauty and magic of being Black & trans. After understanding how kiki’s poem was universal to Black trans experience, a choice was made to collage the face, to depict an identity that wasn’t alienating, but allowed the viewer to impose multiple identities onto the figure, a Black trans femme walking on water, juxtaposed with jesus. The rest of the piece flowed around the face.

Artist Statement: kiki nicole

how do we practice a radical acceptance of our Black trans femme rage? as an artist and writer, my work largely feeds off my emotions, piscean and all-consuming. this is my personal practice of witnessing myself and allowing all aspects of a life, all reactions and over/reactions, all love and hurt and pain and contentment to exist without judgement and insist the world do the same. working alongside Amir, we vibed off each other’s work immediately and suddenly the “you” of my poem became the “we” and the “I” and the “they.” behind the scenes, they conjured Oya, I conjured the corner store. we learned and drew inspiration from each other and found the home of our Black Femme with the water. that is, we found our ancestral power in this femme. I became inspired by Amir’s divine drafts and worked my piece to highlight the strength of the visual detail of the artwork.

they are wholly theirs. this femme is Black as hell, unsexed, the beginning and the end—they know that, and are tired of you taking advantage of it. their lineage, a reclamation of breath, a call to action, a call to rest. a Black trans femme, armed and ready. a Black trans femme, alive and well.