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African Triptych

Linette Marie Allen


I once thought sex could solve

anything, gloves or no gloves,

rings or no rings. But that night

in Circle—black stars about the

fishy street, taxi lights, hint of jazz

hidden within the meat—my love

raised the equator by a quantum

mile, Adenta-style; your smile, here

with me yet aching for another, now

kneading a ballsy bleeding ice, wanton

the whole night through. It’s crazy.

For a minute, I wanted you.


When I finally figured out

you’d eaten yourself to death

from a love of white sugar, I sighed &

remembered you among the cool plantain

trees, porchside in a plastic sunchair. Your Sam

-sung sung the words: Sam

Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Blackstreet—

other classics. I laughed at the sky

blue; fretted your lack of vision

for a plot of land this big; exhaled &

knew you’d executed nothing well

but my Black American bones in your big. white. house.


On a back road from Ga

to Ashanti, you placed your hand

on my knee as if to absorb every orb

of quake in the unpaved road, each bump

a kick to the stomach, to the teeth. I dreamt

of arriving in one piece, of the tasty town

rice we’d eaten the evening before. You & your

family were very good to me—so good, indeed,

I’ll never forget how we straddled the village grass,

ducking fast a van or two, sweet peck on the cheek

afterwards, never using our left hand. You later said

of the man set afire in a circle—a fabulous Firestone

about his waist, that he was unlike you and me, that

he must have stolen. something.


Linette Marie Allen, winner of the 2021 Kay Murphy Prize for Poetry, holds an MFA degree in Creative Writing and Publishing Arts from the University of Baltimore. A Turner Fellow, she has published work in Pleiades, Gulf Coast, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. When not writing, she is sketching in charcoal: mushrooms, mice under moonlight, the mountains. Find her on Twitter @thepagereader.



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