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Nabila Lovelace

After the Funeral

I prayed most nights for God to send my Grandfather back.
Prayer; an appeal for an intermediary service ‘tween

                                          my gone-people & me, a parting of 
                                          water. Sent petitions signed by myself 1000 times. Twice,

I remember knowing him again, 
though he Dead. But what is Dead

                                          but to be without your worn juice? 
                                          blood. I've been without before,

have you? Been withhhhhh-
out that which keeps you? Alive,

                                          I know betrayal because my Grandma said, 
                                          "He stopped visiting me in my dreams."

Her weeks had grown thin of him.
I burned my signatures, hoping he'd return

                                          to her, again. I'm sorry. I'm 
                                          a liar. I begged God for another visit, even

after my heart plopped 
out my mouth.

                                          Prayer: bloodless, toothless. Despair,
                                          drains the muscles.

I wanted a father so bad any man would do. 
This does not apply to my grandfather. Though,

                                          lineage is a container, Grandpa being 
                                          fatherfather. Prayer,

prayed & the still stayed still. Grandma 
not gone, but I worry about her dreams.

                                          She doesn't want to be here & without.
                                          Could you stand sleeping with

one hand on the faint imprint of loss?
I reach far away from myself

                                          to the water. The ship. The way away
                                          from the first from. I ask God

for the first of the Lovelace line,
& call him away from another woman.


"I Turned Myself Into Myself & Was Jesus"
Ego Trippin, Nikki Giovanni

My bones converge to altar / bloated 
in bad breathing habits / Bus

a table w/ me, Commandment 1 / Know 
the way I shake wool / Get my hair braided

& spend 4 hours in the hands 
of another black woman / wrapping each hair round

the other / cause my crown immaculate / while 
a man prayed to me / quivering in need

of my looking / divine on a cross / My head 
thornfull / Till

a wolf handed 
me his whole fur / I handed him

off my head / my hair / I think 
that's what Daddy meant / by reciprocity

an inconvenience of need / that leads me 
back to me / I don't make the rules I am / Once

the deed / in need of repentance / was done
My funeral was

casket open / Buried
mouth open / gold fronts gaping

as to not mistake / the gates of heaven 
the only way in / through me

For Songs & Contests

I say Anwar & boys
relax their flexed fists. Anwar

taught me to throw hands before 
I traced my name in clay.

Flat hand across the face is 
power. Throw a punch if a nigga

gets dirty. & she did. Kicked my cousin
in the tender tendon, sent a shriek

out his mouth slicing
telephone wires.


the only girl with hands,
knew my job. One jab

would not do-I learned
to hit in sequence. 1,2,3

& the blood kept leaving. 
The watchers report on the brawl:

Clearly a God 
was driving her.

The Small Door of Your Death (Autumn House Press, 2018), selected by Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum, Founder & Editor

PROMPT: What is a prayer? According to George Herbert it is "the soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage," and that is certainly true of Sheryl St. Germain's "Prayer for a Son." In this heart-breaking poem, she says a prayer for a dead son, hoping that his soul can "now be with the creek," and that the "small fish" living there will "nibble [his] ashes." In other words, a prayer is our most secret, vulnerable longing put into words.

Send your heart on a pilgrimage. Write the prayer you're afraid to write. 

BIO: Nabila Lovelace is a born and raised Queens native, as well as a first generation American. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Narrative Northeast, Washington Square Review, Day One, ESPNW, Vinyl. She is co-founder of The Conversation Literary Festival. In her debut collection, Sons of Achilles, Nabila Lovelace attempts to examine the liminal space between violence and intimacy. All inquiries or bookings should be sent to booknabila@gmail.com. NabilaLovelace.com