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Roach, Breauna L.

Roach, Breauna L.

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Breauna L. Roach is a poet and teaching artist from Detroit, MI and a recipient of the Gwendolyn Brooks Writers Association’s Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in Winter Tangerine ReviewVinylCallalooObsidian Journal, and various other publications. She is a proud Alumna of Florida A & M University and has received fellowships from Callaloo and Cave Canem. Breauna earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College and is the former Editor of CaKe: a Journal of Poetry and Art. She is currently teaching creative writing and language arts.

Notes on a Myth of an Invasive Species

“The African bee has the reputation of being more aggressive, and more deadly, than any other bee in the world. But farmers there know that the honey the bees produce is worth a million stings.”- Gwen Thompkins, NPR, 2007

they made their way. traveling north. growing in frequency. expanding populations. a biological change. hybridized in attempt to create a better suited bee for colder climates. they spread to a new territory. encountered people who were not accustomed. more aggressive than European honeybees . negative impact on production. negative impact on industry. mixed mating will taint the pedigree. permanent impact. mistake. their defensive behavior is an evolutionary response to their many biological competitors. the venom is not more toxic. they are likely to pursue the source of disturbance more consistently. African virgin queens are more successful fighters. bee venom is a cocktail designed to inflict pain.one swarm attacked a couple in Texas on their ranch. one of the horses jumped into the pool. the stings . so many. the sky turned dark. five hens died. extermination efforts failed. you can’t escape the fatalities. they are a mixed breed. African and European. not here for honey. tainted. unprovoked. unwelcome. they’ve been in this country since the 17th century. long time. learning still to steer clear of killers.


Letters from Amy

“Strengthen your shaking knees, and move forward, or we will displace you and lead on to victory and to glory.”-Amy Jacques Garvey, 1925

Dear Marcus,
We were almost saviors.
They didn’t care about your selectivity.
I have no desire to take all black people
back to Africa. There are blacks who are no good here
and subsequently no good there. But you were Lot and they—
in need of deliverance.

Dear Marcus,
Remember that time at your office
when you reached around my waist
to fix the typewriter ribbon
and the other Amy walked in?
I kept my back turned,
but I saw your reflection in the window.
The smile and shock and shame on your face
couldn’t convince her. She knew
you’d been calling her my name.

Dear Marcus,
They all said you married me because I was light.
I liked to think I lit your longing
for hierarchy
and honey.
But truth is, I fled to you.
I couldn’t keep sitting
in the parlor of my family’s parade.

I chose you because Mosiah sounds like Messiah
in a certain kind of tongue.
For the way you churned me into butter.
For the mix of brown, battered things.

Dear Marcus,
Back home, we’d have been
a scandal. A clash of class.
The brown-black bastards
of petty social warfare.
That island felt too round.
Few realized we were on
a Ferris wheel.

The Black Star has become a desolate ship.
Here, they have some deep fear of the water

but I remain
unbound. I’ve learned to sail.
I seldom look back
for fear of turning into salt.

Dear Marcus,
when you’re
locked down
or gone home
they still need you.
The call and response
is becoming one-sided so
I write in your voice. I turn the singe
of your absence to a simmer.
I blow cold air on their wounds every time.


For the 15 year old stowaway who survived a flight in the barrel of a jet

They say you should have frozen.
Your body found
on the next routine inspection
stiff bitter bold
broken ribs collapsed into themselves
folded in like arms.

You say
I fell asleep.
You don’t remember
much after the plane’s ascent
but you trusted
it would take you to a better place.

Once they release you to your father,
he tries to explain:
He must have been homesick for Africa.
The beckoning of the far-familiar
is constant
is not quiet.
We want to go back.
The firm.
We can’t go back.
The futile.

Surviving at 35,000 feet
with no supplemental oxygen supply —
I just don’t believe it
says Good Morning America.
But I know
how we turned the body into cargo
how we flew
cloaked in the certainty of conviction
and cut into a dreamin which we arrived—
a package unwrapped
with warmth
or unwelcome.

Gwendolyn Brooks Writers Association Poetry Prize