Brionne Janae is a Southern California native who came to Boston to get an MFA at Emerson College. While in California, Brionne received her B.A. at U.C. Berkeley where she was a Student Teacher Poet in the Poetry for the People class/movement. As an STP Brionne had the privilege of teaching, learning and writing poetry within a “beloved community” inspired and developed by the late June Jordan. Brionne is currently an instructor at Bunker Hill Community College. Her work as a poet has been published or is forthcoming in Plume, Apogee Journal, Toe Good Poetry, Redivider, Fjords Review, and others. Brionne is the winner of the 2014 Muriel Craft Bailey Contest from the Comstock Review judged by Kwame Dawes, and her first manuscript was selected by Michael Ryan for Emerson Colleges Best Thesis Award.
again the blessed sunday bird went to fire whole.
your momma, all shined in her church things turned over
the shanty, she hunting for that good butcher
knife all day, cursing daddy and begging Christ ha’mercy.
you can hear her from the maize, you kneeling, knees dug
in the earth like this the last time, for sure, this the last
time. you don’t know no more how long
you called yourself quitting but still can’t forget
those little hurts. like how the veins jump
from momma’s throat when she whip eggs whites for easter pudding,
haul an ax over her back, or strike daddy with leaden fists
when he stagger home late slathered in blues.
and so early before the friday night hootch fled
his body you filched daddy’s butcher knife
hid in the tall swaying stalks settling your want in blood
crawling from your skin a freed thing calling on God.
Published by Nashville Review
POSTCARD: BILLY HARRISON SPEAKS
For Laura Nelson 1878-1911
when they had done with her and the torches
wereextinguished with dew, and she lay
like something decaying in mulch,
blood muddied hair, slip bunched about her hips.
when she smelled like the sheets at Rising Sun,
and men scattered like mice before lamplight
and her breath still came like a locomotive before it stalled,
and her arms were tucked beneath her
and her eyes swollen shut. when George had gone for the camera,
took to finding the perfect spot upriver and we were ready
to cast her down to swing beside her son.
I knelt and unbound her arms
to pull them still warm in the sleeve
to lift the brassiere to its proper place
button the blouse, fetch the skirt
from among thick roots where one man pissed
onto the bark. I slid her naked feet
through the opening, lifted the hips
fixed the clasps about her waist.
and we stood on the bridge as the Canadian stretched
calm beneath us, their bodies reflecting with the trees.
Published by Toe Good Poetry
spread the bolls to shuck their down
still sow-thistle flowering and necks to bear the yoke.
still the north star tilting north,
a need to cull the freed to freedom.
the weary still cover their dead with groans
and You slumber
deaf to the faithful calling. Lord hear us
witness our yearning,
bodies grown ancient, thin as that old shanty woman,
knee bones pushing through her skirt.
yet look how she leans forward, still turning
at the sun, still expectant. God
we have been a long time waiting, give up Your bed,
Lord, walk with us.
Published by Kinfolks Quarterly
The Comstock Review’s Muriel Craft Bailey Award, judged by Kwame Dawes
Best Thesis Award for the WLP Department of Emerson College, judged by Michael Ryan
Runner-up Beacon Street Poetry Prize, judged by Terrance Hayes.
Runner-up The Margaret Taylor Burroughs Award in Poetry, judged by Camille Dungy
2nd place Emerson College Writing Literature and Publishing Department Awards