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Shayla Hawkins

Years: 1996, 1998, 2000


Why do I love to write? Why do I feel I must write? What am I supposed to write? Did I choose writing, or did writing choose me? And what gift can I possibly add to the trove of the world's great literary treasures?


I've been pondering those questions, and many others, since childhood, and still am not entirely sure. But with every poem (and short story and book review and essay) I write, the answers get closer and clearer.


Since that first summer I went to Cave Canem, my vision of what my writing can and should be has become starkly more translucent. And the best definition I can offer about my dreams and demands as a writer are epitomized in my profile picture.


If you look closely at that photo, you'll notice the backdrop of the Caribbean Sea. That water is or possesses everything I wish to become and want my writing to be: Elegant, fluid, timeless, deep, shimmering and kissed with Heaven's light.




“Will the circle be unbroken, by and by, Lord, by and by?”

     ~ Traditional gospel hymn


An unbroken circle

of black bodies broken

in American streets

turned to winding sheets


Michael Brown

the circle’s latest member

a black kid vibrant

with teenage bravado

until he met a cop’s ammunition


Each bullet

a horizontal neutron bomb

bursting his organs

blasting apart his bones


until his ruined body

like that officer’s bullets

became just another shell

that fell to the street


his soul slipping

out of his flesh

like his blood


looking down

at his own mangled corpse

left to lie for four hours

in Missouri’s August heat


wondering how he

so recently filled with life

and flaws and a future

so suddenly became

a ghost at the end

of a white man’s gun

but no one

can hear his questions

and no one

answers them


So Michael Brown

has no choice

but to take his place

in the deadly ring

of murdered

and unavenged black lives

where he sees


Trayvon Martin

and Eric Garner


Emmett Till

and Oscar Grant


Sean Bell


Amadou Diallo


and they swap stories

and wait in dread

for the circle’s next member


whose face

whose life

whose death

whose killer


will be different

and yet

so much

like their own