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Marshell, Kyla

Marshell, Kyla


Kyla Marshell’s poetry and prose have appeared in Blackbird, ESPNw, Gawker, the Guardian, O, the Oprah Magazine, the Poetry Foundation, SPOOK Magazine, Vinyl Poetry, and elsewhere. Her work has earned her an Academy of American Poets College Prize, a Jacob K. Javits fellowship, two residencies to the Vermont Studio Center, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. In 2013, named her one of “7 Young Black Writers You Should Know.” A Spelman College graduate originally from Boston, she grew up in Silver Spring, MD, Morehead, KY, and Portland, ME, and now lives in New York.


I forgot to mention: I’m in love. It can’t work. At least that’s what I hear about these inter-borough romances. We are separated by bridges and rivers, our distant points on the continuum of common sense. He has to “do his thing,” a catchall answer to the questions I pose. Alternatively, he has to “keep it real.” Give it time is written in long-last mascara on my bathroom mirror. My knees are sore from all the heaven-begging. My prayer beads have darkened with my dirt. I am another woman cast into another eternal queue. Call my number, I say to whoever is listening. I wave my little ticket hoping to catch God’s eye.


Originally appeared in Calyx



I perk to the tune of 2 brown men breaking

a sweat, 97° & the antique a/c’s wheezing

on the downtown express. it’s Sal & Mookie redux,

a borough up, a shade down. it’s: My Dude,

how you just gon’ squeeze me out my seat?

it’s: Oh—so I’m squeezing you?

they fold their bodies in: But listen, but listen—

eyes rolling. sighing, heated.


but that’s not what I’m saying, though.

I’ve been that close to strangers,

shared the sweaty air with one I’d love,

then soon forget. when I look up,

it’s you—already at the door, shaking your head:

But that’s not it at all. That’s not what I meant, at all.



Originally appeared in Vinyl Poetry 9



Judging by the highlights & high ponytail

it is 1995 & all your decisions sound good,

all of them—that smile, that denim jacket,

that lanky whoever you are standing next to,

dimly beaming in this grainy 3×5. Remember when

you had to wait for your life to develop? You’d be

on the porch, watching the rain, sharing a cigarette,

thinking how good he looked in ripped jeans. Old,

worn, falling apart: that was a style. Somewhere, some god

was shaking, blowing on the polaroid, trying to advance you

another exposure. For your part, you always dropped

your rolls off at the 1-hour photo, dashing in

with the engine still running. Be back in 40, the teen

behind the counter would say. That was nothing, then.


Originally appeared in No, Dear: Issue 17

Academy of American Poets College Prize, 2008