NATALIE GRAHAM Leaping Fire in Princeville Park

Quinisha skinned a black matchbox to spark
the boil for Cajun crabs.

Hammers waited to crack the smoking shells,
and picks glittered for the slippery meat.

Cee-Cee Plankfoot’s South Carolina Shag
was a salty toe-drag. She slid to the beat.

With her polished face flashing in the fire
and shadows crawling through the cobwebs of fog,

these blues could be epic.
Call her, Ma. Let her sing,

No east, no west, no sleep, no rest
just God in the sky and my soul in my chest.

Ghosts, looking like fireflies, flicked their
cigarette butts asking, Why we here?



A native of Gainesville, Florida, Natalie J. Graham earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing at the University of Florida and Ph.D. in American Studies at Michigan State University. Her poems have appeared in Callaloo, New England Review, Valley Voices: A Literary Review, and Southern Humanities Review; and her articles have appeared in The Journal of Popular Culture and Transition. She is a Cave Canem fellow and associate professor of African American Studies at California State University, Fullerton. Begin with a Failed Body, her first full-length collection of poems, won the 2016 Cave Canem Poetry Prize.