Poetry Issue #40

The Apologetics of Leaving

By Naomie Jean-Pierre

a leaving 

begins in the 

calluses on my feet 

calcium, hardened on my teeth 

laughter ghosts 

a smile in disguise beneath my nose… 
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Image: “The Executive Meeting” by Julia Justo, mixed media (vintage photograph, thread), 2018, 16×20 in.


Naomie Jean-Pierre

Featured Poet

The Apologetics for Leaving

a leaving
begins in the
calluses on my feet
calcium, hardened on my teeth
laughter ghosts
a smile in disguise beneath my nose
a fish jumping out of a tiny leaking bowl
dancing out of breath on the dry carpet floor
a bitten bit of soul
my shoes with holes
thin like paper
put in a pocket
caught in the rain
unfolded and ripped, then folded again
the cypress tree caught
in a mess of telephone poles and lines
losing all its hair
a slender old man with
a lonely toothed grin
no more soup


The Apologetics for Forgiveness

a sorry
When it’s easy to forgive
You can remember all the scars and court them
Ask them to dance
Bring them inside and warm them by the fire
Knowing they too would not be there
If they had a choice
That they are still lonely
Ruptured skin
Confused about how they got undone
And in letting them be, you
Let the body be
Let them bodies be
I am.
We are yours, too


The Apologetics for
/ black women /
who forget their training
// in the mo/u/rning

you cringe
with a slight grin
when you are seen naked
when he utters words you have long desired
to hear from your lover’s mouth
you have a nice body
and because you are insecure
you are involuntarily pleased with yourself
your first thought is at what
angle was the penetration
of his gaze
on the crack of your behind?
at what point
were you pleasant?
this passes quickly because, as your training has taught you,
you should be ashamed
for wanting to please in the first place
then this is replaced by the shame
that you should feel any shame at all
he is still there
and you are broken with paralysis
when he says he likes you.
and when he comes in to hold you,
all your radical feminism is hanging
by a pull-string
that unravels you
mindless chatter emits from this doll mouth
as you try to recall your feminist poetics
scrambled in your critical race theory
sound bitten by the introverted curve of your back
but mouthing nothing
that says NO
if /and / when / your training should have
kicked in
by now but
instead you scramble/
hurry/ you overrun the programming with your initial training
the training of your peculiar persuasion:
survive this.
hug him back (just) a little
coddle his perversion (pornographia)
but you almost break (when you are in between the bodies)
his and (the one that used to be) yours
when he slips a hairy prickly
mouth across your nape
and you have been trained to have ownership
so you know this is your fault no matter what studies say
still you cannot get away
but you do manage to say
Have a nice day

Your next training eludes you
when you close the door
and you scream out in
laughter (ghosts), the kind that
have nothing to do with
and you yell out hollow
vacant sounds
your mouth cannot actually do its own screaming
that would be too uncouth
(a whiter mouth can do that) and
you realize that this is part of your training, too
the pleasantness stretched to your oblivion
and you run around in circles
in your head
then you walk
then you stand still
over a pot of boiling water
setting fires to the empty rooms in your head
dress, silly, you say.
but it’s hard to dress a body that is evacuating.
what is the procedure for putting out fires
in the body?
then  in  the afternoon it rains
down droplets
and your straightened kinky hair is ruined
and you sit on a bus back to Harlem
four lost hours of
excessively oily skin
and let’s just get there
and when there
you stay in doors for
three days even though
the sun shines in Harlem.
you’ve forgotten how to pray
your training comes down to
but why, Jesus. Lord.
and watching cartoons
and it’s with you in the
the mourning
all’s with you in the mourning




By Naomie Jean-Pierre

Naomie Jean-Pierre is a sojourner of revelation. For her, revelation is intimacy and intimacy is the
life-blood of her work. She is a painter, illustrator, songwriter, and poet from Atlanta, Georgia by way of
Haiti. By day, she tutors high school students in Harlem and by night, she versifies the material of her
daily life. Her work can be read in FICTION magazine, Noble/Gas Qtrly, and Susan/The Journal. She is
currently living in Paris, completing a joint masters at the University of Paris and the City College of New