Image: Titus Kaphar

I Barely Know Anything about My Grandmother

Outside the ravenous qualities of dust

It is Missouri in the summer of 2014

a boy’s name tries to outrun the smoke

Fails. Becomes it.


Grandma is inside,

all her walls greying at the corners

across town my father sifts through dust

finds his own name.


Grandma’s name is a stubborn seed

A stone buried

Nothing grows around it

But the dust.


Grandma doesn’t remember my face

Or the last boy’s name

But she’s certain her son is a thief

And alive.


That he is Black and alive means little.

The dust swallowed her pride in this

when grandpa was outweighed by smoke

Now he’s just a thief.


My father watches his city grey at the edges

Dreams a garden of granite names

Grandma survives the summer

A boy’s name spreads like a fever.


My mother sits by the window
the muted radiance of a sleeping city
pulsing in the distance
she unsheaths a rosary
teaches each stone my name
a string of small moons
or teeth

Reminisces of small fables
visible fingertips
yes sir no sir
please officer

Placing a tooth under the pillow
waiting till morning
to find the worth of my bones


Julian Randall

Julian Randall is a Living Queer Black poet from Chicago. He is a 2016 Callaloo fellow, Lois Morrell Poetry Prize winner and the 2015 National College Slam (CUPSI) Best Poet. He is also a cofounder of the Afrolatinx poetry collective Piel Cafe. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Offing, Winter Tangerine Review, Vinyl, Puerto del Sol and African Voices. He is a candidate for his MFA in Poetry at Ole Miss.

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