BrandonLee Cruz

Calling In Black: Ode to Self-Care

outside, the death parade will march
through our sternum. here,
Trayvon, Tamir, their names fit inside my heart
like a heart: one that collapses under a
+++++++++++thousand white feet.
us black folk: a heart:
always being beaten to death,
i turn off my phone to avoid the videos
and the white mother who comments how
safe ++++++how safe ++++++she feels now
that another thug was taken off the streets.

a heart: us black folk:
always giving some white person life.


After Dallas

a man speaks as if he’s
skinning an insect with his tongue. [1]

an officer stops me
it is a traffic stop. [2]

It is now Dallas,
and five cops open
like a season: the one that
buries insects under its body. [3]

Back to the traffic stop.
I give him my license. [4]

The cop runs
my identification,
& finally leaves. [5]

[1] Alton Sterling / Philando Castile: / I say their names until they become teeth in my mouth.

[2] I am so close death / that I almost chop off its hands. / Instead, I let it give me a fist full of insects / only their legs / my mouth opens like a casket.

[3] How do I catch a bullet with my own teeth when my mouth is full of insects?

[4] The way crickets give themselves to sound / with their legs / the ones that rub inside the night of our throats.

[5] How do we tell each other that we are scared while peeling back each other’s skin?


BrandonLee Cruz is a Queer Afro-Latinx Muslim poet from Hartford, Connecticut. He is currently an undergraduate English Major at Kenyon College. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, Hika, Puerto Del Sol, and Blue Minaret. Find him at