Blood Lines


[My father is]

Malcolm Little, Detroit Red

Brother X, and

El Hajj Malik el Shabazz.

Only he isn’t. He is Halvor James

Son of Hugh and Asta James.

He sings songs that Malcolm does not know

But would approve of.


I told my father I was going to marry Malcolm X and

He didn’t smile.

They killed him, remember,

Right in front of his pretty brown daughters.

This makes my father want to cry.

He shakes with anger, thinking of the bloody holes they blew into his fine

Before his most important people.


My Malcolm will die a violent death as well. And I

Will live my life in fear that today will be the day it all ends.

And he will not tell me otherwise.

He will not promise to live forever.

But he will hold onto me as if I can ground him to the earth

And hold him back from heaven

One more day.


My father will hate him. He has tried so hard not to be


So his daughters will not grow up to inject

And smoke themselves

Into nothingness

To forget the memory of his death.

All this effort will be in vain.

I have inherited my father’s fire. This burning spirit that

Flies into fits of rage, setting even the air around us

Into flame.

[Ana Asif]

Once, my father knocked a man out cold

Then shook him awake to hit him again.

We deserve to take out our anger, we deserve

To finish our fights on our terms.


I hated the world when I was 8.

It was my father’s birthday. We were on the highway to Arkansas

But this man cut us off on the highway. And when

My father honked the horn, he yelled a word that even

Set my eight year old blood



My father’s anger is quiet and transformative

It builds on top of slowly boiling blood

His eyes can’t unfocus. It silences everyone around,

Even us few in the van,

Still cubs, waiting for the all clear signal


This man who dared to hurt him on his birthday

Pulled off the highway, challenging.

Every one of us in that car wanted that man to die. But when

My father’s long legs stepped out of the car,

That undead man sped away.

But not before, he called my father

A “nigger” again.

[Let the Chickens come home]

I followed him at the party, trying to hold his rough hands.

I had all the words he didn’t. I looked up at him,

He scarcely looked back down at me. All the love I had

For him could not quiet his anger. It burned


[Burn Baby]

Any of us, all of us,

Would have killed that man. I wanted to rewind time

Find lioness claws and jaws to rip

Apart this empty feeling he had infected us with so easily. We were

Not disciples of MLK. We were Huey’s cats, Selassie’s soldiers

Garvey’s guard.


I hated the whole world when I was 8. I still

Dream of Lioness paws with which I could rip off the heads of

Everyone who hurt our family

And wear their blood.

Perhaps they are right about us.

Maybe we are more animal than man.

[Blood Lines]

My father speaks breath into ancestors,

Asta, who I knew only for so long,

His mother, and his very most favorite person

Whose eyes I inherited from him, from her, from blood.

Consuela, before her, whose hands I have, that he does not,

Who worked for her family, her descendants

If I needed, Consuela would rise out of the muddy ground

To save the great greats she never met


Asta who fought everyone who tried to stop her or slow her down,

My father uses her to explain what I can be,

That I can be Malcolm too,

The guardian of the children, protector ,

And Deadly


[Bob Marley]

I am the descendant of Three Queens. We set

The sugar cane crops aflame.

I cry for the death of Nat Turner and am infuriated

At his portrayal as a heretic.

We are revolutionaries too.


Even as I seek a man who can command a room of strangers

As my partner, my father hates the idea.

He wants me to have MLK, Cornel West, John Hope Franklin

I love them, I tell him gently

But I am bound to Malcolm. I am

The claws and jaws that feed him,

I hold his fears for him.


I am carrying within me a fire that has been passed down

And never extinguished

A fire that leveled cane crops,

That burns away enemies,

That darkens flesh to brown

I am Malcolm

I am Halvor

I am Asta and Consuela

And I carry their fire in my eyes,

My hands,

My heart.


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