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monique ezeh Sep 2021
creation like an all-consuming fire
splintering sense of self until a chest fills with bone shards

aspirating ***** / spitting up blood
if only for the sake of the

tradition

sounds like suffering / smells like delusion
feels like an unexpected weight

and yet it is better than the silence
the silence before / the silence after

                                                          ­                                             is this love?
                                                           ­                                            is this love?
                                                           ­                                            is this love?

                                                          ­             is this it?
                                                             ­          is this it?
                                                             ­          is this it?
monique ezeh Aug 2021
spilled butane from a refilled lighter
heat lightning in the humid air
cigarette butts in a ***** cupholder

— not sure if this is still your number. part of me hopes it isn’t.

hand-me-down jeans that don’t fit anymore
bleach fume-induced headaches
burnt plastic setting off the fire alarm

— i’m leaving soon. i won’t promise i’ll be back.

overgrown grass from 8 days of rain
singed skin over a candle’s flame
rotting meat at the bottom a trash can

— death doesn’t discriminate. i know that now.

monique ezeh Jul 2021
You used to say my eyes were beautiful right before
splitting me open, groin to gullet.

(Do you still think I’m pretty, baby? Don’t you wanna tell me how
sober I look? Don’t you miss my mouth?)


Eyes wide shut, I watched April disappear in a
blur of bite-sized catatonia.

(Tell me how good I feel. Don’t you miss my blood
on your sheets? Pin my arms back, baby, just for old time’s sake.)


The last time I saw you, you avoided my gaze.
I was lucid for that much.

(Oh, I know you can’t help yourself, baby.)

Tell me again how beautiful my eyes are, love.
We both know how much I like it rough.
april showers or whatever they say
monique ezeh Dec 2020
There is a tree behind my neighbor’s house that I can see from my yard.
The leaves are amber from autumn into early winter.
When it’s windy, they fly off in a flurry, the tree’s narrow trunk bowing under Mother Nature’s weight.

Weaker trees around it fall. The tree in question does not.

I watch in awe, every year, as the leaves yellow and brown and eventually fall from the tree’s boughs.
It’s a pity, sure, but I am content that for a few months, I get to watch them grow and evolve.

Today, the leaves’ golden hue peeks at me through a kitchen window.

The branches are leaning over, war-torn by days of storms, reaching toward the earth.
The distance between the leaves and the ground is ever-shrinking, a point approaching zero but never quite reaching it.

In a few months, the tree will be barren. Its fallen leaves will decompose.

They will never meet the new generations of leaves that come each spring.
They will never bear witness to the metamorphosis of their former home, to the growth and change it will undergo in the years to come.
They will never see their stronghold eventually splinter and collapse under the weight of Mother Nature’s force and fury,
becoming one with the earth toward which it was so desperately reaching.

I wonder what it's like to be the one left behind by change.

I’ve always believed it a privilege to be allowed close enough to witness another’s development,
To be along for the journey as they shift from one version of themself to the next.
But this, I realize, is a privilege that I cannot even afford myself.

There are pieces of me that will never see the changes next fall will bring my neighbor’s tree.
There are pieces of my neighbor’s tree that will never see the changes next fall will bring me.
Parts of me will die before other parts are born; it is a fact that simultaneously troubles and comforts me.

Perhaps you, Reader, will never meet the newest versions of me.
But then again, neither will I.
monique ezeh Oct 2020
So this is what pain feels like:
A rotting in the center of your tooth.
You don’t want to touch it (that’s where the real pain starts),
So you leave it.
And a dull ache becomes a sharp one;
Decay on the inside becomes decay on the outside.

And then your tooth is black.

It hurts more than you’ve ever felt
When the dentist takes his drill to your tooth.
It somehow hurts even worse
When he tells you that he can’t salvage it.
        You can’t turn decay into strength, he says.
        You can’t bring death back to life, he says.

Now, there’s an empty space where a tooth once was.
You run your tongue over it, mindlessly, daily—
In a few weeks, the raw flesh becomes toughened, smooth—
It’s like nothing was ever there.
No tooth. No decay. No death.
But you still remember.

You still feel the ache.
monique ezeh Sep 2020
thinking about how cops are beating protestors senseless not even 20 minutes from where i live.
thinking about how they block off the streets and stand unmasked, batons in hand, other hand resting pointedly on their gun.
thinking about how it could be me next— another unspecified black face and black body and black existence snuffed out— a hashtag, a mural.
          (and those are the lucky ones.)
thinking about how a memorial is the best case scenario for a black life.
thinking about the bodies in the street.
thinking about blood splattering the ground, mixing with paint and obscuring the “black lives matter” lettering on the road.
thinking about the chalk art and loud music in a neighborhood soon-to-be-gentrified.
thinking about how we’ve grown used to the stench of rotting flesh outside our doors.
thinking about the taste of blood in my mouth from my nearly-severed tongue i didn’t realize i was biting.
thinking about the tension in my neck and jaw.
thinking about the way my eyes never seem to close.
thinking about the eyes that will never again open.
thinking thinking thinking.
thinking.
monique ezeh Jun 2020
my mother drinks black coffee every day.
i’ve always thought it was strange— why not add a splash of cream to make it a bit easier on the palate? maybe a dash of sugar, too— some sweetness to ease its way down.

my mother's skin is the color of caramel, of coffee diluted with cream and sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon. despite this, she gave birth to three children the color of dark chocolate, of the black coffee she so adores.

unlike black coffee, we are not bitter, though the world expects that of us. we are not ugly, either, though they likely expect that, too. we are, perhaps, unpalatable, in the same way that black coffee is unpalatable to those lacking the right palate.

i always wondered why my mother insisted on tasting the bitterness, relishing in the onyx liquid sliding down her throat.
i always wondered why my skin didn’t resemble hers, smooth and unblemished and light and beautiful.
i always wondered why the dark-skinned girls in the magazines always had to have tiny noses and skin as blemishless as fine china.

i wonder, now, why i am so dependent on the splash of cream and dash of cinnamon in my coffee.
i wonder why i’m so wary of the bitterness, of the darkness.

i took my coffee black today. i savored it sliding down my throat, smooth as velvet and not nearly as bitter as i’d thought.
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