Back to Issue Forty-One

Vocal Pedagogy


Love is a repetition of strokes demanding you wail on pitch during choir rehearsal
& discipline is a lozenge swallowed one January evening until you hear the revving
of your mother’s 2001 Ford Taurus after finding the most gay-ass thing you could
do after school. I, a pale fifteen something—pecan tan, Ma says—, retire after seeing
how many cough drops it takes to cry out God! for three hours, throat red all over.
I am teaching myself to scream properly, a maladjustment to the following guidelines:
1.) Pain is a remedy; pain is a danger. 2.) Herbal before black, all herb before black.
3.) Black will keep you up all night, wreak havoc on the nerves. 3.) Or the back. 3.)
Or the bladder. 4.) Arrive early to prepare it yourself. 5.) Naturally… 5.) Wet 5.) or not
at all. 6.) Is pain 6.) Natural? 7.) If it’s painful, surely, it must be working… 7.) Right?
8.) You expecting something? 8.) To happen without work? 9.) No one cares if it hurts
if you’re not doing it right. 10.) No one’s going to 10.) Let me 10.) Teach you how to 10.)
Do it. 10.) Right? 11.) Right. 12.) Again. 12.) Again. 12.) Again. 13.) Again. 13.) Again.
13.) Again. 13.) From the top. 13.) Note, please. 13.) You. 13.) Heard it? 13.) Did you?
13.) …Are you? 13.) Even fucking? 13.) Listening? 14.) Take it. 14.) From the top. 14.) Again.
14.) From the top. 14.) Louder. 14.) Note. 14.) …Aren’t you? 14.) …Are you? 14.) Aren’t you?
14.) Well, I… 14.) Haven’t… 14.) ...You? 14.) Had enough? 14.) My mother worries. 14.)
Well, Ma, it is high school. I guess all the kids are doing it… 14.) all wrong, muscling
their way to half-baked climaxes & running out of breath. 15.) Perhaps, I wasn’t wrong
in thinking this gospel could be gentler.



Hymn: Chainsweat


From the pantheon of hot niggas online tonight, out pops
its most glorious cicada. Who else, Reader, but Summer,
rattling louder than a muhfugga under the fuss of high air,
crushed velvet & Black Ice air fresheners, sweeping the block
in only the loudest Deuce n’ a Quarter he could snatch?
I can smell him from here. This swamp, a ripe heat,
one crushed bud of lavender under my tongue,
one degree over peppermint & I am trying to impress.
I haven’t wanted to be someone else’s as much as I do now.
I didn’t say belong: I’m talking about romance. Smell it
from here: the tease of his call thick with frictional liquid,
the clap of twerk & shout the same & gahtdamn, my ass
feels lovely. Feeling lovely, how much can a chorus jiggle,
refrain against itself before the slap starts to purple, hollow
into language rusting itself because, as you know, dear reader,
it was hot when you got here & it didn’t stop dripping?
It was chainsweating: A screaming sling, its wet-cry,
of metal & metal. This heavy bangled spell work, sweet
as the slump of my wrist. You already know how it hangs.
2am reminds you you can see yourself glisten. Smell us
from here: Generations ready to be wrung out. The swelter.
The swagger. Extraordinary bass—it’s stank. & I am alive.
In the air, a radio girl, swinging her glory sure as the Moon
sits low, calls herself a stallion. & who am I to think
I am any less powerful?



The Sugar


I find the sweat of sugar awfully saddening,
how the tongue bursts into tears at the sight
of candied mandarins swimming in light syrup;

they say we shouldn’t eat things out of cans anymore.
But, I’m spooning out my joy tonight.

I should be more explicit when talking about my body;
I have a habit of sugarcoating indulgences
when I can’t apologize for what I enjoy
—the easy-peel boys at my neck & waist,
my penchant for rushing my healing.

My mother says this is how men can become necrotic,
canning our vices ‘til the hurt catches up to us.
Or did she say loose?

I don’t know if she means men or my father these days.
We all tend to end in disappointment or bad teeth,
nonetheless, hard grinning.


Willie Lee Kinard III (he/they) is a poet, designer & musician forged in Newberry, South Carolina & the author of Orders of Service (Alice James Books, 2023)winner of the 2022 Alice James Award. With work appearing or forthcoming in FoglifterThe RumpusBoston Review, & elsewhere, he is the winner of the POETRY‘s 2021 J. Howard & Barbara M. J. Wood Prize & has received fellowships & support from The Watering Hole & The Pittsburgh Foundation. Go see ‘bout them at

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