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2021 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry


As a child of refusal
I wanted a say in my own pleasure.

In my youth
where the dark gave way to flesh

I decided to draw a line against
just how much woman I’d be

my body spread
like any field
on fire, a wilding

or what could burn
an entire house down

beginning in that bedroom
the pallet on the floor
my mother’s begging

from the next room—
if I were made to face a fist

I was determined
to take it
without flinching

from the stupid boy
who was stupid solely

because he never grew
suspicious of why I allowed
his hands

afterall, why my mouth
rose to meet his
why I held it there

my small searching hand
reaching for the back of his neck

for a knowing of his soft skin
my curiosity of bruise

how far is the line between
instinct and routine?



Self-Portrait as Cherub—Face of the Ox

2021 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry


In the dense forest of language
lay the parts of my selves
driven into the wilds by man—
my heavy hooves carrying my body
like a betrayal against the night’s
unsolicited touch, where I was a child
once, a daughter of the dust
then memory; its deep onset of indigo.


I chant her absence in all four of my
tongues; gifts from the Benevolent One
though, I am a mutiny of being—bull-headed
by nature, my great face harvested of horns
an outline of my condensed breath
when I stare into the night
the night stares back—

It is lonely to be a plow
in the earth; to be a thing
of the soil/ed—who I was once
still lingers in lieu of the likes of man.
I’m what becomes of the unprotected
my name, the direct translation of a plea

let me in

I often wonder
what my body will be
returned to God

abomination or rapture?
For now I know myself as
the sweet unknown,
both peace and the fury.




2021 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry


For Da Brat

Was the unbridled soundtrack of my sex
my boxed-out edges baptized in the funk

of Black ‘N’ Milds, cheap Seagrams gin,
flash games of Backgammon, and Hennessy

I was raised from the passenger seat
of my Uncle D’s fish-tailed Chevy

rattling Too $hort’s pimp opus
from its sparkling, electric

blue body, Biiiiiitchhh
rang from his speakers and spilled

out into the rain and piss slicken streets
of downtown San Francisco

on Howard & 4th where I’d flex
my one lone pant leg rolled up and capped

at the knee—mimicking Da Brat
in the early 90s

her and all her niggas
behind her—

she was beautiful
in the way that men are beautiful

gender; its fragile schemas
the many ways the world

would go on to accuse me
of being beautiful the way a man is beautiful


meant living with an innate sensitivity
to one’s own ruin

Which is why I must have let her do it—
take a lit match and safety pin

commence to carve each letter turned scarlet
once etched and burned into my skin—

my and my father’s
shared initials branded

into my right hand
branched by the kinship of wound—

Why must I feel like that?
Is this the dog in me?

It’s ole faithful need
it’s same amplified ache to chase

that howling thing inside me
crying my body’s own hallowed funk.

Note: “Wayward” previously appeared in Blood Orange Review. We are grateful to reprint this poem as part of Jari Bradley’s Djanikian Scholars portfolio.

Jari Bradley (they/them) is a Black genderqueer poet and scholar from San Francisco, California. They have received fellowships and support from Callaloo, Cave Canem, Tin House, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments. Jari’s work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has been published/forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Blood Orange Review (selected by judge Nikky Finney), The Offing, Academy of American Poets (Poem-A-Day) , Callaloo, Columbia Journal, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. Jari Bradley (MFA, University of Pittsburgh) is the current 2020–2021 First Wave Poetry Fellow at UW–Madison.

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