Spotlight: Weight & Call Me Animal


First thing you learn is to swallow a fist/ that sets its aim/ on the white manager who calls you/ so articulate/ as if the notion is as rare as a nun in full habit/ or unicorns/ I learned to play house/ with dolls I’d rather bury/ and frilly girls I’d prefer to avoid/ my mother taught me to keep your true friends hidden/ and your daydreams to yourself/ you knew Reagan was an awful president/ but never said outside the home/ clouds are for white girls/ and silver-haired bosses with striped chrome ties/ press your hair/ think corsage and prom/ not botany and muddy sport/ hold your aptitude on your sleeve/ but not too much/ just a tint of intelligence is enough/ lest you be branded WANNABE or uppity/ you make people uncomfortable if they’re unable to place you/ bite your nails/ scream in your pillow/ tell no one/ be quiet/ be sociable but non-threatening/ say please and thank you/ earn an unobtrusive living/ get married/ have kids/ get divorced get remarried have more kids/ go to church/ be quiet/ sing in the choir/ you hate gospel but no one needs to know/ wear sunblock/ despise the sun/ tiptoe/ don’t spill anything/ mistakes are for white people/ work hard work hard work hard/ be normal/ compact your aura/ wear heels/ put your game face on/ huddle/ don’t intrude or invade/ eat bland food/ truncate your name/ swallow your fist your pride your everything/ understand the gravity of your situation/ you are predicament/ you are flash and other other other/ swallow it all



Call Me Animal

I feel the need to pulverize
a white and guarded space.

A wolf buys a townhouse         surely
to rend and transmogrify the cherubs in your garden.

Kestrels at a wine tasting beg to differ
they shriek and dive in groups of three
someone ought to do something
they’ll only multiply if the hunting’s good.

These creatures
with their shiny teeth and coiled manes are everywhere
too sudden too much loud spices and howling
stomping hooves and marking territory with Jazz and inventions.
Re-begin here
with a gospel of bodies
Gryllidae warned you the revolution will be televised
indivisible hoodies Pynk in the Bible Belt
on the scent on the hunt on the verge.


Nicole Burney is a native of New Jersey. She’s fascinated by linguistics and how language reveals layers of estrangement and human identity. Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, Cold Creek Review, Glass Poetry Press, Cleaver Magazine, and Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora. Nicole is currently working on her first full-length collection entitled BLACK MAMBA.