Jessica Lanay


Jessica Lanay currently lives in Bronx, NY and works at a magazine for writers in Manhattan. She moved to the city from Macon, Georgia and was raised in different places throughout the South. Themes that trickle through her poetry and short stories are female protagonists, internal migrations, and the investigation of violence, disappearance (of landscape or persons), and magic realism. Her work is forthcoming in Sugar House Review, Minerva Rising and As/Us. Her work was most recently published in Duende and Five Quarterly. She is the founder of Jasper Collective, an editorial group comprised of women and is currently participating in a performance lab at Jack Theater in Brooklyn based on Sharon Bridgforth's Jazz Aesthetic.

easter sunday


island easter Sundays,

measured in

                  prayers with fat and taste

chewed out and first of the

month woes cast from hands

and paper fans,


My saddle shoes moil down

the dirt on the white washed steps

my mommy and aunties lean from the

red-red church door,

dressed like paper flowers, barely women,

compared to great aunties sneaking smoke

breaks and rum from their purses in the alley,

our one for the homie—babaluaye,


The priest holds his red stole to his chest

a robin fluttering

he reaches for my cheek


I show him the day of

the week - printed into

the crotch of my panties,

my dress, hides me - parachutes

my shyness,


My great grandmother’s finger,

a vining rod - dowsing water and

shame, her two scythe moon

nails curdle my fatty skin

in my armpit,

it knots up in black, green

and blue keloid, she hisses:


Put down your skirt child

A girl is a thing of knotted scars.

Heads High / Kill Them With a No


Heads high - the man sings it from the radio echoing in the cool,

neat dark from the high window sill. Kill ‘em wit de no / Naw bwoy

ain’ got no secret for you. Tell the boys no so they don’t have a

secret on you. He means to tell us to not suck off the boys.


You feel my spine in the long mirror in great grandma's room.

I have asked you to teach me to dance, like I asked you to

comb my knots out when we bathed together before we were old

enough for showers and cotton between our legs.


You stop at my tail. He commands, Kill 'em wit de no. You guide

my hip joints to slide between your palms, you put your cheek, brown

and warm against mine. You have a mole over your bow shaped mouth I like

to touch. You pinch your heavy tongue between your teeth.


my thighs - just so, I polish off the winding up with the snap of cold peas.

No man never rope you in fi no ice cream. you sing it with him - your cat's

smile on my shoulder, press your face into my jaw. your flat-ironed page

boy hair cut, your dimples. Your silver looped fingers hold my hips the

same as I once saw you hold a lizard that had lost its tail.


You turn me and I can see my reflection in your eyes, our thighs dovetail.

Kill 'em wit de no. Our hip bones coil into equation symbols, knocking

together. I am on the arc of his calling to forget the boys. You adjust our

pubis to form kissing butterflies. Am I learning this good enough?


Naw boy ain't got no secret fi you. Now that we are pleated you say,

First cousin--First kiss? This is something old that old folks joke to

keep boy cousin and girl cousin from being behind closed doors. your

ringed fingers are in my roots, I am molding together our curlicues.


Gaining accuracy with each tick and pop, you like my browning and

I feel the agony coming, Kill 'em wit de no. Naw boy ain't got no secret fi you.

Then you are ackee mush between my jaw and cheek, in the space where

my tongue can't reach, pressing our salty firth's together.


Naw boy ain't got no secret fi you. and we are frothing. and it is a summer

that feels like a fistful of ginepa. and we are girls. and we are right. and the

door is closed.




© The Acentos Review 2015