Children of Assata Freestyle & Other Poems

Deshawn McKinney

Children of Assata Freestyle

whether or not she did i wonder
if we should.


an idea, in it an apple and tree,                                                                                       a child
biting the head off a serpent               because they learned Haven              


could never provide; too used to the stars
in supernova, the kind of Black holes

that caused it — on earth — too adapted,
that kevlar, you never loved us Black


parents who have lost plead for peace,
i wonder if there is another zeitgeist burrowed
within we keep missing, if when they remind us
change is incremental, not unlike the shrapnel
that gnawed at their child, just more sloth, just as quiet
after the bang, do g codes apply or is it time for loud memoriam?


angel wings, a child rummages through the box but none are                         their
size. they convince themselves Off White is             the only                       divinity


America has never been quiet
offering advice on which weapons are safe
to oppose it, how a call for nonviolence can sound
the same frequencies as the heart flatlining


their Haven                                                                                           don’t make sense;
to a child snapbacks excite the senses                                   

learns to crown themself alive
like all niggas do,

so it parts the sea                                                                                              but keeps
the waves


to the child it’s as simple as a halo collecting dust
in a court docket; few adults are brave enough to live forever

Let it run Ali

*This poem uses language from Kendrick Lamar’s “Backstreet Freestyle”

Henny n Hope

she looks like Misty Copeland dancin / off the Henny / wears all my rings, chrome faces / dancin with her / a duet / her body breaks out / of perfect lines, bends into free verse like the only poet she knows / hips read me to a trance / that her relevé pliés to dust / or glass reflections of ignorance or / then a missionary position that knows no Bible / nimbus pours blessings / when she dances me to a sabbath / desecration for which we repent. a Jesus / piece rests heavy on her neck but flutters / when she lifts I lift too, am more hers than mine / when she dances under the umbrella of my shirt / more us when she dances

we wear his and hers platinum 
fangs, embed the crown jewels
and speak reparations                
into existence                              

take a bow love.

lama sabachthani

a thing is not alive simply because
it has found ways to die less

i am boy, a rose maybe or at least good dollar store incense
fragrance on a cracked slab near the gas station,
i watch a man sprint from the walgreens he just robbed
and understand how some bellies runneth over

questioned about my vision i say i need glasses and the man goes
free: how else to look my brothers in the face?

i feel full

jesus took the bread in pieces;
this is common sense:

how else to identify a body?

a bathroom mirror — Hail Mary pock marked — amen
as antihistamine

i am boy, a rose maybe, a something or someone with time
we sit and debate whether it reflects and what

i: in his image
mirror: in mine

agree we like best the idea that we have found
an early draft of Salvation in each blink

           Black&running, except toward

                    how a star can catch a glimpse of itself

           Black&dancing, all hips and hype

                     ungrateful were we not to display what momma gave
                     lost lust lovin the lore of


                     in the shadow of the valley there is abundance, we name it safe                 
                     we whisper (thought a sun-kissed thing would freeze in the dark) we shout
                     we name us Black, as a form of erasure, and feel seen                               

a thing is not alive simply

Deshawn McKinney is an American poet.

Sign up for our newsletter

Sign up to get our latest stories, poems and essays!