Brionne Janae

As Passed from Auntie to Auntie to You

when she names your grandfather
they crowd her little girl body
and convince her of what it mustn’t know
they say she doesn’t understand
and what grown man and turn
their noses in displeasure
at the child’s unbridled tongue
your grandfather is young then
still part of the familial body
testing the heft and shadow
of his deacon’s suit
and she is just a small thing
with crisp ribbon binding the braids in her hair
white stockings her mother bleaches clean
for sunday school and the shine of snot
that coats the lips of young children



When Spite is the Only Thing That Feeds You

bite down and break the skin against your teeth
chew     take full possession of your mouth
let it hang open or purse the lips tight as a zipper
so not a morsel slips loose     stay present
and if the past comes knocking
your grandfathers’ hands popping up all over your body
bite down again     harder     use all of your teeth
the canines the incisors     grind the the flesh down
between your molars until its a mushy lump at your throat
swallow     swallow again     keep what you can down
and what you cant spit into the air
be a child again     wipe the grease from your lips like blood
and rub the residue into your jeans
laugh     let it be hysterical



Brionne Janae is a graduate of Emerson College’s MFA in Poetry, a Cave Canem Fellow, and Hedgebrook Alumni. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The Academy of Amercian Poets Poem-A-Day, The American Poetry Review, Plume, The Sun Magazine, The Nashville Review, Waxwing, Sixth Finch, jubilat, Redivider, Rattle, and the Cincinnati Review among others. She was also the recipient of the 2016 St. Botoloph’s Emerging Artist Award. Her first collection of poems, After Jubilee, was published by Boaat Press November 2017. For more information about her work please visit