The 2022 Fiction Issue

Metro Detroit writers and artists take on the theme ‘Conjuring Future Visions’ and meditate on what lies ahead, guest edited by Nandi Comer and deputy editor Zig Zag Claybourne

click to enlarge The 2022 Fiction Issue. - Leila Abdelrazaq
Leila Abdelrazaq
The 2022 Fiction Issue.

The Ghanaian symbol, the Sankofa, is represented by a bird with one foot stepping forward with its neck bent backward arching its head toward its back feathers. It represents the belief that in order to step into the future, we must look back and learn from our past. I have been thinking a lot about the future, but lately, every time I try to step forward through the doorway of a café or bar I pause, mask in hand, a little paralyzed by our new normal. Inside venues across metro Detroit, throngs of people elbow to elbow lean into one another unmasked, as if trying to dismiss the last two years of social distancing and washing our hands to “happy birthday.”

One thing these past two years have taught me is that the future is not certain, that no matter how advanced we humans think we have developed, no matter how sophisticated our technology, no matter what modes of transportation we build to arrive at destinations much farther and in the fastest means imaginable, we are still at the whim of our own nature. We are vulnerable creatures that have been grounded by terrible illnesses and natural disasters. And these illnesses and disasters happen every generation. But we have also forged resilient communities. We are made up of gardeners, healers, scientists, and caregivers. When faced with uncertainty we turn to one another.

In this Fiction Issue, by taking on the theme “Conjuring Future Visions,” writers and artists meditate on what lies ahead. Some pieces create speculative imagery of a future Detroit where citizens have access to devices that read our emotions; others ask us to question our relationship to the multiverse, the imaginative selves that may be more accessible to us than we thought.

But not all the work ventures into a distant future that is tech-driven. Some of the work asks that we only think about actions that will affect our future selves, others to consider the next seconds. There is even a piece where a future sage sends a message to the past (our present) warning us and guiding us as we move towards a radical future. To be, in the most personal sense, wizards and magicians.

And then there is ritual. Some of our artists acknowledge that in our desire to move forward and transition into a new day there is a need to uplift traditional practices that we have preserved for generations. They embody the spirit of the Sankofa by remembering our past in order to move forward into the future. Together these 21 artists present work of documentation mixed with that of conjecture and speculation. There is magic in the scenery. Their work highlights the alchemy of our survival, the importance of looking at our land, and ancestral practices.

The 2022 Fiction issue invites us to conjure and meditate on our tomorrow. They help me to understand that while the next step into the future may not be assured, it will be guided by our past and filled with curiosity and imagination. I hope you find delight in their work, like I did. —Nandi Comer

click to enlarge Artist fees provided by Kresge Arts in Detroit (a program generously funded by The Kresge Foundation and administered by the College for Creative Studies). Nandi Comer is this year’s editor and Zig Zag Claybourne the deputy editor. Leila Abdelrazaq is the cover artist.
Artist fees provided by Kresge Arts in Detroit (a program generously funded by The Kresge Foundation and administered by the College for Creative Studies). Nandi Comer is this year’s editor and Zig Zag Claybourne the deputy editor. Leila Abdelrazaq is the cover artist.

future sermon # 1 | WHAT IF I TOLD YOU (abridged)

By Cherise Morris

What if I told you that we are revolution unfolding,

that cain’t shit scare you when you realize who you really are

that your healing was your inheritance

that you and I, we, are bigger than our problems, more brilliant and beautiful and wise than our undoing, fiercer than our mistakes and more formidable than any force working against us.

What if I told you that all the tools we need, we already have within

that it was, in this time, when we waited, wanted, wished

for change, for growth, for love and transformation, healing and hope and safety

that it was,

us,

all along

we were transformation in the flesh and bone

we were the happily ever after

we were the substantiation of our wildest dreams

As if we were everything we’ve ever awaited

As if we were lightform coming home

As if we were all we needed to get free.

What if I told you that you were magic unfolding and you and me, we got the power to shift the reality of everything we’ve ever known to be true

that the world we been dreaming up, is not only possible but promised

and no — it won’t be perfect but it can be just and accepting and embracing and understanding,

it can be honest and loving and kind,

it can be wiser and more beautiful and divine,

it can support us all in living better lives.

And what if I told you how we’ll get there —

with our loving and our healing and our fearlessness

with our intention and our consistent actions and efforts, our unbreakable will and our diligence to show up and show out as the best version of self we can possibly be at every moment, even and especially amid crisis.

We will do it by listening to the wisdoms whispered by the wind,
by looking in the mirror and noticing the ancestor holding your hand,
by sitting with yourself and remembering how divine you really are,

the vestige of heavenly bodies that had to be broken to become whole, you were made in the image of God,

And cain’t shit scare you when you realize who you really are.

What if I told you, it was this, this whole time, it was us
We are the change that’s gone come.
We are possibility untamed.
We are magic in motion.
We are revolution, alive.

CAN I GET AN ASÉ, CAN I GET AN AMEN, CAN I GET A GITCHI GITCHI YAYA AND A UH NANA NANA

Cherise Morris is a writer and spirit worker dreaming towards a future, free.

Aubade for the changing season

By Brittany Rogers

The sun will not rise early   yet
today may be the day to unplug
the sunlamps, glaring at each other
from their corners of the room.
Testify: it is true what they say
of winter’s rotten mouth, of this sky,
bark-dry and starless. Before today,
I obeyed its dog whistle. Sit.
Stay. Roll over. It could be worse.
In some states, sunlight is a myth
whispered by folks who are from
not there. But what of it? What,
when there are places
where the soil is soft
year round, the sun chirping
and kind each morning. This morning
I woke up singing. What if?
Heard my own self sing back.
Wade into what could be.
Light the candles
on the dresser; the vanity;
the nightstand. Fling
open the curtains. Wide.
Wider.

Brittany Rogers is a poet, educator, native Detroiter, and Editor in Chief of Muzzle Magazine; learn more about her at brittanyrogers.org .

Leaving Home

By Dalia Reyes

click to enlarge "Leaving Home," acrylic paint, gold leaf, gold pigment, chrome pen on paper, 11" x 15". - Dalia Reyes
Dalia Reyes
"Leaving Home," acrylic paint, gold leaf, gold pigment, chrome pen on paper, 11" x 15".

Dalia Reyes is an artist, curator, and music lover from SW Detroit.

Daedrīm D4 Field Test: A Hike up Mt. Detroit

By Jack Cheng

Daedrim D4

Pros:
• Higher-resolution Évoke2 engine
• Same great crowd-cancelation
• USB-K charging
Cons:
• Pancake design stands out at first
• Blankness of pure being feels like a bug

μTimes Rating: 6.⅞

In 2041, Daedrīm rocked the Experiential Capture world with its revolutionary D1. The device had none of the typical outward-facing cameras or sensors. Instead, it used a proprietary electromagnetic halo to capture the emotive content of experiences, which when played back could summon the corresponding sights and sounds. To wear the D1 was a revelation. It felt like Experiential Capture the way it was always meant to be: a flesh-colored blister on the side of your neck.

Eight years and three models later, Daedrīm is finally releasing its long-awaited D4. To see if it’s worth the upgrade, we took it for a hike up Mt. Detroit.

Our field test happened on a mild March day. The afternoon clouds had started to clear, and we hoped that the sun would show by the time we reached the summit. From the trailhead through the first gentle stretch, our review unit detected our low-level anticipation nicely. But as soon as we passed our first group of hikers, the device also picked up our self-consciousness in wearing it. The reason? The D4 is actually larger than its predecessors – less a thumb-sized blister and more of a mini pancake.

Our contact at Daedrīm says this was in order to accommodate the brand new Évoke2 sensor, but we suspect it has more to do with recent congressional hearings on where ECs fit under federal surveillance law. Regardless, we didn’t want our thoughts about the new form-factor to interfere with the remainder of our test, so we double-tapped our pancake to turn on meta-awareness cancellation.

We followed the trail up a steeper incline, and the D4 registered our mild satisfaction in feeling our exopack actuators actuate. Around the next bend, we were rewarded with a view angled north up Woodward Avenue – along with an informational plaque. A century ago, Mt. Detroit was the site of the Michigan State Fairgrounds. Then for a brief span in the early 2020s, it housed a fulfillment center, which later shuttered as a result of the Warren-Klobuchar Deplatformization Act. The site lay mostly abandoned until a push by the Detroit Greenways Coalition to transform it into usable public space. As we read the plaque, the D4 captured a flash of warm recognition: we remembered learning all this on a field trip in fifth grade.

About that new sensor: the D1 was notorious for its erratic behavior. Some moments it would miss altogether, while others it would blow out, turning, say, slight hangriness into a bottomless pit of longing. Subsequent models resolved these issues, but their recordings often felt too clinical and sterile. And while the D4 lacks the “wildness” of the original, its ability to convey nuance is truly unmatched. The Évoke2 sensor can register emotive content at far-higher resolution – not just social boredom but the jittery ennui of an over-long first date. Not just disappointment in a bad meal but the self-critical regret of going to a restaurant and ordering something different from what you always get, only to have it be not as good.

We picked up our pace, winding back and forth up a set of switchbacks. Around the next bend, we encountered a gaggle of blister-less teenagers wearing vintage late-20s go bags and rubber flood boots. We recognized the boots; they were the same kind our parents kept in the closet by the front door. The teenagers all laughed at something – except for one of them, who was admiring wildflowers along the trail’s edge, and who, upon noticing us, told us we didn’t have much further until the top. Then they went back to the flowers.

The D4 captured this entire interaction well, from nostalgia for a difficult but more purposeful past to anxious wondering if you have something on your face (that isn’t a mini pancake), through to a rueful longing to slow time’s relentless march.

One last bend and we’d finally reached the top. The summit was packed with people, their blisters glowing softly in capture-mode. Here we finally turned on the D4’s crowd-cancellation, so as to filter out our mild annoyance at not being the only one who had this idea. We looked for a more solitary place to sit, and found a spot on a rocky outcrop, overlooking the eastern face of the mountain. It’d rained the night before, and the retention pools were still full. In one of them, we spotted what looked like a new art installation. But then it moved. It was not a sculpture, we realized, but a living animal. A blue heron.

We’d heard about such animals. They were subjects of childhood drawings, the mascots of our schools. But we had never seen one in person. We weren’t even sure if they were extinct, or endangered, or what era they’d roamed wild here. Wind rippled the water’s surface. But the heron, unfazed, bowed its head, and lifted one leg, almost like a dancer at a slow-rave. We thought about the prepper kid staring at wildflowers. Some time passed. Then the heron, in a riot of feathers, took flight. It skimmed the retention pools and climbed up, cutting across our view of Hamtramack’s canals, and North End’s rice paddies, past the gleaming fern-spilled towers of Highland Park, over the creeks and capillaries of the teeming Rouge, under pink and purple contrails and mottled clouds, toward the already-set sun.

We were eager to see how the D4 had rendered our sense of awe. But this portion of our recording was blank. We thought it had to be some kind of malfunction with our review unit. We reached out to our contact at Daedrīm, who told us that our unit had worked exactly as intended. When pressed further, they offered the following explanation: Awe, as an emotion, was a function of memory – it only appeared in hindsight. What the D4 had captured was what we had actually experienced in that moment: the blankness of pure being.

Our contact acknowledged that the effect could be quite jarring, and said that the company was already working to blend in synthetic awe to better match users’ expectations. They assured us that within a week of the D4’s release, the issue would be addressed in an over-the-air software update.

Jack Cheng is a 2019 Kresge Artist Fellow and the author of See You in the Cosmos, a novel for young readers.

Landscape of potential 1

By Mother Cyborg

click to enlarge "Landscape of potential 1," Quilt, 45" x 55" 2022. You can view this work at STAMPS Gallery in Ann Arbor until July 23. - Mother Cyborg, photo by Ara Howrani
Mother Cyborg, photo by Ara Howrani
"Landscape of potential 1," Quilt, 45" x 55" 2022. You can view this work at STAMPS Gallery in Ann Arbor until July 23.

In conjuring the future I summon a relationship to the multiverse, whether it be cultural or physical, evolving from segregated planes of existence to landscapes of potential. I see this future forming from the recognition of the patterns that keep us from craving difference. —Mother Cyborg

The Land Knows Us By Name

By Christiana Castillo

Knows me
The seeds in my throat

How my bis bis bis abuela planted maíz in Jalisco
How my abuela planted maíz

Created space for pollinated golden tassels
To reach towards the sky
Next to clouds of smoke in Detroit

The land remembers their names
Knows every shape of their body
All their curves, the scars,
self-proclaimed beauty marks
Even in decomposition
The land remembers

Knows the seeds I keep in my throat
The maíz I plant on Anishinaabe land
And the seeds I always save

Knows how I dream of seeds
Covered in dirt
So I know my lineage is
Seeds covered in dirt

Christiana Castillo (she/ella) is a Mexican-Brasilian-American poet, educator, and gardener.

In The Distance

By Andrea Kowch

click to enlarge The 2022 Fiction Issue
Andrea Kowch

A globally collected, acclaimed, and institutionally recognized artist with new museum exhibitions set to open across the U.S. in 2023 and 2024, Andrea Kowch is a Detroit native and former adjunct and alumna of the College for Creative Studies, residing and working in Michigan, where she paints full time and is represented exclusively by RJD Gallery.

THE GIRL WITH A BIRD’S WINGS

By Matthew Fogarty

She was a girl with a bird’s wings they locked in the attic. Her sister was a lion they kept chained in the basement.

This was in the old house, in the old neighborhood of auto workers and artists and immigrants, corner stores. The old blue house with three stories and shutters and a wood porch and a front walk lined with red and white flowers. The house with the chainlink fence and the tall gutter spouts where she’d watch a nest gather in the curve under the overhang of the roof. The house in which they were left behind, the sisters, after the family business collapsed, literally, the restaurant, it burned, the joists fell, and the family moved on. The house where the worst of things happened.

The two girls so young they formed few memories before what they became. For the eldest it was all at once: a collapse of the legs, the nose, the mouth, the ears, the golden eyes, the back arch, the pads and claws, the mane. The youngest, they grew over months, the wings, small bits of bone calcified into the changing shape of her back, under her skin, which stretched, minerals gathering into new joints of bone and sinew as though currented toward a delta. First she remembers noticing was sitting back in a chair, the discomfort. Then the welts appeared. The surface broke.

They are real wings, gray and feathered and grown now, and she hides them always under a coat, under clothing, even in summer. They can flap. She’s never wished to fly. In a wind she holds firm. In quiet moments, alone, before locking the attic door at night, her mother would say you’re our baby blessing and she’d run her fingers around each knot in the girl’s back and the fingers made a feeling close to love.

Though the parents, they were religious, there was so much they hid in shame, why they hid the girls at opposite ends of the home, why they scuttled the middle children away from the city into the Thumb like the animal parts of their daughters were some strain of contagion.

Left, the girls grew together. Out from the cold of the basement and the empty of the attic they imagined a future they could live out together, a life among farmland like where they pictured their siblings. Cows and a tractor. A barn the shape of an ark. A family the shape of a bruise. Sheltering woods.

After months, the sisters left the house, too, to explore the city for companions. In fact it was the other left children who lived under the bridge amidst the shifting flowing forms of the strangenesses of weather and the swift currents of the river, it was they who gave birth to the idea that the girls—that they all—had some graver purpose in life in service of nature.

And this is when she saw it, that first night, alone among the others, under the bridge: The violent hailstorm, that it could come on like nothing and a wicked wind that whipped waves into the shores of the peninsula, a wind so hard it could blow over signs and blow out storefronts and blow down barns, tear eaves from attics. In the worst of the storm strong enough to blow down even her make believe farm’s ship-shaped barn. A storm in the shape of a freight train locomoting through everything in its path. Her face, it’s sweet and tired and worn for her age, but warm, her face with the easy wonder of a youngest. That they might come looking for her—for a blessing, for safety, forgiveness. She’d be outside then in a future woods, hidden away by nature and watching as they searched. This: all of what she wished would appear within the haildrops.

In waking in the morning in the soft humid light of spring and the warmth of the fur of her sister next to her and the shadow of the bridge above, she remembered as a child, her sister stalking above her bed, her tail flung wild and wailing, the broad smile of teeth, and the way she would sing out a sweet roar as a welcome, to welcome them both back to the wide awake world and all the wild wide joys of being two whole real things alive, sweet and soft, spreadwinged and taildriven and alone in the city, together.

Matthew Fogarty is the author of a collection of stories titled Maybe Mermaids and Robots are Lonely (Stillhouse Press, 2016) and is currently at work on a novel.

​​When Grace Is Afforded

By Rashaun Rucker

I make things that I am passionate about. —Rashaun Rucker

Quetzalcoatl’s Shadow On Vernor

By Reyes

He walks down streets unknown

His cans spray truth, colors combine for beautiful images of reflection
Visions of past blood memories echo through his hands

He conjures spirits of ancestral songs, sung
seeing the feathered serpents in a soliloquy
Subtle as it is, it is his truth

His brush fills the canvas
His words conjure the future visions
Sprayed with aerosol cans
Of the world that could be

Ancient cave paintings guide his way
Mammoth, mastodons, bears, bison, lions
Once walked with him
Spears carved from stone
Walking through turtle island

He is the poet moving about
A world that wants him silenced

He is the conjury of spells
Words forbidden,
As he speaks truth to power
Yet power does not yield to mere words

With “wat up doe” met with sign language
Confidently showcasing colors
Spoken in codes and codices
Coded in crucial conflict
Conflicted, future constricted, crucified,
by the choices that await him

Candles light corners where souls once stood with smiles
Now the candles illuminate the empty liquor bottles
Blunt guts, ash, and haze, a gaze can be caught
Once a year as they attempt to return home again

Just a shadow on Vernor

As a poet, artist and curator, Reyes performs internationally and facilitates performances and workshops by merging creative expression and critical thought whose work has been featured on HBO, CNN, PBS, The Chicago Tribune's Hoy Noticias, and Latin Nation.

Bad Day

By Keith Gaston

BB, the voice stuck in Jasmine’s head, whispered, "You're tired, honey. Call in sick."

"That sounds good," Jasmine purred, pressing her head to the pillow, then “No! I can't do it,” she said, shooing away BB's sweet urgings. "I've missed too many days already."

"You'll regret it," BB replied.

Jasmine had taken five sick days, only one of those days because she was actually ill. Slipping her legs off the bed, she squinted at the daylight coming from the window. "Curse you, sun."

Standing, she stared at the bed.

"Missing it, already?" BB taunted.

"I don’t."

"Liar."

Inside the bathroom, the sink and toilet were so close that her head and butt could touch them simultaneously if she bent slightly. Budgeting herself for a dream house she’d someday share with a man of her dreams required sacrifices, including a shower that never kept its hot water.

"Aaahh! That's cold!"

"Why torture yourself? Gurl, move to someplace nicer," BB said.

"I have to be strong. Stay focused. Out there is someone who'll be able to hear my thoughts. Someone I'll marry."

"Husband? You don't even have a man, honey."

"Shut up, BB. I'm just having a bad morning. That's all."

"Whatever, gurl. ‘Read your thoughts.’ Right! You want a man in your head, date a brain surgeon."

After her shower, Jasmine wanted coffee. Unfortunately, the cabinets were bare.

"No coffee? Gurl, you are having a bad day."

One getting worse by the minute. “I’m running late, anyway.”

"Poor baby," BB teased.

"It’s the devil’s drink anyway!" Jasmine shouted defiantly as she departed.

The scarce parking lot held five cars. Jasmine's old heap stood out among them. Jumping into the blue '94 Ford Aspire, the car whined, rattled, and then discharged dark smoke from the rear. Leaving the lot, she spotted children boarding a school bus.

They pointed at her car and laughed.

She patted the dashboard. "It’s all right. Never pay attention to brats.”

“You’re driving a coffin on wheels!”

Turning on the radio to tune BB out, the Aspire jerked hard halfway to work, and thick puffs of smoke filled the rearview’s mirror.

“What now?” BB shouted.

“Whatever it is, I’m ignoring it!” Rattled, Jasmine nearly swerved into another vehicle.

BB stifled her complaints and instead hummed Puff the Magic Dragon’s theme.

Irritated, Jasmine lost it. “Go on, say it!”

“Say what, gurl?”

“Get it over with!”

“OK. When has ignoring a problem ever worked?”

Another jerk, and now smoke from under the hood. Jasmine kept repeating, “I can make it,” even as black clouds spewed from both ends of the car.

She ignored passing drivers shouting, “Your car is on fire!”

She ignored the engine noises that sounded like choking elephants.

She ignored BB's screaming, “We’re gonna die!”

The Aspire went another half mile.

It died.

Powerless, it coasted to the side of the road. Gratiot Avenue. Rush hour. Jasmine cursed loudly for letting BB talk her into buying the thing. “It’s cheap and reliable,” she recalled BB saying.

“You wanted to save up for a house and telepathic husband, remember?” BB said. “I didn’t twist your arm.”

Jasmine tried and failed to restart the Aspire. She got out and circled to the front, lifting the hood. She fanned at the black smoke coming from the engine.

“You can repair cars now?”

“No.”

“So, what are you doing?”

“I have to do something.”

“You should’ve stayed in bed.”

Defeated, Jasmine shut the hood and got back into the car to search her purse. “Where is it?” she muttered.

“You left it, honey. It’s on the counter recharging.”

“I hate this day,” she shouted.

Jasmine glowered at passing traffic. Not one person slowed.

Stepping out of the Aspire, a shadow loomed. Glancing up, a billboard read: BAD DAY? EAT A SNOOKER’S. It was a candy bar ad.

I need a Snooker, Jasmine thought.

“Like sweets can change your luck. Ha, you wish.”

Jasmine got back into the car just as a car slowed as if to stop. She instinctively hit the emergency lights switch.

“You don’t have any power, honey.”

“Will you keep quiet?”

“Just saying.”

Jasmine opened the door and ran out, frantically waving.

You look ridiculous!

The car sped up and drove by.

See, you looked ridiculous.

“I hate this day, and I hate you,” Jasmine yelled.

The car slowed again and then reversed. The impeccably clean car pulled in front of the Aspen.

Jasmine positioned herself to block the driver’s view of her car.

“Your hips aren’t that wide, honey.”

Tinted glass hid the driver.

The window lowered.

It revealed a strikingly handsome Black man. He smiled. “Need help?”

Voice caught in her throat, Jasmine gulped.

“Easy, gurl!”

He repeated the question.

Jasmine blushed and gestured toward the Aspen. “Car died. Can I use your cell phone?”

“I suppose,” he said playfully. He stretched out his arm, the mobile in his hand.

Accepting the phone, Jasmine examined the car interior. A Charger. Cherry red. New.

“Charming. Clean. Handsome. Perfect. I don’t trust him.”

“Shut up,” Jasmine whispered.

“Excuse me?” He looked confused.

“Oh, nothing,” she replied.

Jasmine’s eyes gravitated to the man’s hand. No ring. Good. Though that wasn’t enough to confirm his marital status. Yet. I could lead him subtly into the subject, Jasmine considered.

“You? Subtle? Don’t make me laugh, gurl.”

Making two calls, one to work, the other for a tow, Jasmine returned the phone, hoping he wouldn't immediately leave. But she couldn’t think of anything to get him to stay. All that came out of her mouth was, “Thank you.” Jasmine inwardly cursed herself for missing her opportunity.

He nodded, accepting the phone.

“You blew it, gurl!”

I cannot believe my bad luck, Jasmine thought, turning.

“Would you like me to stay until your tow arrives?” he asked.

She spun, concealing excitement, “I would. But I don’t want you late for work…”.

“They’ll manage without me.” He stepped out of the car, revealing his tall, lean frame. “Hi, I’m Calvin.”

“Red alert! He’s a dawg, gurl!”

Woof, woof, Jasmine thought.

They talked until the tow truck arrived.

BB said, “How are you going to get to work?”

“Can I give you a ride?” Calvin asked.

Jasmine nodded, grabbing essentials from the Aspen while the tow’s driver worked. Studying Calvin, she wondered, Can you read my thoughts?

His gaze went to her left hand.

He wants to know if I’m married. The thought made Jasmine’s heart race.

When their gazes met, he asked, “Care for a coffee?”

Jasmine replied, “Totally.”

“Gurl, he’s a dawg,” BB yelled.

Calvin glanced around. “I could have sworn I heard someone shout dog.”

Jasmine’s eyes brightened. Maybe, this isn’t a bad day, after all.

Keith Gaston is a Michigan author, husband and father with nearly 20 novels under his belt, and in 2022 he’ll publish his first comic book.

Entry 12.27.21 & Entry 2.17.22

By Bakpak Durden

Bakpak Durden is a Black Trans multi-hyphenate self-taught post-disciplinary artist born and raised in Detroit; They are the owner of Paper Street Press, a philosopher, a Rulebreaker, and an all-around pretty cool cat.

This Ain’t That: A blues fable

By Bill Harris

You are in the airport after a week-long business trip. You are an hour and a half early. Your fight is on time. You are scrolling through the photos on your iPhone. Your youngest daughter, Renee, was for some reason insistent on downloading them from the scans from a photo album she had come across on a dusty closet shelf. You’re not sure why. Not even sure she was certain why.

An array of aunts and uncles and cousins the girls had not known roll by like movie credits after a film they had not seen. Some of the relatives in the fading sepia snapshots have even blurred into the dusk of your memory. Not so much lost as—as the girls see it, but to them—inconsequential. People they have no connection with except through these waning images, and tangentially, of course, through you.

A studio portrait of the three of them, Ruth, the oldest, Renee, and Jean your wife, when the girls were still in their teens.

Your daughters’, young women now; grow from buds to full blossoms in the photographic recollections of their school performances, parties, picnics, vacations, proms, and graduations.

Jean, your wife, thinks she knows her daughters in ways you never could. You think she is often as clueless about them as you, or you are about her. She thinks that you were too involved in the business to really know them for who they’ve grown to be. Maybe. It’s all a question of when and who, why and what, you suppose.

A picture of Ruth. Four years old then. In her beauty queen pose. She is in many, if not most ways, a girly-girl, who takes after her mother. Beautiful certainly, but not enough to satisfy something in herself. Renee, Jean thinks, is the opposite, almost indifferent in that regard.

Picture of Renee, tussling with Puck, still a puppy then. It is the family dog, but Renee’s really. It was she who wanted a pet. She who feeds and walks and cares for him.

Picture of Jean at a company picnic. In a sports outfit looking off at something in the distance.

Ruth, you would say is the–self-involved one—like her mother—they would say self-aware, while Renee is the caring one. Concerned about people, animals, the world. When you returned from a trip Ruth always asked what you had brought her. Renee wanted to hear about the trip. Where you had been? What you’d seen, who you’d met?

Picture of Ike, your business partner and you moving into the new office.

The best that can be said, you think, is the past can’t be known any more than the future. What was is and can’t be changed.

Thinking of them and all that you have. You are, for the most part — satisfied. The step by step, the missteps, slips, stumbles along the way. You’ve been successful enough, you suppose, given where you started. The help, encouragement. Your parents were proud. A lot of hard work.

In that way that the sun’s setting darkens the details of a day’s ending, your mind drifts away from the phone and its images. You become aware that the departure gate section is filling up when you get a text. It’s from Fred, your next-door neighborhood.

Here is how it reads:

Your dog is dead.

Suspecting it is a joke, a bad one, not that Fred is given to jokes, you reply,

How did it die?

Jean was in a hurry. Backed over him with the car, is the response.

Why was she in such a hurry?

Because your house was on fire.

On fire?

Burnt down.

Burnt down?

To the ground.

How?

Arson.

Who?

Jean did it.

Why?

She had everything in the U-Haul that she wanted.

Why was she putting things in a U-Haul?

She and your business partner’s idea.

What’s Ike got to do with it?

They ran off together.

Your breath is labored. You are sweating. You type:

I have to tell my daughters before they hear it from somebody else.

Ruth is in the hospital.

Why?

She had an accident.

How?

Broke her hip.

How?

Fell off her six inched spiked heels.

Why was she wearing six-inch spike heels?

Her new job.

New job?

At the club.

Club?

Slipped on some dimes on the stage at the end of her pole dancing routine.

How is Renee?

In Jail.

Why is she in jail?

He, you mean.

What?

Just came out as a transman.

In jail for what?

Arrested for Driving While Black.

Is that it?

Isn’t that enough?

It’s not that bad. I’ll start over.

How are you going to find a way to face your future?

From Sara, and Ramsey.

Who were they?

My great-great-great grandparents.

What about them?

They were slaves.

Bill Harris is an Emeritus Professor, Kresge Eminent Artist, playwrite, poet and short fiction writer.

Ofrenda a Itzpapalotl

By Kia i'x Arriaga

Itzpapalotl from Kia ix Arriaga on Vimeo.

Itzpapalotl is an ancient female force that represents the Aztec women warriors, the ones who lost their lives in childbirth, as well as on the battlefield (literally or metaphorically). It's about strength, creation, and rebirth after letting go.

The ceremony was made in 4 parts: A community (online) Ofrenda with other women. The creation of a butterfly amulet to set and bring my intentions in for the year. The creation of another Ofrenda and a ritual dance on the full moon.

And the creation of one last altar, with a portrait of me in full regalia, representing Itzpapalotl.

Kia i'x Arriaga is an Aztec Dancer and a multidisciplinary artist from Mexico; her art explores Aztec Culture, through ritual performance, music, art installation, and storytelling.

Sacraments

By Aneb Kgositsile

They say our old uncles and aunties
would fashion their survival medicines,
roots and herbs, poems and songs,
circle dances to touch the Spirit for sustenance.
Geniuses, they were, in the arts of endurance, resilience, hope.

Thus, daily they cultivated the cotton, cane, tobacco, rice,
whatever crop; withstood the beatings and abuse,
looked forward to collards and cornbread, the communion meal
of daily resurrection; to the cool darkness of evening,
and the relief of dreams.

But there would come a day when all such knowledges
no longer served. Home hung so heavy on their hearts,
so bulging, so full and bursting,
they had only to raise their arms and they were aloft,
levitated by the longing for Africa and freedom.

There they would hang for a moment,
African saints, dissolving into air and sunlight.
“Chirren,” they would whisper as they ascended,
“today we flyin back home. You gon be alright. We see afta you.”

Memories remained
of their grey, wiry beards,
their sunburnt, overworked hands and arms,
their indigo-stained fingers and palms,
their squinting eyes-so-tortured-by-the-sun,
their thread-bare trousers and tissue-thin, faded skirts,
the smell of tobacco in their shirts.

Memories
of how to fix broken tools,
cure tumors, summon joy in feasts and festivity,
mend broken hearts;
how to wait, how to be patient,
how to revive, how to love, how to laugh;
how to engender justice, how to attain peace.

Those risen saints left us chirren these holy sacraments of endurance.
They guide us from the place they called glory,
keep us on the righteous path,
till the world we call freedom someday will come.

Aneb Kgositsile (Gloria House, Ph.D.) Professor Emerita, University of Michigan-Dearborn and Assoc. Professor Emerita, Wayne State University, is a life-long freedom worker, essayist, poet and recipient of the Kresge Eminent Artist Award 2019.

Sun Forward

By Ijania Cortez

click to enlarge "Sun Forward," 48" x 48", oil and acrylic on canvas. - Ijania Cortez
Ijania Cortez
"Sun Forward," 48" x 48", oil and acrylic on canvas.

“When I hope for the future, I vision black people simply being able to be seen in fullness.”

Ijania Cortez (b. 1990) is a fine artist living and working in Detroit.

The Immigrants

By Stephen Mack Jones

They were
from the very beginning
stillborn, white as bone.
Ghosts
stumbling through withered fields
with hunger held like the swaddled corpses
of newborns
close to their naked ribs, and breathing
each other’s cholera.
Incinerated with the typhoid fever of their neighbor

They are collapsed in on themselves,
gaunt
Sinking into the dysentery mud
of an unfamiliar shore, dirty hands
pressing pristine rosaries to parched lips,
slobbering the Hail Mary from collective mouths,
giving thanks
for having survived the journey to this Promised Land with only lice,
tick bites and vacant stares from eyes starved of hope
Widows and whores, petty thieves and priests
And always failed farmers,
all weeping as they scratched
at diseased dirt of their home

A battered and bruised bloodline,
mongrelized
by the occasional English rape
These immigrants
long ago (and perhaps tomorrow)
driven by the brutality of men, the capricious cruelty of a revered God
to a rough-hewn namesake a thousand miles away
A Hail Mary enclave of other empty bellies and dream seekers in
Corktown.

Stephen Mack Jones is a poet, playwright, and award winning novelist of the August Snow series living in the metro Detroit area.

Broadcast News 4

By Senghor Reid

click to enlarge “Broadcast News #4,” marker and Ink on paper, 42" x 30". - Senghor Reid
Senghor Reid
“Broadcast News #4,” marker and Ink on paper, 42" x 30".

Gray’s Anatomy Mind Maps

The purpose of these mind maps is to provide myself with blueprints for healing. Engaging in these images using text and symbols allows me to revisit my diaries and reorganize my notes about alleviating stress and pain. Recalling thoughts, methods, and approaches to healing from trauma is a vital aspect of centering myself and maintaining a healthy consciousness. “Broadcast News #4" is a culmination of several smaller works and pieces of writing from the "Gray's Anatomy" series.

Senghor Reid is a practicing artist and Fine Arts Department Chair at Cranbrook Kingswood Upper School.

Sonnet

By Saladin Ahmed

They're burning the world and banning the books
Want you to lie for them or to vanish

But you were taught Talk honestly to crooks
By this city of Arabic and Spanish

This city of English up from the south
This city of motors and rivers

Taught you Watch the eyes, don't watch the mouth
Watch the takers who pretend to be givers

This city of alley and beautiful isle
Prepared you for these coming days

Taught you that the courts don't give a fair trial
Taught you to see through smokescreens and haze

They want you silent. They want antebellum.
But you're from Detroit. Stand up and tell 'em!

Saladin Ahmed is the novelist of Throne of the Crescent Moon and is an Eisner-winning writer of the comics titles Spine-Tingling Spider-Man, Miles Morales, Batman Unburied, Abbott, and more, with new projects Starsigns and Terrorwar on the way.

Future Self Meditation

By Ingrid LaFleur

The following meditation is to help you align with your future self in order to bring balance and joy into the present. Find a quiet comfortable space to sit or lie down. Preferably meditate with a tourmaline crystal or rose quartz, or whichever crystal vibrates with you now. Place the crystal in the center of your palm or rest it on your forehead in between your eyes…

Close your eyes
Massage the base of your head and neck for 10-15 seconds
As you massage, feel your body relax, feel your inner organs relax

Stop massaging and relax
Scan your body slowly to ensure all areas are relaxed
Take three slow deep breaths, in and out

In this mediation, our cosmic ancestors will serve as your guardians. It is within this cosmic space we will find our future selves.

With your eyes closed, set your intention on the connection you want to make with your future self

Take three slow deep breaths, in and out
Focus on the space between your eyes, the third eye
Let the darkness surround you
Release and submit into the darkness

With the soft focus on your third eye, imagine a portal opening up between your eyes

Bright cosmic light flows into the portal

Take three slow deep breaths in and out
With each inhale fill your body with the cosmic dark energy
With each exhale release your negative energy, thoughts of fear, doubt, anger
Feel your body fill up with the strength of the cosmic light
Let yourself feel superhuman

Imagine you are sitting in front of your future self
Look into the eyes of your future self and take a deep breath
Feel the energy gather in your heart into a ball of light
As you exhale, send your future self that light energy
Watch the energy move into your heart, making it glow

Inhale, watch the light move in your future self from the heart to the third eye.
Exhale, watch the ball of light move from your future self into your third eye
Inhale, send the light into your heart
Exhale, send the energy back to the heart of your future self again
Repeat the cycle three times

Imagine it’s 2050
Ask yourself the following questions:
What are your dreams in this future?
What brings you wonder and joy?
What pleases your future self?
What are your desires?
How will you love more, rest more in this future?

Now float in the cosmos and listen

When you are ready, let the energy of your third eye pull you back into your body
With it, the light of the universe filling every inch of your being
Take three slow deep breaths in and out
Slowly open your eyes

How do you feel communing your future self?
Does the future self you imagined shift your mission in the now?

Now float in the cosmos and listen
When you are ready, let the energy of your third eye pull you back into your body
With it, the light of the universe filling every inch of your being
Take three slow deep breaths in and out
Slowly open your eyes

How do you feel communing with your future self?
Does the future self you imagined shift your mission in the now?

Ingrid LaFleur is a curator, artist, afrofuture theorist, pleasure activist, and founder of The Afrofuture Strategies Institute.

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