Sasha Banks




Mhm. The poplars know
how to hold death: keep it
still. But I’m swinging the axe.
They’re all around the city:
eyeless and staring
even to the dirt under
my nails. Peopling the
bayous. Hungry. Look.

Last night was that dream
again: me and Jesus
pulling nails out of our feet
at the lip of the Mississippi
Delta. Somewhere, Coretta
is calling for Martin
to come down from a sycamore.
He’s just a boy, here, but
he weeps and the sky
is ripped at the belly.

They shifted shapes. But I know.
The rocking chair, the banister,
nightstand, porch steps, vanity. I know,
and I am swinging the axe.

Don’t laugh. I couldn’t have been
the only black child
who didn’t trust the forest; who saw it,
from her dark window, turning itself
into rows of small coffins. A silence
like that—all the time smirking
with no mouth. Knew my terror
and loved it.

Watch me, now.
I’m swinging this axe.
I come back for all of this summer and give my flesh to it,
undressed in its hot breath.
Watch. Just steady on
this axe I’m swingin’. I run
through this klan of cypresses
whirling their lassos above
their branches. They want
to make me their strangest fruit.
But look.
How the axe humbles the wood
to a stacked history
of its noosed unions to this skin.
A clean cut. And now,
so much firewood.


SASHA BANKS is a poet and educator from Ohio, by way of Alaska, by way of Germany, by way of California. She lives in Ft. Worth, TX, teaching writing workshops for elementary and university level students. She studied creative writing at Texas Wesleyan University where she graduated in 2012. She has spoken for Arun Gandhi, and was a Golden Poem Award winner and performer at the 2013 National Poetry Slam. Her work has appeared in Kinfolks Quarterly, the Austin International Poetry Anthology, and was awarded publication in Alight. She is a 2013 Button Poetry Chapbook Prize finalist.


Check out more work by Sasha Banks:

Performance at Spokenword Academy
Poem at Button Poetry