Self Portrait With a Filter

Two poems by Brionne Janae

you are a walking sculpture in water color / best not figure out how many salty tears / it would take for your transformation into damp earth


when your neighbor    who’s been whistling and shoveling
since dawn stops to say    well look at this snow huh
and you want to curse the clouds this temperate city    your boots
for welcoming the snow inside to dampen your socks    the weather man
the snow plow    the shovel cracking your palms
stop    bare your teeth pleasantly and say isn’t nature a wonder

when the barista says have a nice day
don’t snap back with don’t tell me how to live my life damnit
just say you too

when your therapist asks about your week
don’t tell him how each morning you wake up dying
or how more and more the world looks like a sinking city
how most days you are weighted and diving
breathless and forgetting the way to the surface
just say well enough

when your student says its hopeless
remind her progress is not one steady journey up but more like a roller coaster
don’t admit you’re not sure at times if you’ll survive this steep trip down

when after a long night protesting another in a long string of black bodies murdered
your coworker asks if you had fun running through the streets like a wild thing
don’t try to say anything
look her in the face then walk away
preferable to a restroom or supply closet
feel free to cry here but quietly
be careful it doesn’t descend into a train braking wail
be careful it doesn’t build past something you can stop quickly
on second thought don’t cry here or ever really
you are a walking sculpture in water color
best not figure out how many salty tears
it would take for your transformation into damp earth



again the heart is racing for cliff’s edge,
night terrors licking at the heels with lust, enthralled
it cannot give up this hectic syncopated dance

of the bruja, its twitching naked in the woods past pleasure,
all alone and still running. running after a peace found careening
from the cliff’s edge. that moment when the body passes through dust

into dust, which is to say, you’ve been a long time captive
of the hand at your neck. its knuckles curling and caressing
the flesh into shallow shallow breaths. I know each of us

must bear her burden come fire come what may
though I fear I will not. not with this frantic beating of plucked wings
into plunging flight. God I will not go on fighting

all alone for my life. send angels or do not. just be with me
here or release. God release. Lord get this hand off my neck.



Brionne Janae is a poet and teaching artist living in Brooklyn. She is the recipient of the 2016 St. Botolph Emerging Artist award, a Hedgebrook and Vermont Studio Center Alumni and proud Cave Canem Fellow. Her poetry and prose have been published by, the Academy of American Poets, the American Poetry Review, the Sun Magazine, the Los Angeles Review, Rattle, Bitch Magazine, The Cincinnati Review, jubilat, Sixth Finch,Plume, Bayou Magazine, The Nashville Review, Waxwing, and Redivider among others. Brionne’s first collection is titled After Jubilee and was published by Boaat Press.