Yona Harvey



swatting mosquitoes
I knelt beside daddy's deck
as afternoon unraveled
like a volleyball net.
Our lawn recurred five times
up the lane, every yard's
tomato plants patterned
after the same magazine.
Granny Burns sighed
at my aunts & mother
fluttering like insects
among paper plates,
baked beans, potato salad.
Too shy to dance, I watched
my cousins' bodies bob
& pop like pogo sticks
to Roger Troutman
& Zapp, each proud step
an electric prayer.
I searched old boxes
for badminton racquets
as beads of sweat clung
to my small breasts
like a boy's mouth,
almost happy
being asked to help.



full of color the snake
comes out of sleep
out of earth
out of a garden's
combed black dirt

out of the belly
its tail slips
onto the grass past
the old fossil whose prayer
is lost on the house
behind it.......called back
by nightcrawlers & beetles

past the patch troubled
with dolls' heads.....frog legs
quickening in a jar

onto the porch
into the house
quiet as a dream
a girl dreams
her mouth slobber & heat

she dreams
of the snake
full of color
its rainbowed skin
a dance in her black eyes

soot shaken free
from its outcast body it climbs
the staircase
to the girl's bedroom

where she wiggles free
from her sheets.......the girl

full of color.......the snake
all struggle.......a whisper
caught in a dry throat

the girl awakens
& does not scream.

Annu Ratta
Blue Buddha
30" x 18", ceramic
see more of Annu Ratta's work




Each saint's face
in the Gillespie parlor
is cast with lips pressed tight.
But smoothing her skirt
on the sofa, she swears
she catches them reading
Dizzy's score.

She's listened to the music slip
further from muddy water
& spirit, like a country
man cloaking suffering
in a new bright suit.

The music's gotta cut deep.
But her friends don't know
how to answer her. She treads
their silence like a path to God.

What she wants is a low-down
connection. Boogie-woogie
promise of call & response. Music
joined with spirit like the ball
& socket of a winging hip.

The music's lost its roots.
Glancing the piano's keys,
she whispers a hymnal prayer.



what color

shug avery
would wear

lips look like
dark plum

plum nipples

piss off god
if you don't
notice it

miss celie's song

out my head

just about
the color of

the more
i wonder

the more
i love



Tomorrow I will be born
to a churchgoing woman
& a man whose blistered feet
will never leave her. She will buy
ruffled socks for me & he
will tote me to granny's in them.
They will acquire debt for each other
but we will not be saved.
None of us knows
that my baby sister will come
home in borrowed blankets
that we will dress in the mirrors
of this house for years.


Like William "Bootsy" Collins and Toni Morrison, Yona Harvey is from the great state of Ohio. Like Morrison, she left that great state and came to Washington, DC to attend Howard University. Since her graduation several years ago, she has taught in Japan, received an MFA from Ohio State, ate gumbo in New Orleans, married a poet named Terrance, and given birth to a wonderful daughter named Ua. She has been published in Step Into a World, Testimony, Red Brick Review, and in many other places.

Published in Volume 2, Number 4, Fall 2001.