now awakened, will they
feed their eyes to see
what poems wander lost and blind
in the world that burns under this skin;
the world that burns under this skin
set afire by blue flames;
flames cooking a beaten heart that must house
and feed all that runs through its courtyards?
will they feed their eyes to see
what kind of words will leave
open scars on pages and realize themselves
in the name of a poem?
will they look? will they know?
will they follow the stories the skin keeps?
will it be written, spoken, or concluded —
all that the skin has read?
all that weary flesh the skin has carried?
all that original story the skin has written
with flesh and trembling?
will they feed their eyes to see?
will they desire to read the flesh
of the skin and the worlds it tells?
there are worlds it tells.
C.I. Aki, the son of a Nigerian economist and a Nigerian Jamaican horticulturist, is a poet, essayist, filmmaker and educator based in Nashville. His debut collection of poems The World Black, Beautiful, and Beast is a witness to the constraints and restraints upon the beautiful freedom of the Black soul. You can follow him on Instagram @soul_lit_writer.
Maile Lani is a Nashville-based artist and illustrator with a background in color theory and Asian art. She blends surrealism with modernist elements as a way to bring life to her daydreams. Her work can be found on Instagram @paperspaceship.