Published: November 13th, 2014
Christell Victoria Roach was born and raised in Miami, Florida. She enjoys all the arts, however, seeing writing as her forte and her most adequate form of expression: it is the field she is most diligently pursuing by studying it at COlumbia COllege Chicago. She has been published in Figment Literary Magazines’ ‘Why I Write’ Anthology, in Dog Eat Crow Magazine, in Rattle Literary Magazines’ Young Poets Anthology, and in the Postscript Journal. She has received 5 Regional Gold Keys, 5 Regional Silver Keys, 1 National Gold Medal, and 1 National Silver Medal for her writing in the Scholastic Alliance for Young Artists and Writers’ state evaluation/competition, has received 3rd place in Poetry Matters’ 2011 & 2014 poetry competitions, and won 1st place in the 2012 Poetry Society of Virginia poetry competition. She has competed on state and national levels for Spoken Word; she is a member of Tigertail Miami International WordSpeak team that performs annually at Brave New Voices competition, has competed in the Spoken Word Category in the National Fine Arts competition of 2012, was awarded 3rd place in the State of Florida Poetry Out Loud recitation competition of 2013, and 2nd place in 2014. Christell is a creative thinker, a writer, and musician: she can very knowingly say writing is her forte. She sees it as her only adequate form of expression, and she harvests it daily under the direction of any who will bring her knowledge.
Black Wall Street
Where it happened, there were never any ''we will never forget''
speeches, no candles or bronze plaques bolted to the walls that
have never been repaired.
No one ever apologized for evicting an entire community
to the streets by way of dynamite and nitroglycerine. No one
mourned the loss of a community so strong it had black skin.
Tulsa, Oaklahoma raised a community so prosperous
It was stricken down like the Tower of Babel. Burned by men in hoods,
Greenwood is gone with the blood of 10,00 blacks.
Heat-seared skin was so common it became a family trait,
and their voices were burned in the bellies of Ma & Pop stores.
Strands of hemp twist through their bloodstreams, \
and now they only breathe knowing that it is flammable.
Their bodies twist with despair like a noose being dragged in the streets
black bodies run in the chaos of broken chords, seeking shelter
from the whip of the sun and its nag for burning flesh.
They run, panting the pavement, dodging bullets, firewalking through the streets
While ripping the fire from their garments, and clawing
screams from their chest. Homes crumble in the hands of hawks,
and Greenwood victims run to disguise themselves as strange fruit,
but the bodies slip from the trees, and are dragged to
the ovens they kept the fire-fighters from extinguishing.
When the earth splits and hell climbs free,
What will keep the fire from touching us?
After flesh has been swallowed by magma,
and our frames have crusted into the cores
Of volcanics, where will the holy waters be
to immerse what the fire has not downed?
The heat sunk deeper than our screams,
And branded our bodies with finality. We
melted into our eternity. With fallen angels
clawing at our spirits, the pages of our lives
crumbling to ash in the hands of demons.
We will be left with nothing to measure
ourselves but the explosions we make,
who will sift our ashes?
My street is a fresco dried in many languages,
and it hums with grass on its breath in the mornings.
If you listen closely, you can hear Hurricanes Andrew,
and Katrina still carving their initials in the trees,
and you can see the trees contorting in response.
Two doors down, the neighbors are tuning
their traveling strings, and downstairs my mother
is whispering prayers for those gypsies.
In the backyard there is Ginger, Anise, and Cerassie;
all are screaming about their ‘unorthodox blooming;’
and a rooster is stalking her shadow, speaking to herself.
I Firewalk across the asphalt, and see age sitting
on the porch, stroking his beard. I can hear him
grumbling about the neighborhood kids causing “ruckus.”
Then the streetlights come on, and the wind begins to cry,
rebelling against stillness.
At night, my street smells like expression, and sounds
like bondage. I get down on my knees in my room;
I wait to hear a chorus of tongues praying,
and then I say “amen” in unison.
We walk to the wall cast
of the New World Symphony
Orchestra, stroll through
the ghost-town of Colored-Town –
finding Etta Jame’s soul
still dancing in the streets
in scraps. We picture ourselves
into the graffiti on the walls,
and run to hide in the café
so that we can batter our lungs
with smoke. Don’t always overlook
the homeless hearts, don’t dress
too thick, because the air is fat.
Don’t go to the beach midday,
and don’t got there on holidays.
Explore where the graffiti ends,
go beyond the heap of freeways,
go to the market, and make your home
a nest of languages. Roll your r’s
over the fruits, and nickname
the meat before you kill it. Collect
customs and characters.
Come to my house, where the Spanish
housekeeper dusted away the secrets
on the mantle with her biracial prayers.
Come to my house, you’ll know it
by the mailbox that has been hit
so many times it cannot stand straight,
and the porch-light has a one-night stand
with the street light a couple nights a week.
Come to my house, if you look at the pottery,
you’ll think we’ve been to Africa, and Greece,
but I’ll tell you we have yet to set foot out
of the homes in our streets.
Casualties to the Gentrification of Jazz
She sits in the back of the bar, listening
to the imposters trying to capture the essence
of her day. Her body expands and contracts
like an accordion, and her cough is harmonica
jazzing up the room. She hugs herself tight,
feeling for the city in her chest, but only finding
the keyboard beneath her breasts. She hums her way
out of the room, with melancholy rifting her
into her memories.
Faces transform into a different generation,
and angels with saxophones take host in
the band on stage. Souls peel from the walls,
and she begins to breathe a syncopated rhythm.
Skins wash with color, and voices bellow in brass;
hips swing, resurrecting Colored-Town. The hour
improvises into early morning, and the room is alive
again. Her body is a live again.
She is a room full of jive, vocal percussionists,
and other scat. In her, they dance away the worries
of the day, shedding their skins beneath warm lights
in her bosom; she can feel the thickness of the jazz
and gin on her breath. The party started on the buses
from south beach, crossed the bridge like it was
crawling across her midriff in a two-step, camo-walked
downtown her waist, and it settled in the southern harlem’s
womanhood. The music traveled all the way back home
just to lay with her.
Time came like a wrecking ball into the picture.
Freeways stomped through her body, crushing her ribs,
fragmenting her keyboard. There is pillar where her voice
used to be; they gouged the spirits from the streets in her,
sending her body into a timeless vibrato. As the city in her
bones is destroyed, the music is uprooted from her body,
leaving only broken hooks, and homeless motifs. She taps
her foot trying to keep herself in the time, but tunes
that just don’t work pry her from her dreams.