Jonathan Endurance holds a B.A in English and Literature. His unpublished poem won UNESCO Sponsored Prize for the 14th edition of Castello di Duino Poetry Competition, ITALY (2018). He was a finalist in the National Call for Poems about Peace and Conflict Transformation by Wick Poetry Center (Kent State University). He was also a semi-finalist in the Jack Grapes Poetry Prize (2020). His unpublished manuscript (House of Cain) also clinched the finalist spot in the Ramblr Quarantine Chapbook Contest (2020). His poems have appeared or forthcoming in Rattle Magazine, Into the Void (We Are Antifa Anthology), One, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Alegrarse, FIVE:2:ONE, The Cardiff Review, The Ellis Review, Brittle Paper and elsewhere. Say hello on Twitter @joepoet_
Tonight, I am lying cheek-pressed to my pillow.
My mother reaches me through the phone
to announce my brother’s death
My son, she said sobbing through the phone
the way the sea wind stirs the storm.
Her voice cracking like rustling leaves in harmattan aura.
Your brother is no more.
In my head, the earth is drowning into a lake.
I open my mouth like a small briefcase
filled with bombs and gun bullets
I want to ask how, when, where
but my grief-wet mouth shuffles
for the right words fearing overflowing
Before she hung up, she said son,
come home. I need you here.
I didn’t know how one’s voice could
become a bird feathered by cold grief.
Because my voice at the receiving end
lost its flight, it could barely become
As if my fingers tracing imaginary
line, I reach for the glass of water beside
me. I surrender my mouth to the coldness
of ice. My body shredded in stillness
becomes a door kicked open to wreckage.
A hole is nothing—Matt Rasmussen
but what remains around it
It’s New Year’s Day, I am standing by my window
to air out my grief. My eyes propped open
like an exit door.
The garden trees shower flakes of snow until
they become January rain grief-wetting my face.
Across the street, fireworks light the spot
where my father’s body took the exit door
the night before.
I do not know why I say this. The body has seen
too many crime scenes where a police blasts
the gun to a black man’s head until his name
becomes liquid flowing through his family’s
In the first weeks of Black Lives Matter,
I spent most of my time feeding my own grief
until I became too swollen watching
the players take the knees on TV.
I was 17 and wanted to write poems
to hide my grief. I would walk the street
while the sun sifts through me like departure.
Once, while reading Matt Rasmussen’s poem
where he says A hole is nothing/ but what
remains around it, I knelt beside my father’s
photograph. Opened my mouth to say a pray, but
realized silence was the closest companion.
Horizon Where Gunfire Stirs the Storm
The day begins with rainwater making ablutions for the night bloodshot.
I hold a bird by its wing, the feathers come crashing for losing their weight
to the war. Whatever tastes sour on my tongue is the sting of threat forcing
us into a pretense of peace.
Because the sky is bloodshot, I cup my hands for a supplication of mercy.
In this city, black birds stay up late to spread their wings
when the sky is calm enough to not spill the blood instead of water.
Fresh from the shower, I shut the door against my shadow after the second
gunshot clipped another black man like a fruit.
Because the difference between calmness and uproar is how fast the bullets travel to stir
the grief in our mouths, I unhook the verses on my tongue seeking God
in every psalm my mouth can birth. My father comes from the bloodline of
sailors who sailed the sea while the storm still flexed its muscles. My heart
bleeds with too many gun stories. I hold my mother’s hands, the storm
shifts through her eyes. The war has scars planted all over our smiles.
In this chalet tooting with birdsongs, my eyes sweep through
the story of George Flyod. I wonder how the honey
became a droplet of bitter spice.
Grief places a trombone beneath my throat.
Every song on my tongue sharpens a knife, and the feet
our shadows once kissed have preached themselves to the graves.
At a pizzeria, a crusade of white men unfurled
their stares on my black face. If eyes were a knife,
imagine this body a deer owing every wolf a pound of flesh.
On the street of Minneapolis, a white police tramples his knee
on the neck of an unarmed black man. The creaks of birds
pulse through my veins. Tell me, what grief wouldn’t fit this tongue
tucked in a black mouth? The cloud wears a djellaba of stars.
The moon testaments the scenes of blood.
A Kilimanjaro of cold stood akimbo on my feet
as the news of Floyd’s death preached itself into the internet.
For a minute or two, my mouth twittered the creaks of birds.
I own every name a cadence of requiem the way I own every star a chorus
of midnight litany. I say Floyd, a ritual of hums hymns its way onto my mouth.
And I ask again: what is it about black that paragraphs our lives so brief?
Because there are many ways to resurrection
we plant a scar at the back of my father’s palm
as a remembrance for reincarnation.
As the knife passes through his flesh
the way a needle thread carefully walks through a hole
a song folds into my mouth, my tongue a gasoline
triggered by matchstick.
The women arm-wrap their breasts in awe.
Because the body is holed with too many bullets
our effort becomes another sadness triggered by memory.
When the men pressed the knife to his flesh
I offered to swallow the scar instead & pray his body
into God’s right hand.
Because the heart is still a boy caged by milk bones
a man walks forward, walks me into the living room.
The weight becomes lighter when my eyes close into a dream.
Because self-drowning is never enough for a body
filled with too many bullet holes, the women fall to their knees
milking their grief through broken voices.
That night, my knees kissed the floor,
& I swear I mistook my breath for a whirlwind.