As a child of refusal 
I wanted a say in my own pleasure. 

In my youth
where the dark gave way to flesh

I decided to draw a line against 
just how much woman I’d be

my body spread 
like any field
on fire, a wilding

or what could burn 
an entire house down

beginning in that bedroom 
the pallet on the floor 
my mother’s begging 

from the next room— 
if I were made to face a fist 

I was determined 
to take it
without flinching 

from the stupid boy
who was stupid solely 

because he never grew 
suspicious of why I allowed 
his hands 

afterall, why my mouth 
rose to meet his 
why I held it there 

my small searching hand
reaching for the back of his neck

for a knowing of his soft skin
my curiosity of bruise 

how far is the line
instinct and routine?


Cover Art by Siri Stensberg

Jari Bradley

Jari Bradley is a Black genderqueer poet and scholar from San Francisco, California. They have received fellowships and support from Callaloo, Cave Canem, Tin House, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments. Jari’s work has been published in The Adroit Journal, The Offing, Academy of American Poets, Callaloo, Columbia Journal, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. Jari Bradley (MFA, University of Pittsburgh) is the current 2020–2021 First Wave Poetry Fellow at UW–Madison.

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