Coming from Stockton, California, Anna Allen has always held a deep interest in poetry. All throughout elementary school, she looked forward to the month where the class was instructed to write stories. That interest will be there, she believes, forever.
Why do you write? What compels you to write?
With the state of the world today and the past, I feel that the one of the things that I can do for myself, my community and my family is write. I love to write poetry because it is a dedicated art form for anyone to get involved in. I’m increasingly blown away by the talent and strength I hear and see from the people in the poetry community. It’s contagious.
What upcoming writing projects are you working on?
Right now, I am working on a small book of poetry. It is called, “Tweets From Birmingham Jail”. It examines the relationship between Black folks and the police and the trauma that Blacks are given. It examines the racial stress Black people have felt since birth. It’s highly emotional and it’s taking a lot out of me. It is taking a while to write it. But I will be done soon!
Describe your work in five words
What are some of your artistic influences/inspirations?
Everything by Gwendolyn Brooks has been a huge inspiration. Same with James Baldwin and Audre Lorde. Every time I look at Frida Kahlo’s work, I want to write.
Alternatives to Splitting Your Skin With My Teeth
Shoot each other in the chest while wearing bulletproof vests.
Pull out your tooth.
Tie one end of a string to a doorknob,
The other to your front tooth and slam the door.
You’re always slamming doors in my direction.
Read from the same worn, leather, brown bible.
Because the only thing, you said, that can save us now is if Christ himself
Descended from heaven and made us say our sorries and force us to hug.
I could braid your hair too tight
Like so tight,
Like so tight
I can squeeze dialogue out of the brown ropes.
We could write love poems, one line each.
But I worry my lines will compare you to a stained glass angel
And yours would compare me to an atom bomb in a china shop.
We could touch each other slowly.
I’d have to prepare my cast-iron suit.
Your hands have been sandpaper these days.
I could melt peppermints all delicate on your inner thigh.
I could drain the moon of its milk to give it to you as a birthday present
That the other women could never give to you.
Not her or her or that one or the other one.
Leave hickeys on the pads of your fingers.
Shove tiny nail scissor blades under each other’s fingernails
Suck the blood, spit out the blood,
Examine the blood as if it is a Rorschach test.
I see butterflies.
You see corpses.
I wrote a poem a little while ago called “How to Eat Your Lover.”
We’ve moved past cannibalism to straight incineration.
We are setting each other on fire every night.
It isn’t the heat we were used to, smoking bed sheets,
The warmth rocking us to sleep.
This strips your skin in layers, burns so hot,
You’re too stunned to remember how to scream.
Pour the gasoline.
We could pour the gasoline.
We are woken every 15 minutes
By quarter slices of light shining from the doorway
Our stomachs rumble throughout the night
We wish for morning to come quick or not at all
We lie on beds of nails
After our “now I lay me down to sleep”s
We pray even though it is futile
We are pious perfection
Hair tucked behind one ear
Hands clasped like we’re holding a wish
Between the two palms
Knees scabbed and peeling
From all of our kneeling
My chest is concave now
The butterflies and fairies evacuated
When they push my head under the cold water
The freeze bulging my eyeballs
When my body stops all its thrashing and groaning
Be sure to remove the rope binding my feet
For all that it may be worth
I’d give the first tooth I’d ever lost
On my elementary school school bus
My first pair of bloodied pointe shoes
The virginity that I used to believe mattered
Had I kept any of them
I’d give them all to you
To put in your box of magic
Where you must keep the abracadabra of
The tenor of your vocal chords
The unyielding pads of your fingers
Weakness in your stare
This entire year
All years, really
On my list was someone to float with
To bump heads on ceilings with
To grazes noses on clouds against
With all of this,
I don’t know what to do with
I can hear hooves on my rooftop