profeta without refuge

and god said:  iset and olir

                                                                                              published in Fourteen Hills 

i had four sisters

whistle thorn acacia    slim needle and in pluck  black ants from her teeth 

 rag dance child         dry grass rattle and swirl

                        the tree that strangles and is strangled

                                    and the one who was good


i made her to break

            she broke


to survive we must                           drink

                                                            kill (sometimes)

                                                            soak in water

                                                            dig deep for more (more(more(moremore(…


            she wanted to not want

                        sought tawny veins for suck                                   

                                    as if a body without a soul could be body enough

                                                            drank so gently

                                                            little lambs curled next to sleeping lion

                                                            sleeping goat                 just sleeping zebra

                                                            morpheus fields        just sleeping

buzz  Ÿ buzz  Ÿ  acidkissbuzz  Ÿ buzzbuzz  Ÿ maggot  Ÿ eruptfly  Ÿ buzz


i told her        soulless breeds soulless 

i told her        life requires haunting         

a smidgen of jugular  

few gallons water run          no matter the cost

                                    desert scrape tongue

i told her        listen to god

            she wanted twilight thrum

            quick fire dance of equator comets

            a life without hanging spirit gardens         the stench

                        just husband daughter grassland tent

i told her        spirit takes



                        tawny veins lead to tawny lies

                        amble quickly becomes lope and paw

i told her        her arms showed pelt          her speech more bray than talk-talk


i took her laughing daughter, gave her ages of witness, this gift. we returned, a decade – what’s time - found her in the glade, her tent, torn and blooded out. she bit her nails to flesh. i asked for her husband, the son she had just born back then when time had last been fixed by sand. i saw them, saw her son’s whimper-wides as she sliced his pretty thin throat, saw her see her own self in his swallowed memories.

i told her        she wanted

            to break

i took her to origin, thought the spirits would console her, sing her back to herself. she built a pyre on our waters, turned glass to catch sun spark, and sat. when she burned on the water, she was laughing. a spreading virus. her laughing daughter went to her and held. the water ran high and the rain fell deep, and i did not thirst so much. grief? watershed. i do not know how long, how long. i forgot sand and good and sleep.

i had four sisters

            enu                 huldah                        asmeret                      (good has no name)





poet: rigor

                                                                                               published in Asterix

it ends with a bullet to the head

                                                            or a sickle       machete         spiked bat

any dead-em will do


livor mortis    rigor mortis    algor mortis

body cools blood stains the skin  fixed in its timelessness

days it takes to blacken

first the extending green divines rotting flesh

some gods blue & some gods kelp

purple bruise & then black

that’s real


only movies go                                                     bite + time = skin slip & black spurt


in truth

eyes protrude & challenge tongue

intestines reveal their tangle

push through vagina & rectum


black people have no futures

in sci-fi or horror   


white man apocalypse :

whiteness grays & turns black

crow black eyes or embalmed roll-white


we always die first in the movies

when death leads to

black running

how dare those zombies crave


everyone needs a cure

it all ends with a bullet

& a bonfire

zombies aren’t human

consciousness ripples

i give you                                                                                                                     mercy[i]


i keep searching my head for holes

practicing,                  stop. don’t shoot.                                i’m alive.

[i] “I give you mercy” is a reference to Z Nation, a television series on SyFy that follows a group of travelers, led by a Black woman, as they face and attempt to stop a zombie apocalypse. 

On profeta without refuge, 2016, Nomadic Press

Chilling, raw, honest, and brave enough to be felt under the skin, Leon’s aesthetically well-crafted poems in profeta without refuge filled my body with the breath it’s been looking for since the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Sandra Bland.

These lyrical and experimental poems explore the belief that our bodies are containers of trauma. Whether passed on from one generation to the next or lived in the flesh, the fear, heartbreak, violence, suffering and anxiety become a part of us and ultimately shape who and what we are and can become. With precise language, eloquent musicality, and harrowing mysticism and metaphor, Raina León is able to articulate both the historical and current suffering experienced by the black community in America.  These poems are inescapable, they hold us captive and demand our attention on the page. Whether we move our eyes from left to right, right to left, or up and down each line, or pick up our cell phones to interact with the text in poems like “code,” she is reminding us that our skin, our body, our blood, and our bones hold and respond to physical and emotional trauma that cannot/should not be forgotten or erased.

– Jasminne Mendez, International Latino Book Award winner, Island of Dreams.

In Profeta without Refuge, Leon writes: Life requires a haunting & then she proceeds to do exactly this by creating a world that acts like a veil to the one we reside in. She has forced a parallel seeing: black bodies lying in the streets & the constant naming of such violence with the remembering of who we are as a people, our ancestral and godlike abilities, our world full of mysticism & energy. Black people have no futures / in sci-fi or horror, she writes, & yet within the compounds of this text we know that this type of escapism might be the only place where we can safely create our (r)evolutions.  This is an ambitious and profoundly beautiful work that will stay with me the rest of my days

— Yesenia Montilla author of The Pink Box longlisted for the Pen Open Book Award 2016.

With dynamic characters and complex narratives, profeta without refuge is a provocative blend of Afro Sci-Fi and eco-poetics that takes on the controversial issues of gender, Black rage, generational trauma, and race. This revolutionary collection is a test of time—for our past, present and future. It’s more than just science and emotions, León makes narrative poetry from the discord of black and brown bodies buried in U.S. history.

— Sarah Rafael García, co-editor of pariahs writing from outside the margins & Founder of LibroMobile

© Raina J. León 2017