Kiala Givehand


every year they steal my weapons
from the hope chest.
a laminate heirloom
filled with holy linens, stained
towels, a bumpy clump of gold—
my great-grandmother’s first
engagement ring.

it’s a pitiful dowry:
cracked plates purchased from a corner store,
two half-used red candles
for emergencies, and
the only thing that i’ve added—
blond women in veils as long
as a southern baptist church service.
their crumpled white dresses telling
all my secrets, all my plans

between courting and committing,
a shame-stained wooden box
prays…thank you lord, thank you lord, lord…thank you

what can’t a chest endure
when it’s part of a woman’s armor?
her shield.
her cloak.



“We make war that we may live in peace.”
— Aristotle

each February, i dream in black

a massive debt bearing down
on my calloused elbows.

the bones are at attention
sweet grenades launching
their smell is brisk, yellow, and full of solace.

that smell announces defeat
and destruction is measured
in fathoms and leagues.

i slam my wrists into my own jugular
and celebrate,
like a solider after her first kill

i cup my lymph nodes,

…we should rather suffer than fight,
rather suffer than fight, we should
fight suffer fight suffer, fight, fight, fight…

the stench is a plastic flag
flying too close to the sun.
rays are burning
rays are piercing
through the flag, even melted,
we stand swollen
and at attention



Kiala Givehand is a poet, educator, and collector of fine writing instruments. Her work has appeared in Calyx, on, at the Bella Vista Art Gallery, and in the Campanil. She holds an MFA from Mills College and founded Generations Literary Journal. Kiala is a Cave Canem fellow and a Voices of Our Nation (VONA) alum.

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