Encased solid whites look at overflowing red ones;

your body is stiffened, like the love that you have already laid down to rest;

you console me in my resistance to unclutch the diamond-like dreams in my tightened fist-

gently wading my wrist into the summery, warm, turquoise tide;

you bid me to let go-

assuring me someone else will find the diamond-like dreams in the current

and return them safe and sound.

Did You?

Under baobab tree,

Did you come for me

Looking to love me into eternity

To venerate me like ancestors

All my words and curves

Love me like forever were equivalent words

Under the cover of a solid blue night

Did you bring me into the still- your human love light

Did you take me under the uncertainty of your wing

And pray my love be the anchor of everything

Or did you come for me

In dressed-up defeat

And hope I’d be a distraction so sweet

Reduced to curve without words to write

Invisible by day and ever present at night

Did you come for me to meet with fate

Or did you force its hand

Your appreciation for love

still in wait….


Did you…


Copyright@Nichelle Calhoun 2014



The poet







and behoovements.

Not just books

Red-marked papers,

stashed in kitchen crooks.


The poet reads



unexpressed defeat,

sincere humility

and whiffs of conceit.

-In just an eyebrow tweak.


The poet


the way one hugged less,

Or pushed in more,

slight differences,

How someone walked out the door.


The poet reads,

That which you did not admit,

or consciously know to emit,

Even the literal you thought you

sucker punched with,

Gets ignored

-In favor of the eyebrow twitch.


Because the poet is always reading. 

Copyright@Nichelle Calhoun 2014

The Constant Gardener (Homegoing Poem for Aunt Emma)


Here we come to tell the world,

about the precious seeds

planted by our sweet southern girl,


who came from a place

where the earth is made of clay,

and the sun shines red hot

on just a typical summer day,


she started out her mischievous charm

one of 10 on a Mecklenburg farm,


in the stories that she would grow to recount

cows named Lulabelle, and Sallie Belle she would chase about,


but she must have learned from quite a young age

that a little  bit of tenderness goes a mighty long way,


because she grew into a woman that had kindness

in the structure of her cheeks-

situated likes sweet apples for all the world to see,


the image of goodness that she did convey

she must have learned early

that the planting of love goes a mighty long way,


and she tilled, and she sewed, for all that are here today

til the Lord said put down your shovel- it is time for you to rest- I say,


So she put down her shovel, but just on this earthly farm,

Knowing she had left a legacy of love that would flourish and go on,


So now our southern girl has gone on with the angels to sleep,

But she sends one final message-

This legacy was for you, so please now go reap,

go reap.


Copyright@Nichelle Calhoun 2014

Clay and Concrete ( In Honor of Emma Gordon McClain)

 Clay and Concrete

           Simone used to love to ask her Aunt Emma to braid her hair. Aunt Emma would turn her head from watching the occasional passerby outside her bedroom window and motion softly for her to come lay her tousled head of thick hair in her lap. Simone was not beautiful then or even little-girl cute. She had dark, dark brown hair that graced the upper third of her back. Her skin was like a mismatched peanut butter , a few shades lighter than the hair that teased it. Her large-square shaped bucked teeth stuck out from her violet gums and she was pre-teen chubby.

But Simone would curl up under Aunt Emma as if Aunt Emma blocked the direct burn of the sun. And when Aunt Emma braided Simone’s hair, her strong, elderly fingers would pull the three sections of Simone’s hair together in a stiff grasp and begin to braid it into sets of two. She affectionately called them “cowhorns.” Each braiding motion tugged slightly on Simone’s roots and as she would go section by section Aunt Emma would light up with stories and short songs from a time that only seemed to exist on her fingertips and in the lightness of her speech when she braided hair.  In a working middle class Prince George’s county neighborhood in the mid-90s, the backwoods of old Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, seemed like a barren land of wasted dreams. It was a place that was left, a place of ancestors, or a place descendants visited just to pay homage to a past that seemed incompatible with the present.

But, with Aunt Emma that past was tangible for Simone.  She loved her even more for her bearing of the past. She read her softness as sensitivity to the supernatural, a manifestation of what was. To Simone, she was packed with spirits, not haunted, but influenced, and her brown face naturally tucked round plums on the seat of her cheekbones.  So, Simone always imagined that those plums were where the most benevolent spirits sat. They always kept Aunt Emma permanently smiling, even when there was no reason to.  Like when her older sister died in her and Simone’s arms or when the root doctor could not create anything to save Aunt Emma’s brother from a quick, but devastating bout of cancer that took him in less than two months.  The plums on her cheeks remained there.

Simone, found herself caught between the southern, rural mystique of her Aunt Emma, who took care of her as a child and the modern, professionalism of what surrounded them.  Simone, the slightly chubby, buck-toothed, style-challenged girl was comfortable in the plot of running in red from the monkey woman hiding in thorny bushes and she forever craved the years gone by in Aunt Emma’s stories-Lulabelle and the glasses of water that caught spirits, the salt and pepper in pockets that kept balance.  The modernization laid by concrete could never blanche out the rugged earthiness of North Carolina clay-could never blanche out the rugged earthiness of North Carolina clay.

*This piece is dedicated to the indelible spirit of my Aunt Emma. She is tattooed to the very core of me.  RIP January 28, 2014.

Copyright @Nichelle Calhoun 2014

Cosmetic Procedure

Today went

and cut off the


that occurred

when I was

so emotionally


scarcely anyone recognized

my hurt.


I remember the day

it came.

I was 28 years old

and round

with our former


It was all the stuff of love in me.


I had bought an Indian printed

dress and

heavy vintage black and silver earrings.

I put them in my ears as I walked out

to be with blood and water

and my fluffy pink cake.


It was all the stuff of love in me.

Love down to the cell.


The world was pink, clear, light.

I remember that day.

but I was gray

and heavy.

My precious earrings,

First hurt then-

I wouldn’t take them off.

Beauty kept my sadness



But the hurt grew into granules,

fibrous granules, I hid behind




My physical hurt so little


anyone recognized it.


Fibrous wires grew into circles

balled tightly

above a hole

tucked into the corner

behind my lobe

and then eventually through the lobe.

Blood, discomfort, shame.

I thought of you.


I was all the stuff of in broken-love 

And my body seemed to know it

Down to a fibrous level.


But today I went

And cut off the overgrowth.

My overgrowth 

gone awry

My protection

of the original wound.

Today I went

and cut off the overgrowth


it was long,

long overdue.


Copyright@Nichelle Calhoun 2013