“Meatballs” by  Jury S. Judge

“Meatballs” by Jury S. Judge

Four Poems

by Kay Ulanday Barrett



After Gloria Anzaldúa

A child isn’t so much
a discovery
but a dragging.

Rene F. is informed
that you are
in fact
in love with her.

Joseph Pinkett found a love letter
you wrote and stole it, gave it to her.

She kisses you in the basement
after CCD class for approximately
six minutes
six lifetimes
six laps in kilometers

or miles  
or basically,
your mouth feels like

become bruises after signing
the cross so many times.
Fair exchange.

Still refuse anything
but shorts and pants.

scraped knees from a
belly kick
telling you,
be a girl

you crave that 1.5 inch gap between the skirt
and whatever happens between inner thighs.

The. gap.

Sylvia was the first girl to take you there,
where you stayed.
you never wanted to leave.

Kicked out
Spat at
YOU are not my child!

Found making out with the first real girlfriend.
Here, learn kissing can be mistaken for bloodletting.

Your mama turned anything that
belonged to you
a weapon.

Whole hopes
thrashed to dust.

A heart there,
a crater,
is it still a

is a mother who
refuses to look you in the eye.

In response,
you move the food to the tenor
of small talk
you are terrible at.

Only talk about meals
— how the crab was,
did the fish need more salt?
Treaties signed by taste buds.

You plan vacation the same time as
mama goes back home
sa Pilipinas.

during your final goodbye
— you didn’t know that then —
she swells up in your hands.

It’s as though all of her becomes
blanket or dough. After this,
you never see her again.


The next time she
arrives to greet you,
accept the ashes.

Pantoum for the recital when my mother said,
don’t let them see you cry

as I child, I dressed as a bumblebee, buzzing.
on a stage, moved to music, the only brown child
at the entire recital, there I was, glowing.
I was taught to be a consummate performer!

on stage, moved to music, the only brown child
still, I knew all the steps, harmonized my muscles,
I was taught to be a consummate performer  —
once, I was shoved into the orchestra pit,

still, I knew all the steps, harmonized my muscles,
there, my stinger broken, determined, I crawled out of the hole
once, I was shoved into the orchestra pit!
all the white girls seemed… to laugh with the music?

there, my stinger broken, determined, I crawled out of the hole
at the entire recital, there I was, glowing.
all the white girls seemed to laugh with the music!
as I child, I dressed as a bumblebee, buzzing —

While looking at photo albums

Christmas Eve, 2016

Before everyone died – in my family – first definition I learned

was – my mother’s maiden name, ULANDAY – which literally

means – of the rain – and biology books remind us – the

pouring has a pattern –  has purpose – namesake means release

– for my mother meant, flee – meant leave – know exactly what

parts of you – slip away – drained sediment of a body – is how a

single mama feels – on the graveyard shift – only god is awake –  

is where my  – family banked itself – a life rooted in rosaries – like

nuns in barricade –  scream – People Power – one out of five –  

leave to a new country – the women in my family hone – in my

heart – like checkpoints –  which is what they know – which is like

a hault  – not to be confused for – stop – which is what happened

to my ma’s breath– when she went home – for the last time – I

didn’t get to –  hold her hand as she died – I said I tried –  is just

another translation to say – I couldn’t make it – in time – I tell myself  

– ocean salt and tear salt – are one and the same – I press my eyes shut – cup ghost howl

– cheeks splint wood worn – which is to say – learn to

make myself a harbor – anyway – Once I saw a pamphlet that said

– what to do when your parent is dead –  I couldn’t finish reading –

but I doubt it informs the audience –  what will happen – which is to say – you will pour

your face & hands – & smother your mother’s scream on everything – you

touch – turn eyelids into oars – go, paddle to find her.

— Originally published in Academy of American Poets, Poem-a-Day Series

when our own people don’t approve

a poem about you because
I cannot take the F train
nearby your house in Queens.
at the Roosevelt Ave. stop. our
childhood food haggled & hung from
our homelands. there are old women
whose faces might
                                resemble ours,

Why would I ever move from here?
It’s as though I never left home,
you said, smelling of kulfi and kebabs.


slurs as fast as the rain falls.
long work shifts,
our fathers or uncles made us
know our place. a snicker
    felt like broken bottle, matchstick,
of knuckle.

i was just all balled fists
like you were a decade away.
that is where you stayed,
of kisses, but to be honest
we became last sighs
some exhale
to the earth.

they don’t mean it.
they don’t understand us.

which is what people
say when
there’s no real explanation.


i kept telling myself:
swing, be stronger.
a heart counting
paused for the possible kill.
 you,  a museum of

which is to say:
nothing came to our rescue,
not that night,

not ever.


“City Life, The News” by  Allen Forrest

“City Life, The News” by Allen Forrest



Kay Ulanday Barrett (aka @brownroundboi) is a poet, performer, and cultural strategist, navigating life as a disabled pilipinx-amerikan transgender queer. They are a fellow of VONA, The Home School, Lambda Literary Review and Drunken Boat retreats. They are currently Guest Faculty for The Poetry Foundation and 2018 Writer-in-Residence for Poetry at Lambda Literary Review. K. has featured on stages like The Lincoln Center, Princeton University, UC Berkeley, Chicago Historical Society, Brooklyn Museum. Their work has featured on PBS News Hour, Asian American Literary Review, RaceForward, The Deaf Poets Society, NYLON, Apogee, Entropy, BITCH magazine, among others. More: Kaybarrett.net