by Jubi Arriola-Headley
Sibling Rivalry Press. 91 pages, $18.
In this tender and tough collection of poems, Jubi Arriola-Headley expands the definition of kink beyond the sexual to his unique first-generation American experience as a black gay Bajan (Barbadian). These poems follow the arc of his life, from the poignant “Daddy” about a little boy at the dog races longing for his father’s love (“I still want Daddy to look at me like he does those dogs/ Like I could win”) to his precocious teen years frequenting porn theaters after his first time at the tender age of fourteen (“that flush and rush of blood/ the moment I knew/ I had him/ (the moment he knew he had me)/ wanting it to be/ water into wine”) and on to his more reflective mature self in “Zero Gravity (4:23AM Remix)”: “But I like these jeans, I’ve had them going on 20 years now & they’re the perfect combination of worn out & broken in, like my dreams, so I fold them nicely & sit on them, so they won’t float away”; and “Confessional” (“Only thing/ I’ve ever/ longed to be/ ain’t rich, or/ famous, or/ thin, or even/ white, but/ naked”). Because the personal is political, his reflections on being black come with a punch, yet a thoughtful, loving one. In “America” he echoes both Whitman and Ginsberg: “This is a dare/ I dare you to love me, America.” For he clearly has given his love, a mature, seasoned one, so eloquently stated in “Eulogy”: “Tell them I loved you. Tell them you betrayed me still. Tell them I forgave. Tell them my name is/ Emmett, Eric, Alton, rage,/ Tamir, Trayvon, joy.”