"Regality," "A Year in the Open City," and "Ride"


She would be king. A bawse among bosses. There is no common ground. She cares not for the origins of others who came before her. Perfection defines her. I can't make this up. When I'm before her, I feel as if I'm on foreign soil. My soul looks back on what we were before the coronation. I remember the fear killing my black body. I remember her coldness. When she was crowned, she was the hope of the nation. Our father left & he never came back. His absence changed her. Nine years under the crown & I see her beast side. We will always be sisters, children of blood & bone. You don't have to say you love me.



A Year in the Open City

Spent in hunger

seeking inspiration

finding imperfection

birthing anarchy

looking for freedom

finding blood

avoiding the shuffle

of black ink & red victims

protesting injustice

in blue states where

old reservations decay

on the outskirts, seeing

how it all went down




This is an elegy to asphalt

cracked & gutted, stripped

of its smoothness from years

of neglect.


Let us pray for tar, hot & melting

against old rocks, chipped & broken

like our lives, robbed of innocence

& youthful zeal. Bodies neglected.


The wind is in my face. Cold & nonjudgmental,

slapping away my desperation. Need

is a greedy thing. I am thirsty for escape

as I check my side mirrors.


The windows are eyes

that follow me as I go by, glinting

in the sunlight. They're suspicious

of me. My skin color is a crime.


Freedom is an exit ramp. A route

not highlighted by GPS. A blur of words.

Siri ignores the detour. My hands sweat

against the steering wheel. An urgency.


Morning gives way to evening. Stars peep

my progress on the highway. Twilight

closes the windows' eyes. I drive on.

My destination is self-preservation.

A place where I can to live.



Shirley Jones-Luke

"My name is Shirley Jones-Luke, a poet and writer from Boston, Massachusetts. I have an MFA from Emerson College and have attended workshops at Breadloaf, Tin House and VONA."


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Monday, January 21, 2019 - 23:05