Saida Agostini

Three Poems

20th Anniversary Reflections

Saida Agostini first appeared in Beltway Poetry Quarterly in Summer 2014, when she was included in Orbit: The Asian American Poets Issue. That issue (Volume 15:3), was guest edited by Regie Cabico and Gowri Koneswaran. Agostini was also included in the Cave Canem 20th Anniversary Issue (Volume 18:2, Spring 2017), guest edited by Holly Bass and Joel Dias-Porter. In Fall 2018, she agreed to guest edit Volume 19:4, the Envisioning the Future Issue with Venus Thrash, a special issue of poems written in response to the question, “If artists are the architects of the future, what is the world we seek to create?”

Agostini writes, “Co-editing ‘Envisioning the Future’ was an incredible experience. Reading the work of women and non-binary poets tasked with dreaming a new world, was enthralling, lovely and frightening all at once. I continue to be grateful for the multitude of ways Beltway Poetry Quarterly holds space for poetry.”


Three Poems

Upon Discovering that Daniel Holtzclaw’s First Accuser was a 57 Year Old Grandmother

I thought, my god, he is going to kill me —Survivor Testimony

I think of the kiss of the cutlass against stalks of sugarcane,
black sweaty arms swinging, dark hands tending to white
necks and pots of plain food. think of the lullabies
of the pomeroon, long limbed stories of slave uprisings,
fifteen thousand strong, knives sunk into the hearts of masters,
blushing of blood onto the wet banks of coca cola water,
the slaves that marooned there: great big beautiful black women
hard stomachs and pipes choke full of tobacco.

no one knows how many men died here. the bloodletting turning
rivers pitch black. white men buried at night by the shore—
oh! the gardens they grew in their graves:
roots of calalloo, cassava, and yams cleaved to bones
of jumbies—demons can’t kill you if you make them feed you.

they made a feast of organs, turned into mangroves
nursed out sweet- baked pone, curried laba, daal, and pepperpot.
my great granny had her own garden amidst graves, tilled soil until
whole generations fed off stewed riots and grief, wiped their mouths
and called it sweet. think of the grannies
who wrestle their demons every day, and usher it onto a plate
a slave master’s head seasoned with brutal economy.

imagine the armies of grannies behind daniel holtzclaw’s accuser
their sacred breath on her shoulders as she spells out cold black words
strong as divinity ​you tried to kill me you should’ve tried harder


Great Granny’s Last Night

beyond her window, she can hear the strains
men leaving the fields, singing in anticipation of another
night sweet with food and women, their faces tender
with sweat, ringed in mud
hands gripping machetes, blades slung
upwards towards a dimming sun

her pipe lays packed and unsmoked by her bed,
clean sheets huddled round her, cups of
milky tea and weeping held quiet in the next room

granny will tell me all she saw that night,
death-a great horned thing
sitting side by side with god in one small
cramped room by a huge dark river. the birds
cawing in blue ecstasy, elvis’ love me tender played
on repeat until even the record player begs for relief,
the pick worn down with playing lyrics so
tired they can’t help but be real,

elvis in a glittery jumpsuit and heels wailing
for my darlin I love you
and when he hits that high note, pulls away
the mic, crooning ​love me true​ even
death and god dance together,
weep in each other’s embrace, smiling
for an old woman losing breath as the
time bears down

she says ​i just need him to forgive one
last thing m​ade her body a confession

hands stretched out in the air towards
a white white road filled with flowers, fruit and light,
no work or babies to deliver—just liming and a
shining laughing death
ready to deliver her, a squalling wrinkly child


The Night Before HB2’s Passage

Durham, North Carolina

after sex, I suck your fingers
taste the iron of my own heat and laugh
you sprawled against the floor, legs twisted
in a long wind of ochre sheets.
it is afternoon. the meat you bought long
defrosted, spoiling and sweet
in the sink, blood spooling from it muscle
and fat down the drain. on top of you,
my breasts slide wild
your hips working against mine I can’t stop smiling
foolish. we have been at this for weeks
—addicted and lustful—mouths nursing
nipples so long, wells have sprung. I want you
to have everything inside me – this whole dark
river, the people: an insurrection, the longest
hottest day where my sister and I ate nothing
but apples – cut into the flesh, each madder
then the next, red and honeyed on the tree
in our backyard, drunk with its wine, the bruised
colony of bumps raised around our lips. we thought
we owned it, carved our names in its trunk, only
to come back and find a city of termites feasting
in our wake. ants drunken on rotting winey fruit. nothing
can be owned—we are black women
and cannot kiss on your street—but here I want to pretend
with you on our knees,my nails digging myths into your back.

say you love me. softly

—palm my ass, tell me it’s yours,
how you own it. I’ll bite your neck, make a prayer of my teeth
your bruised skin a lithograph



Saida Agostini is a a queer Afro-Guyanese poet and activist. She is the Chief Operating Officer for FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, a survivor led artist collective dedicated to resisting rape culture. She is also the founding member of the Rooted Collective, a liberatory gathering of Black LGBTQ people to define, dream, and expand on the ways we heal from oppression. Agostini's work is featured in Origins, the Black Ladies Brunch Collective's anthology, Not Without Our Laughter, The Baltimore Sun, pluck!, and The Little Patuxent Review. Agostini has received support for her poetry and resistance work from Cave Canem, the Leeway Foundation and the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance. Honors include the award of a 2017 Rubys Artist Project Grant to support the development of her first full-length collection of poems.