20th Anniversary Reflections
Venus Thrash has been the co-editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly since 2018. Prior to joining the staff, she was featured in the journal in the Wartime Issue (Spring 2006, Volume 7:2, guest edited by Sarah Browning); in the Summer 2007 Portfolio Issue (Volume 8:3); in the It’s Your Mug 15th Anniversary Issue (Summer 2009, Volume 10:3, guest edited by Toni Asante Lightfoot); and in the Cave Canem 20th Anniversary Issue (Spring 2017, Volume 18:2, co-edited by Holly Bass and Joel Dias-Porter). She co-edited the LGBTQ Issue with Gowri Koneswaran (Spring 2016, Volume 17:2), the Envisioning the Future Issue with Saida Agostini (Fall 2018, Volume 19:4); and the Summer 2019 Portfolio Issue (Volume 20:3). Venus has a strong vision for inclusion and her sensitive eye has helped the journal develop its distinctive voice.
She writes, “There are good poets. There are decent poets. And there are poets who are still finding their voice. I have been and am all three. What’s special about Beltway Poetry Quarterly and its founding editor, Kim Roberts, is that it and she have seen fit to publish my poems at every stage. From 2006 up to the present year, BPQ has made space for my work as a black queer woman poet and for that I am grateful. Looking back through the issues is a remarkable journey of my growth as a poet, not only in content, but in skill. For me and for poets all over the DMV region, BPQ is not just a journal, it is a home. Kim’s dedication to publishing women, LGBTQ, poets of color, and everyone in between is a commitment most poetry journals cannot claim. When I was asked to join her as co-editor in 2018, I was equally surprised and excited to work with her and learn as much as I could in continuing the tradition of publishing diverse voices. In that respect, BPQis not only a home, it is an interactive classroom where I’ve been fortunate enough to work with and learn from one of the best editors out there. Now that Kim is moving on, I and Indran Amirthanayagam have been tasked with maintaining the diversity and excellence she has produced for so many years. If we come anywhere near close to what she’s been able to create, it is because she laid such a firm foundation.”
What to make of this growing sorority? This kinship of sorrow? Mothers
of unsung daughters killed by police mourning baby girls in rooms
unfazed by sudden death where memory won’t die but leans back
in an empty chair fusses in a bathroom mirror kicks off her shoes
or naps on the sofa to never wake forever 7 forever asleep or hangs out
in an alleyway with friends voluminous laughter bouncing along
the walls still rain logged teddy bears sag toward the ground tattered
ribbons blow away with the wind or splays in the doorway
where she last stood giving up without a fight where each subsequent
sweep and mop the threshold spills more blood the floorboards
the doorjambs the splattered walls or rolls around in a hoopdie
with a turbulent engine heard halfway down the block that will never
pull up to the house again every beat and throb of the speakers
a reminder of a home now silent every profanity an endless raging
scream every night a memorial no one else attends every day another
death another restrained choked unconscious another tased
to breathlessness another trapped in the maze of her own mind
abruptly put at ease another ride-or-die come true another old lady
behind on rent refusing to pay for freezing pipes a toilet that won’t flush
a warm fridge evicted without mercy in a rush of gunfire another
executed holding a son not even two another gunned down
in a no-knock on the wrong door another hanging after three days
in jail for a minor traffic stop. Chant their names in the streets.
Hold them in your vigils. Count them among the lives that matter.
Nothing to See Here
Hurricane Florence disappeared entire towns
overwhelming every edifice in its path. Blocks
of homes and parked cars swallowed by rising
torrential rain. Highway forty-one is a river.
A man nicknamed Kitty wading up to his waist
in muddy waters cradling a spooked cat no less
gently than a newborn baby flees the rushing
waters toward a rescue boat. Last anyone heard
of his neighbor Cynthia she was dashing to the attic
with her kids yelling help through slats in a vent
tweeting SOS on a cellphone losing signal
as the coffee table and La-Z-Boy floated eerily
to the ceiling and the house vanished
like breath on glass.
This joy I have, the world didn’t give
it to me and the world can’t take it away.
Lately I’ve been dreaming of death. Not some generic somber
homegoing of one I knew in passing mourning in the pews
removed and detached. But my own. Impending. Looming
behind my pillow. Lately I’ve grown more grateful every
morning I open my eyes. I snatch whatever happiness
I can from this hellacious life. I yank it right out of the infinite
sky. Like high-fiving god and pulling my hand away at the last
second. Like catching a falling star.
Venus Thrashwas a co-editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly. She authored the poetry collection, The Fateful Apple (Hawkins Publishing, 2014), nominated for the 2015 Pen America Open Book Award. Her poetry has been published in Public Pool, Torch, The Arkansas Review, and in the anthology Resisting Arrest: Poems That Stretch the Sky. Thrash is the recipient of a 2016 writer’s residency at The Vermont Studio Center. She was a co-director of the Joaquin Miller Poetry Series, a Cave Canem graduate fellow and a Summer Seminar in Kenya and Fire and Ink scholar. To read more by this author: "Ritual," The Wartime Issue, Spring 2006; Five Poems, Summer 2007; Four Poems, It's Your Mug Anniversary Issue, Spring 2009.