Poems for Ferguson: Vanessa Huang and Aya de Leon – The Feminist Wire

Poems for Ferguson: Vanessa Huang and Aya de Leon

Two poets consider Michael Brown, Ferguson, MO, and the crucial ways in which Black Life Matters.




How Do I Love Thee? A love poem from the Ferguson, MO police dept to Black residents: An informal emulation of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43

by Aya de Leon

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee with the blooming red rose of police bullets to thy firstborn sons.
Like a coy and unsigned suitor’s note leaving thee to wonder exactly who sent these flowers.
I love thee in the full knighthood of riot gear body armor that exposes only my amorous motives.
I love thee with the sharp cracking kiss of a baton on your tender temple, wrist, shoulder…
I love thee with the seductive siren perfume of tear gas.
I love thee with the steady, rumbling march of tanks on residential city streets.
I love thee with the warm, heavy-armed embrace of curfew and martial law.
I love thee with the sly lover’s denial in public, all the better to heighten my passion in night’s clandestine shadows.
And when thou would protest against my love with smoke and gas-choked breath,
I shall but love thee better after death.


See Leon’s video performance of “How Do I Love Thee?” here.


Like flowers in the sky

.     after Danez Smith, “alternate names for black boys”

by Vanessa Huang

Read Huang’s “Like flowers in the sky” here.


Aya de Leon is Director of Poetry for the People, teaching creative writing in the African American photoStudies Department at UC Berkeley.  Her work has appeared in xojane, Bitch Magazine, Writers Digest, Mutha Magazine, Movement Strategy Center, Essence Magazine, the Feminist Wire, My Brown Baby, The Good Men Project, Adios Barbie, KQED Pop, and she was recently a guest on HuffPostLive.  She is currently completing a sex worker heist novel, as well as blogging and tweeting about culture, gender, and race at@AyadeLeon and


Photo credit: Elizah Turner

Photo credit: Elizah Turner

Home in diaspora from Atlanta and Oakland to Taipei, Vanessa Huang is a poet, interdisciplinary artist, and cultural organizer who weaves poemsongs with moments of creative aliveness and transformative encounter, color, and texture in call and response with kindred spirits who dream and make worlds where each and all of us are free. A finalist for Poets & Writers’ 2010 California Writers Exchange Award and Kundiman’s 2014 Poetry Prize, Vanessa’s poetry and practice inherit teachings from the prison abolition, migrant justice, gender liberation, transformative justice, disability justice, and reproductive justice movements. Vanessa tweets @quietofchorus. (Photo credit Elizah Turner)