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Friday Feature: Ashunda Norris

Ashunda Norris is a Black feminist multidisciplinary artist with creative work that encompasses film, poetry, archiving, and her own theoretical frameworks. Her art centers the complexities of Black {Southern} womxnhood, magical spiritual traditions of Southern Black folk and Black fugitivity. A two-time Furious Flower Poetry Prize finalist, Ashunda holds fellowships from Cave Canem, the California Arts Council, Brooklyn Poets, and Starshine & Clay. Her work has been supported by the Hurston/Wright Foundation, the Community of Writers, and the New York State Summer Writer’s Institute. Ashunda’s writing has been featured or is forthcoming in Gulf Coast, Obsidian, Taint Taint Taint, Root Work Journal, Fence, EcoTheo Review, Trampoline, and other noteworthy publications. Born and raised in the heart of rural, red clay Georgia, Ashunda is now a bonafide, citified bitch living and creating in Los Angeles. Follow Ashunda on her website and on Instagram and Twitter.

Please Adjust Tracking for Best Picture

I was three days sober

so I don’t remember the color of grandma’s casket

but I can see my sister comin from ‘round a corner

of the white church like it lived in her

green carpet porch steps curved to her body’s bones

my Mama’s face an o as prodigal daughter walks

up to the truck like we just saw her yesterday ‘stead of

two years ago under big city lights

all of us mute except Mama is that..?? oh my baby

git in hea – Shunda move so ya susta can climb in nie

we sit in the hungry silence.


before the processional begins my sister

looks lost her eyes a haunting of black flesh swallowed

I wave her over to me ignore the street smell still

lingering against her attempt to smother secrets close

I keep my face off my folks try to think on when

Grandma Ossie took us for joy rides to dairy queen

when I still wasn’t too old to enjoy ice cream

summers with my kin

after the interment I glance over at her

born 17 months after me, she was a marvel

of aggravation as younger sisters can be

we never got along then got along then

best friends I’m a lament now irked by my teen self

refusin to know our bond, yellin at her

for leavin her glasses back at the school heated

I had to drive all the back for her to get them

her weepin wailin dryin up at my ridiculous rage

it was just a ten minute drive back up the road


take it all gods if I can have my sister back

as she was


at the repass she’s workin hard to convince us

the chicken is good & worth eatin even as

her body tells us she is what the city ate alive

what it used to rot itself whole

my mother marches around the church’s kitchen

shruggin off what we know tearin at her insides

how is it possible to bury a mother when your own

mothering has caved to a daughter’s madness

rest of us all sit there fake eatin solemn in a binding

blinding womb of agony

this is what grief does

tightens family knots

we talk about nothing that hurts.


Torch Literary Arts is a 501(c)3 nonprofit established to publish and promote creative writing by Black women. We publish contemporary writing by experienced and emerging writers alike. Programs include the Wildfire Reading Series, writing workshops, and retreats. Help TORCH continue to publish and promote Black women writers by donating today.


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