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Friday Feature: Shams Alkamil

Shams Alkamil is a Black Muslim poet. Alkamil began writing as a mode of self-expression to then being twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her debut book West 24th Street highlights the anchor a location has on lived experiences. Alkamil speaks of her struggles with queerness, self-love, and the Black immigrant experience. Her second book When Time is Circular was published in June 2024. When not writing, Alkamil spends her time as a local educator in Austin, Texas. Alkamil's work has appeared internationally in Mizna, Ebony Tomatoes CollectiveThe Ana, Ruth Weiss Foundation, Tofu Ink Arts Press, WriterCon, Poet’s Choice, and more.

Love you. Wish I could have your cancer. 

after Gabrielle Calvocoressi

Got your diagnosis Monday afternoon. Heard it during 8th 

block. Did not cry on the line. Would love to open your 

eyes. Force tears to fall. Will you stop pretending? Strong 

isn’t your best color. Washes you out. Love you. Wish I 

could have your cancer. Do not care if I’m already 

immunocompromised. Fuck thyroid. Don’t even know who 

Hashimoto is. Don’t care. Would be honored to keep you 

alive. Wish I could feed you during chemo. Maybe ginseng 

candy. Or zero-alcohol beer. No ice chips. Too cliché. 

Whatever makes you smile. Wish I knew what makes you 

smile. Wish you could tell me. Love you. Can’t bring myself 

to touch your chemo port. Wish I was smarter. Invent a 

new seatbelt. Would finally stop grazing your port. Less 

wailing. More time to focus on the road. Wish I knew how. 

Miss fighting with you. Shout Stop texting and driving

Wish you could say I am your mother. One more time. Who 

knew it was the last time? Miss you. Wish it was Stage 1. 

Would hate you less. Why did you ignore it for so long?. 

Know you were preoccupied. Wish he argued less. Could 

help you notice sooner. I’ll visit the doctor tomorrow. 

Declare I am you. You are no one. Open my chest bare. Say 

Cut them off! Stare at Death in the corner. Lose staring 

contest. Bargain him ginseng candy. Or forgiveness. Say 

Leave her alone. Love you. Wish you could say it back. Not 

later. Wearing no oxygen mask. No painful gasps between 

words. Wish you could tell me. How less of a woman you 

feel. Wish I knew how to respond back. Would keep quiet 

instead. Love you. Wish I could have your cancer.


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.


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