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Friday Feature: Yael Valencia Aldana

Yael Valencia Aldana is a Caribbean Afro-Latinx writer and poet. She is a descendant of the indigenous people of modern-day Colombia. Her work has appeared or is upcoming in Typehouse, South Florida Poetry Journal, Cutbank Journal, and Slag Glass City, among others. She teaches creative writing in South Florida, where she lives with her son and too many pets. Visit her website and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

Black Person Head Bob

I still count. How many of us are in here?

Five? Six? Two including me?

Why? Are we going to fight somebody?

Our backs against their gilded walls.

Have we made progress?

We made it yet?

If we stare too-too long, sometimes

we head bob.

I see you. You see me.

I see you, a woman on a Philadelphia street.

I stare for half a second too long.

You stare for a half second too long.

Your houndstooth jacket just so.

Your gray hair just so.

Like my mother would have done.

You see me. We do not speak.

We pass a silent Go on girl as we cross.

She is cleaning the University bathroom

in her blue uniform.

She sees me. I see her.

We head bob.

We do not speak.

Pass a silent Go on girl as we cross.

I ask my colleague, twenty-four to my forty-four,

Do y’all still count how many black people are in the room?

Do y’all still hold each other’s gaze half a second too long?

I see you. You see me.

I got you. You got me.

Or is that old woman stuff?

Old Black woman stuff I learned

from my mother?

I saw you, he says. I counted you, he says.

I got you. You got me.

For our ancestors below the sea

from our ancestors across the sea

I see you, you see me.


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


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