Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth: Kyla Marshell and Jason Parham


After reading Ebony’s “7 Black Writers You Should Know,” I wanted to highlight a couple of them in a post. Besides technology reporter Jenna Wortham and her Girl Crush Zine, and Uzoamaka Maduka attempt to revilitalize the American literary magazine with The American Readerthe two writers that stood out to me were Kyla Marshell and Jason Parham. Below is an apocalyptic poem from Marshell in which black people will live on through their hair:

We’ll Always Have Négritude

won’t we? he asks, reaching for my tiny brown
hand. when credits roll in black & white,
& FIN flashes bright across the final frame,
we’ll still be black as vice—won’t we?
he wants to know what happens
to The Last Black Man on Earth
in The Last Black Man on Earth without waiting
for the tentative sequel, after we applaud & lights
come up & someone nameless sweeps our popcorn kernels
into a vortex-shaped box. is that where
The Last Black Man on Earth goes after we’ve
learned no animals were harmed in the making
of this production? does he fade into the white
light of Colored Heaven (which is a real place),
or fall to a fate worse than death—Vermont?
don’t worry, i say to my panicked date,
his hands atremble. The Last Black Man on Earth
finds his way home through the overturned cars
and fallen trees. the sun begins again, & so does he.

2
even if, in 2079, The Race is completely diluted,
& everyone looks like a modern-day mock-up
of Jesus, & “What’s happening, CC?” means
“Caucasoid Contingent,” & no one can remember
the Good Ole Days of dogs & hoses, marching on,
the South Bronx, Barack, Michelle, greens, red drink,
the electric slide, or the obtuse angle bodies made when raising
an arm, crowned with dark fist, we will still have our hair.
crinkle, crinkle little star. the kinks stay in at night.
you can take the people out of Africa.
you can lead a girl to lye. even if all our sky is red
smoke & dark rain & a volcanic heat signaling the end,
this fiber will fight on, will ivy the walls of our
tissue paper planet, the one we came to own, learned
to destroy. my locs will be the chain-link fence keeping
out those aliens, & your afro will be the cumulus clouds
cottoning the sky, the unpicked cotton sky. i’ll climb
a two-strand through the gauzy ozone. you’ll trace
your way into this cornrowed maze.

Parham has his own literary magazine called Spook, which features Marshell.

Here is a description of the first issue:

Spook is a biannual literary magazine conceived by minority writers and artists, a sort of literary arts mixtape (think The Paris Review meets Wax Poetics, or better yet: a Lucille Clifton verse set to a Madlib beat). Issue One features rhapsodies from Patrice Evans (Negropedia), Justin Torres (We The Animals), Rembert Browne (Grantland.com), Tavia Nyong’o (The Amalgamation Waltz: Race, Performance, and the Ruses of Memory), Warsan Shire (Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth) and Kyla Marshell (Cave Canem Fellow), among others. Spook is the essence, the pulse—it is a brilliant dissonance of ideas and art that contain no bound, an ever-evolving dialog between past and present.

I also love the about page:

Spook is a conversation between
Lars Papenfuss and DJ Darky

Lars Papenfuss
What’s it like listening to jazz with no white people around?

Eugene Sowell a.k.a. DJ Darky
Well, if there’s just the right amount of barbecue sauce on the ribs and mentholated smoke in the air, we pass around the ‘jungle juice,’ a fruity, tribal, hallucinogenic Kool-Aid-based beverage, and wait for Coltrane, Clifford Brown, or some other goateed shaman to hit that perfect flatted fifth, sending us all into a collective trance state that awakens the dormant recombinant gris-gris gene in our mitochondrial DNA, thereby catapulting us into the fifth dimension where we surrey down to a stoned soul picnic, rejoicing in the cessation of the racist phenomenological world and attainment of Negro nirvana that for me, ironically, is absent any other Negroes.

Lars Papenfuss
Fuck you.

Eugene Sowell a.k.a. DJ Darky
You asked

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