Nikki Wallschlaeger’s work has been featured in The Nation, Brick, American Poetry Review, Witness, Kenyon Review, POETRY, and others. She is the author of the full-length collections Houses (Horseless Press 2015) and Crawlspace (Bloof 2017) as well as the graphic book I Hate Telling You How I Really Feel (2019) from Bloof Books. She is also the author of an artist book called “Operation USA” through the Baltimore based book arts group Container, a project acquired by Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee. Her third collection, Waterbaby, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2021.
Mutual aid projects the author encourages you to support:
- NYC COVID-19 Financial Solidarity for Formerly Incarcerated People and Their Families Mutual Aid Project
- Abolitionist Mutual Aid Fund for Incarcerated Comrades
- Mutual Aid Fund for SW Side Undocumented Families
I’d Like to Ask the What If Department a Few Questions
What if Bird is sick of waiting in his armored helicopter.
What if my heart nuts while skipping to the greenhouse.
What if sex is the key to the universe & its catastrophe.
What if he never leaves office & lives for 100,000 years.
What if my German ancestors were white supremacists.
What if Black ideas are captured before they’re released.
What if a porta-potty is the reincarnation of Gov. Faubus.
What if my generation made Hello Kitty weep from grace.
What if Marlon Brando did fuck a mailbox, & all mailboxes
hereafter are his children who cry when a payment is due.
What if I never get to roam the world if I want to, clapping.
What if $$$ is the delirium tremens of an expiration date.
What if we’re the elevator, crashing towards the bottom.
What if the 50 state stars are made from cubic zirconia.
What if the landline rings & I’m the only one to answer.
What if he never leaves office & throbs ad perpetuum.
What if no one believes her light-skinned children are
her own & a fascist calls the cops at the grocery store.
What if smelling like outside is the pheromone of victory.
What if my outer skeleton isn’t fit to house a hermit crab.
What if pills fell from the sky & everyone loved each other.
What if beauty isn’t the treatment in defiance of a disease.
Whatever ties that held us back got higher,
we created a circuit board and lived there.
On the floor our boyfriends made 5k a night
forgetting they used to be here for the music.
There were benefits. We had our pick of the
best candy, double & triple stack medicines,
stamped w/ butterflies, money signs, stars,
pineapples, smiley faces, crosses, Ferraris,
once absorbed you felt a helluva lot better,
black market pharmaceutic marshmallows,
taken at the right time, 12am, again at 4am
to keep the vibe of induced euphoria rolling.
Often the real party was in the bathrooms,
nobody cared if society had outlawed you
from their public arenas, the standardized
boundaries were fruitless, incoherent under
the rustling of our phat pants, handcrafted
bracelets spelling our most beloved desires
like Peace, Love, Unity, Respect & Ecstasy
we congregated as we made new families,
if the DJ sucked, or when we were terrified
to feel what our bodies were saying to let go.
Aunt Saro Jane Told Y’all It’s Gonna Be a Green Winter
to an end
Era of fear
oh my god
at the gills
In and out
come on come on
quick quick quick
Jaw of rule
Rule of law
Bedbugs, doral cigarettes, filet-o- fish,
gator-n-snake moats, hurricane maps,
paper towels, golf carts, Louis Vuitton,
satanic brand pizza, fake happenings,
patriotic cereal, vienna fingers, sharpie
shelled democracy, unfolded umbrella,
photoshopped pic of a dog w/ medals,
former NY mayor w/ his barn door open,
xtra long red ties, toilets & dishwashers,
factory graffiti slathered on the back of a
parka from H&M, Thanos campaign ads,
Elton John blasting in a private airplane,
nuclear football in Florida, lawnmowers,
fish tank cleaner, staring into an eclipse
Letter to a Young Black Conservative
You got yourself handpicked and possessed, at such an impressionable age. Your Ti Bon Ange is on life support, stuck in their laboratory of renowned horrors. Barbed wire, surveillance towers all around it spouting out the worst type of negligent lies to assuage your ego and kidnap your will. Little men with flag scarves and maggot hats monitoring your every move now. Making sure you forget who you are so you can never return. This is beyond death; it’s the social zero of spiritual slavery. Your manikin mouth is controlled by the very forces that will destroy you. You think their money is a good thing. Tricked you into thinking their thoughts were your own and it made a stingy individual out of you. Somewhere an ancestor weeps, then logs your crimes. But you can’t feel them. Power makes people do unspeakable things, makes the proximity of power feel like an honorable reality. Makes you perform for a man who’s only agenda is to kill everyone for himself. American magic is some deep old dangerous shit–I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it again. White people are some of the best magicians around–they know how to hunt insecurity, and you fell right in. Snapping your head off to live as a caricature you think you’ve escaped by being young, pretty, and good at pimping the industry to the tune of the corny jingles they want to feel, in the static language of a nation that exists only in the most acrid of imaginations.
I hope one day you live to regret the career path you’ve chosen. I really do. But this letter is the last time I’ll waste any precious headspace on why you do the things you do. I have to use all my energy these days to prevent the power you defend from eroding what’s mine–but since I’ve spent lifetimes studying up on what white supremacy does to a person’s drive to live, I’ll be just fine ( not that the livelihoods of billions of Black people is of any concern to you). I made my choice before you were even born. You, on the other hand, will keep stumbling along in the pale, and may the Loas help you if you ever find the Black lightswitch.
Your Concerned Elder Ex-Sista